The daughter of a plastic surgeon discusses her lifelong fear of growing old, and considers having a little work done, now that she’s in her late thirties. Make Me Young, released on September 21, is an HBO Documentary directed by Mitch McCabe that tells the story of some of the people who participate in the $60-billion American anti-aging industry (it includes cosmetic surgery, hair replacement, tanning, wrinkle-creams, and all the goodies we’re willing to try so no one will guess our true ages), and McCabe is the plastic surgeon’s daughter. She is so concerned with becoming old, she’s willing to spend $400 on a jar of face cream. I can’t relate.
I have no problem looking my age, which as everyone knows is somewhere between forty and death. Acting my age—now, there’s a problem. It doesn’t bother me that construction workers no longer whistle when I go by or that twenty-somethings don’t find me attractive. Rather, it’s a relief.
When I heard the term “the treatment of aging skin” in Make Me Young, I was taken aback. Aging skin is a natural process—why should it be treated? Obviously, I’m too ignorant to be beautiful. But all those wrinkles, all I’ve gone through to get them, why would I hide them ? Aren’t they symbolic of the stuff I’ve experienced in life—sort of like medals of honor or valor or sharpshooting?
A number of people are profiled in Make Me Young, and many talk about the American youth-driven culture and how you can’t get a job if you’re over 50 (apparently, if you’re over 50 and look it). If you’ll notice, though, times have been tough for everyone who is looking for a job.
Among those who have undergone major changes is Sherry, a 53 year-old-Dallas woman who spent $35,000 one year to look lots younger than 53. She had her breasts “redesigned” (her husband says they’re “exquisite” and the surgeon is an “artist”). I hate to admit it, but they looked damned good—she shows us. However, she still had the hands of a 53-year-old. So how great is it if you can fool people at a distance?
Visiting Texas surgeon Dr. Franklin Rose, we see what a lavish lifestyle performing cosmetic surgeries allows one to maintain. In addition to surgeons, people who make and sell creams that take away years (they claim) are interviewed, and we get to appreciate how huge this industry is. There are also devices that allegedly make people look younger, and—for the socially daring—Botox parties.
It turns out that anyone with a medical degree can inject Botox (dentists, etc.). Although I am still not tempted, I’m wondering if it’s something my vet can do. She takes care of all our animals, why not me? Charity Marie goes in for a rabies shot and I come out looking twenty years younger—maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
Everyone profiled or interviewed who has had cosmetic procedures done had a positive experience. Make Me Young is not about botched surgeries, medical malpractice or fraud. Eventually McCabe had Botox injections, and tells us that she will be doing it again.
What do we learn from Make Me Young? Not much. Sixty-billion dollars that Americans spend on their faces seems to be a fantastic sum that could be put to better use. However, the end result for many who make the investment is that they are happier and feel better about themselves. People do lots of things to get those same results—buy cars, buy homes and second homes, have therapy, earn degrees—and while some people get obsessed with cosmetic surgery, people become obsessed with a variety of things. Who can legitimately judge in a country where one of our rights is to pursue happiness?
Among the special features are behind-the-scenes footage, interviews and deleted scenes with doctors, patients, and service providers, and interesting pieces on “cosmeceuticals” (cosmetic products that promise structural changes), people’s fears about aging, and cryonics.
Make Me Young is an entertaining introduction to a group of people involved in giving or getting cosmetic procedures and products; most of them are very likable. For some useful information, watch the special features and learn about the products that don’t do much of anything except make us poorer.