It has been said that the devil’s favorite sin is vanity. After all, Lucifer’s fall from grace was not precipitated by bloody murder. His descent into the nether realms came about shortly after he looked at God and said, “Hmmm… I could do better.” Following this line of narrative, it can even be argued that vanity is the original sin. Vanity is a sophisticated, malleable evil, able to take many forms or augment the gravitas of other trespasses. It latches unto our deep-seated insecurities akin to a voracious moral barnacle and makes us think and do stupid, senseless things – like getting cheap cosmetic enhancement.

The issue is not as trivial and banal as it sounds at the onset. On one end there’s the complex need to be appreciated and validated. On the other end, there’s the stupid and senseless need to be appreciated and validated as quickly and cheaply as possible. This is not about the grandiose kind of ambition that is realized through incremental improvements. This is about the fast fixes – the quick emotional band-aids that come in the form of a botox injection, a collagen filler, or a shot of glutathione to the system. That you have to sometimes suffer for beauty is menacing enough; that you also have to suffer cheap cosmetic procedures is just plain absurd. Consider this: you must not think so highly of yourself if you’re willing tohave a loaded syringe plunged unto your foreheadat the mere cost of a few loose change. You’re not getting a bargain. You’re compromising your health and sense of self-worth. You’re not making your life any better. Chances are, you could be mutilating yourself.

TUROK PARTIES
In the streets of your childhood, you used to make tusok-tusok(the fishballs). Now, in the lavish parties of your noveau riche friends, you make turok-turok(the face). To define the term for the blessedly uninitiated, Turok Parties are soirees that include getting “minor” cosmetic enhancements such as botox injections and glutathione shots as part of the event repertoire. In lieu of a magician or clown, the intermezzo is led by amedical practitioner, usually unlicensed to perform such procedures. What kind of overzealous demon socialite birthed rituals of this ghastly nature, we may never know. But one thing is for sure: Turok Parties are fast becoming a trend amongst the affluent and their hangers-on – and a potentially lethal one at that.

A correspondent who refused to be named (no surprises there!) told of his experience in a recently held gathering in Downtown Dubai for a friend’s birthday. The invite said “Spa Party,” so he came in expecting facials, massages and foot scrubs. He didn’t expect free glutathione injections. “I knew I was going to a birthday party, so I was prepared to take shots. But not that kind of shot!” exclaimed Correspondent-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. “I refused at first because I’m afraid of syringes, but everybody was really into it, so I had to do it. They said it was free, and I was already accounted for. If I refused it, I’d be wasting the host’s money. So I did it.”

Another correspondent who refused to be named spoke of an even greater horror: getting an invite to a Botox party. However, unlike our Correspondent No. 1, she was fully aware of the nature of the gathering, and was informed of the rates for the procedure. “I found it really strange to receive an invitation that had a price tag. It was a bit like getting invited for a wedding reception, and being told that you had to pay for your own dinner,” said Another-Correspondent-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Furthermore, she could not fathom why she, a spritely, healthy woman in her early 30’s, would ever be thought of as in need of Botox injections. She thought of the invitation as an insult. “I may not have the most flawless skin in the world, but I don’t have any wrinkles yet! The nerve!” She politely declined the invitation, and spent the rest of the week ignoring the inviter’s calls and text messages. They have not talked, to this day. She received the invitation over a year ago.

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NO TUROK, NO CRY
Doctor Florencio Lucero, one of the Philippines’ longest-practicing plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgeons warns of the dangers of Turok Parties. “Even injections need to be done under clean sterile conditions in the clinic or operating room,” Dr. Lucero advocates. “In the Philippines only physicians are allowed to inject Botox or fillers, but this is violated in many instances where even non-doctors and non-nurses do the injections in homes and beauty parlors.”

He goes on to state that no cosmetic enhancement or plastic surgery procedure is 100% risk free. Even something as minimally invasive as a glutathione shot has its own range of potential side effects and complications. The good doctor says, “All procedures are risky, so the patient must be duly informed of the possible risks. Remember: the difference between the beauty and the beast is one millimeter.”

When asked about his advice to people who are considering any form of cosmetic enhancement, Dr. Lucero professes that a thorough background check of the prospective practitioner is key. He says, “To be safe and sure, ask other patients and check the credentials of the doctor. Read the certificates hanging in their offices very carefully. Attendance in conferences is not sufficient. Look for certificates of training. A plastic surgeon’s training takes at least 5 to 6 years and often requires additional years of what we call Fellowship in aesthetic or cosmetic surgery. A few months of training or guided observation in cosmetic surgery is not enough to make one a plastic surgeon.”

THE GREATEST LOVE OF ALL…
…is learning to love yourself. For belting out that powerful line alone, Whitney Houston deserves to be canonized in Vatican.If you are unable to appreciate yourself fully enough to bypass the need for cosmetic enhancement, then at least get the procedure done correctly in the hands of a respected physician, and at a standard that is nothing short of superlative.

Flawed human beings that we are, we may never be able to completely outgrowour vanity, but wecan temper it with self-respect and a healthy sense of dignity. If you must make inarte, then by all means make inarte. Just don’t die for it, darling.

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