In the book Uglies* by Scott Westerfeld, Tally is a girl growing up in a society where at the age of 16 everyone has surgery to become "pretty". It's a major overhaul of a surgery. Everything is changed from how far apart your eyes are to whether your lips are full enough or not. "Pretties" then get to go to a special place and live however they want. "Uglies" or people who are not changed, are kept separated from society until they become changed, and really are shunned by those who are pretty. It becomes a book--and a series--about happiness. The first book deals with looks. The second book deals with being able to have anything you want in the pleasure-istic sense, and the third book deals with having extra special abilities. One of the major themes in the series is what brings happiness. I'm not going to say any more for fear of giving spoilers.

I've been thinking a lot about what brings happiness lately, thanks to Brillig's posts about happiness. What makes us happy? Does being perfectly beautiful make us happy? Most experts I can think of would say "No".

But do we really believe it?

I walked into an "Uglies" world on Saturday. I took my daughter with me, which I regret a little. It was called, "The Women's Expo". Hundreds of booths lined walls and were placed in rows in a college basketball arena--all devoted to things that women want. Plastic surgery, Lipo, Laser surgery of various kinds, make-up, hair salons, Botox, Jewelry, Purses/bags, Massage, Chocolate, Dentists. These categories made up most of the booths in the expo. And there were at least 3 of each of these kinds, most of the time more. And every one of those booths was well occupied.

There was the occasional other booth. There were quite a few scrap booking booths, that being a state past time here. There was a newspaper booth, and an Investment company. Another booth was hosted by a group that is a Mother's against smut on TV kind of group, and the occasional other random booth. The scrap booking booths were fairly busy, especially the one that you could make a free card at, but the others? I stopped at the mothers against smut booth (really, that's not what they are named, but I don't have the info in front of me) and there was one other person there along with me. Two people. Same with the investment spot. Two people. Contrast that to the booths that housed the laser surgery and such. There were usually an average of 10 people at everyone of those booths.

Don't get me wrong. I don't have any problem with these things in themselves. I bought my daughter a bracelet, Kim a present and myself a necklace. I'd like to lose some weight. I don't need surgery for it, but I know there are people who do need surgery. I know there are times when some of those kinds of surgery can save lives. I wear make-up, when I feel like putting it on, and I love chocolate. And my hair? It fluctuates in color. I like changing my hair up. It'll always grow back.

What really caught my attention was that so many of the women standing in front of those laser places were smaller than I am, and I tip the scales right now at 145. These are not women who, so far as I can tell, "need" lipo or botox. My little sister lived in Berkeley California for four years and when she would come back to our little slice of heaven here she was shocked at the obvious "work" that had been done on so many women. Our little slice of heaven seems to becoming a "Pretties" world. And it's scary.

It was frightening to me that women were more interested in make-up than fighting the smut on TV. It was mildly frightening to me that more women were interested in the "Medical Spa" (gotta love the euphemism) than their financial future. Who knows, maybe they already have their future figured out and I'm just in a spot where we are still trying to figure it out. I don't know. But from what I could see, it was all about appearance and pleasure. (Yes there were three booths devoted to that and I was quite embarrassed.)

Does it really bring happiness to have a perfect nose and size D's? I don't think so. Happiness in my life comes from happy times as a family and feeling like I'm accomplishing things. Happiness comes when I can let go of the fear and focus on the faith in the Lord. Happiness comes when I'm hanging with a good friend and laughing for the sheer joy of being together. I know that from the very bottom of my heart.

But in my heart of hearts, I have to ask myself the question, "Would I have been quite as embarrassed if Kendra hadn't been with me? Might I have stopped in at some of those same spots if Kendra hadn't been there?"

And I am not satisfied with my own heart.

*I firmly believe that every person over the age of 12 should read this series. It has really made me think about beauty and society and what constitutes real happiness. I picked the age of 12 because in book three there is some stuff that I wasn't ready to explain to my daughter. I'm not sure I want to explain it to her at 12, but I think the books need to be read early enough to have an effect.
7 Responses
  1. Kimberly Says:

    It's so hard to face up to everything that is in us, isn't it? I think in this experience you found a wee bit of worldliness mixed in with the fabulousness that is you. You are a good woman, a loving mother trying to set a good example for her kids...I'm so stinking proud of you for how you try to figure out how to be a better person.

    Just remember that you're amazing as you are, okay? There is so much in you that shines as an example to me and others who know you.

    I really enjoyed reading this and being reminded what really matters...how I need to shift my own priorities in this life.

  2. I agree with you about kids reading the Uglies "trilogy" (why do they still call it a trilogy when there are four books??). It's really sad the emphasis our society puts on looks. I'm working on losing my baby weight, but I don't think I need to lose weight to be happy. I need to lose the weight to be healthy!

    Who we are inside is so much more important than what we look like on the outside. I hope I can teach my son that.

  3. charrette Says:

    I recently took a class on depression at Education Week and the instructor said that our state ranks highest in the nation (per capita) in those "vanity procedures" -- higher even than Beverly Hills. She also said our state ranks highest per capita for women using anti-depressants. She believes those two statistics are linked. First, that there is this perfection-seeking obsession in our culture, and second, that when women continue to seek this counterfeit happiness through their physicality it actually makes them LESS happy, less able to experience the kind of happiness you describe above.

    It's bordering on an epidemic. This is such a timely post.

  4. charrette Says:

    p.s. I have always wanted to read that book Uglies. Didn't even realize it was a series. I think I'll read it with my 13-year old daughter now. Thanks for the recommendation.

  5. EEEEMommy Says:

    This is an EXCELLENT post! I've spent a lot of time thinking and praying through so many of these issues. I know how much the world's propaganda has affected me and my own perception of beauty. Ultimately, the thing that I have come to believe is that all of these issues stem from an improper understanding of Who GOD is, and who He created us to be. When we really understand who we are in Christ, we can overcome. When we recognize that our value comes from Him and that there's absolutely nothing we can do in and of ourselves we find freedom to allow Him to accomplish His purpose in our lives and experience contentment.

  6. hmmm, the ugly series does deal with that alot...have you ever read the quote by J.K. Rowling? She had some pretty interesting things to say on the subject. I'd suggest it for anyone that thinks they are "ugly"

    -Enter the site
    -When it comes up there will be a hairbrush on the righthand side of the screen. click it
    -now you will be on a corkboard, click the yellow tab marked "miscellaneous"
    -now click the top one that says "For Girls Only, Probably..."

    Read what J.K. has to say about this subject. its worth reading.
    I Promise

  7. Brillig Says:

    Hey! I left a comment here! Did it go to spam? Grrr... I'll re-leave it when I'm up to it. :-D