by Rene D. Schultz
Women are constantly pressured with the overwhelming message that achieving ‘perfect beauty’ is mandatory to be accepted andsuccessful.
Mercedes survived a childhood with a hateful and mentally ill mother who constantly called her an ‘ugly duckling.’ Now, at twenty-nine, she’s a brilliant financial icon in Beverly Hills. She knew she was not beautiful, or stunning, or even close to either. She was plain, simple, and ordinary. Take this journey with Mercedes and her four friends who live in a city that judges a woman solely by her outside and not her inside. Will the pressure to obtain beauty become her downfall? Will Mercedes be forced to face decisions that would change her life forever? Or will reality raise its ugly head and teach her the biggest lesson of her life?
A note from the author:
Our younger generations have been pressured with an overwhelming message that achieving ‘beauty’ is mandatory in becoming successful in life, and it increases your personal value in the public and social scene. Thanks to the media, we have become accustomed to extremely rigid and uniform standards of ‘beauty.’ Seeing images of flawless, thin females everywhere makes it hard for women—or anyone—to feel good about their bodies. Our children are relentlessly encouraged and pushed by magazines, television, fashion, plastic surgeons, and peer pressure to obtain that beauty through different procedures of cosmetic surgery. Botox, Restylane, augmentation, and liposuction have become a common day occurrence amongst young people (mostly women) throughout the world.
Growing up with that overwhelming message places a lot of stress on our teens through peer pressure, and has created a lot of obsessive behaviors like eating disorders (Anorexia and Bulimia) and addiction to plastic surgery (Body Dismorphic Disorder), that even the older generations have to deal with it. Older women (over 40) have an increase of stress competing with younger women, forcing them to keep up with only acceptable ‘beauty’ standards. In many parts of the world it has deeply affected any success in their social life, as well as the work environment. Many movie stars are a perfect example of this obsession to stay beautiful. Aging has become discreditable, and cosmetic surgery is their only way to keep themselves marketable.
The thin, athletic, sexy ideals of beauty have become the ‘new normal.’ That’s frightening for the last few generations—not to mention the parents who are raising their young daughters in this environment of competition and judgment.
We deserve to be really angry about the current state of affairs that has a fashion and media industry feeding us ideals that cause us to feel guilty for our hungers, obsessed with our appearance, and hating the very bodies that we need to sustain us. The only real cure for plastic surgery, and this need to be ‘beautiful,’ is for people to realize that it is not the nose, but the look in the eyes. It is not the appearance, but their accomplishments. It’s not the outside, but the inside that actually makes us all who we are. – Amen…
Broken Image is a glimpse into the world of the ‘cosmetic’ generations. Beverly Hills is the perfect example of the peer pressure of beauty… There is a lesson to be learned!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My name is Rene D. Schultz and and I live in a small community just north of Los Angeles where I raised my two sons. I love to garden, try new recipes, take lots of pictures, and occasionally I enjoy a glass of wine with dear friends. I’ve never jumped out of a plane, climbed Mt. Everest, or seen the Northern Lights of Alaska. But, I have danced in the rain, sent a message in a bottle, and I’ve rode my motorcycle down Pacific Coast Highway on sunny California days!
My passion of writing has lead me on the most amazing journey. Now, my focus is on fiction. I thrive on developing strong story lines that showcase today’s contemporary lifestyles. Rags to riches, Robin Hood, and surviving the odds, seems to be my one common denominator that showcases my fascinating and diverse characters.
MERCEDES smiled to herself as she turned on the bathroom light and walked towards the sink. She leaned over the counter and glanced into the mirror. At nearly thirty years old, she still had beautiful unblemished skin like her mother. It was porcelain white and flawless, and it was her only admission of acceptance that she chose to acknowledge from her parent’s gene pool. Leaning closer to the mirror, she frowned as she noticed small lines starting to form under her eyes, and creases near the corners. Her eyes were an unusual light green and surrounded by extraordinary long, naturally black lashes, and she didn’t know where she got them from. Her father’s eyes were blue; and her mother’s constantly changed from hazel to brown, depending on her mood swings. But it was her nose that had been a disparaging state of contention since her childhood.
When she was ten she was playing softball with a group of schoolmates when she was struck in the face with a fastball. Her nose was broken and swollen for weeks. The school nurse told her, ‘don’t worry, it will heal on its own.’ Now, twenty years later, she ran her finger down her nose, sighing in frustration. It was visibly crooked, and had a good-sized bump on the left side. That bump, mixed with her flared nostrils, had become one of the least favorite parts of her body. Heading further down, she finally touched her lips. They were not full and luscious, like the ones that always flashed on the television screen during lipstick commercials. Full, luscious lips would be one of her dreams, along with higher cheekbones. But as she got older, she was forced to realize that life was not always what you wanted. God had given her what he thought necessary, and that was something she felt obligated to live with.
Her fingers pushed back her shoulder-length, wavy light-brown hair with processed blonde streaks as she continued to stare at herself in the mirror. Mercedes knew she was not beautiful, or stunning, or even close to either. None of her features were delicate enough, when blended together, to create anything dramatic or striking. She was plain, simple, and ordinary. Not at all close to what society considered ‘beautiful.’ And definitely nothing compared to the magazines that cluttered all the newspaper stands.
Sometimes it made her blood boil when she walked past the magazine aisle at the store. She would ask herself questions like: Why was beauty based on perfection? How did those women get so gorgeous? Was it in their gene pool, or was it because of living in California—where plastic surgeons were a dime a dozen and on every corner? She was a bright young woman who knew the obvious answer—but refused to acknowledge it.
To Mercedes, the fashionable trend of plastic surgery started years ago, and hit close to home when her best friend in High School got an augmentation for her sixteenth birthday. In high school, Jennifer Lang was still slowly developing breasts when her mother initiated her into the world of ‘perfection.’ Mercedes thought Jennifer was already one of the most popular and attractive girls in the school with her tall, slim figure, and beautiful long legs. All the boys chased after her, including the quarterback of the varsity football team. Her long, thick blonde hair flowed down her back, and she always looked like a graceful ballerina. That wasn’t enough for her mother. Her mother was addicted to plastic surgery, and had been diagnosed with a disease called ‘body dysmorphic disorder’. It was a disease where an individual became preoccupied with a slight or imagined abnormality in their appearance, and the only way to fix it was through corrective surgery. After twelve surgeries, her mother continually found fault with her body, which changed on a daily basis. Mercedes and her friends watched this from a distance, but they were too young at that time to recognize the problem.
In those days, cosmetic surgery was just starting to ‘rear its ugly head’ all over the media. Talk shows became the rage where the cosmetic surgeons displayed their sculptured divas. Within a few years, movie stars, both men and women, were lining the halls of the vast growing groups of Beverly Hills plastic surgeons. Jennifer’s mother patterned herself after the famous movie stars who felt surgery was their only means of attaining physical ‘perfection.’ It had become acceptable and more commonplace in society, amongst those who could afford the ‘pricey’ procedures. At first, it was more of the aging starlets and wealthy women that indulged in this extravagance. As the cosmetic surgeons began to push the perfected face, the sculptured bodies, and introduced new beautifying procedures, the young began to participate more. Mercedes and her friends thought starting in high school was pushing the boundaries for young women. Unfortunately, Jennifer’s sixteenth birthday present had physically started her down the same path as her mother—addicted to ‘beauty.’
Looking back, Mercedes realized it had also created a lot of dissension amongst her group of friends. The acceptance of Jennifer’s decision to enlarge her breasts left a big wedge between the girls. In addition, it caused a lot of angry parents to make rash decisions that eventually divided the group up. Jennifer had been a dear friend of Mercedes’ since grade school, and when the group divided, she had sided with Jennifer. Not because she believed in enhancing one’s self to be socially acceptable, but because she believed that every person was entitled to do whatever made them happy.
Now, years later, Mercedes looked down at her tiny breasts in the mirror and shook her head. “Oh well, I guess I’m not perfect!” she muttered to herself and picked up her electric toothbrush. The radio turned on again, and Mercedes began to hum to the song that was playing. Swaying her hips and shuffling her feet, she continued to brush her teeth. After a few spins around the bathroom with her toothbrush, she turned on the shower, and continued her rituals of the morning.
An hour later, Mercedes was sitting at her kitchen table sipping her first cup of morning coffee and planning her day on her iPad. With all of her notes neatly typed into the small electronic device, she shoved it into her backpack, took her last sip of coffee, and walked out the door of her condo. Parked in the driveway was her economical four-door car. It was nothing to look at, and definitely not like the fancy ones her best friends raced around town in. Mercedes loved her beat-up rattletrap because of the high gas mileage and low maintenance it demanded. She could care less if the heater didn’t work, her speaker on the driver’s side was out, the gas tank didn’t register anymore, and a few other minor problems had appeared over the last few years. It was a great choice for her when she bought it and a constant source of ridicule from her friends. She unlocked the door, slid onto the seat, and started the car. With the sun shining, and the birds chirping, she thought, “What a wonderful day it is going to be!”
On her way to work, stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, she thought about Christina and their dinner plans. As a frown crossed her face, she wondered why she always set herself up for this demeaning form of punishment. She loved her friends, but lately it seemed harder and harder for her to deal with their enormous amount of criticism. Why couldn’t they mind their own business and leave their opinions to themselves? Why did they constantly try to change her? Why couldn’t they just understand that she liked who she was and didn’t feel a need to be like others? Why were her friends so shallow with their addiction to beauty? Why did they always make her feel vulnerable?