McSteamier Does Appearance

Grey’s Anatomy has replaced McSteamy with Mc (in my opinion) Steamier and thus one plastic surgeon exits and another moves to the forefront offering me more appearance-based storylines to critique. Aren’t you just jumping for joy?

On “The End is the Beginning is the End” (Season 9, Episode 11), James, a sixteen-year-old teenager, comes for his sixth surgery to address what he refers to as his “weird” appearance. Everyone around James cringes to various degrees about the weird label further substantiating the point I made in. Those of us with the weird face can accept it and the social consequences with far more equanimity than those around us. Why is that? And that’s not a rhetorical question.

When The Hot Girlfriend visits James, McSteamier seems perplexed and James offers an explanation that goes something like this: McSteamy told me surgery was going to get me only so far so I had to develop some moves to get anywhere with women. He said his moves wouldn’t work for me, so I had to come up with my own. I blind them with my personality. This brief explanation took me to the heights of elation only to drop me to the depths of infuriated resignation.

My personal experience of plastic surgeons is that they bank on all the negative consequences of having a weird appearance in our society – isolation, rejection, scaring children, lacking dates, getting treated like you’re contagious and… Then they offer you the infallible remedy – described in as little detail as possible — to vanquish the horrifying fate. It’s an approach of extremes selling you on the described course of action better than any ad campaign could achieve because no convincing is necessary that looking weird has lousy consequences and we’ve been taught to believe Medical Gods have all the answers. After all, they became doctors to “do good” and no self-interest or ego is involved in their proclamations. They only want what is best for us and are going to deliver it.

At no time in my life has anyone let alone a doctor said, “Surgery will only get you so far.” I’m actually a little terrified to even contemplate how that might have altered events. Would my parents have been so persuaded and determined that I needed to be fixed? Would I have been such a willing sheep? Would such an honest perspective coupled with identical experiences somehow left me with less emotional scars?

Of course Grey’s Anatomy’s writers then made me furious by implying the right behavior (moves) could overcome a weird appearance. Really? I’d love to attend the workshop that taught me that particular set of skills.

Replacement of my biological eyes with prosthetics altered my appearance in a manner socially perceived as an improvement. Since then, I have noticed significant behavioral changes in those around me. Strangers engage in innocent flirting. Children’s questions have morphed from “Mommy, what’s wrong with her?” to “Mommy, why is she using that stick?” Dates haven’t suddenly begun raining from the heavens, but stranger discomfort has drastically decreased. However, while under anesthesia, I did not receive an infusion of improved social skills nor a transplant of dazzling moves. To me, this experience argues that how I look has more power to impact others than anything I say or do. I looked weird. I look a little less weird. People behave accordingly.

In the end, Grey’s Anatomy may have mitigated the impact of it’s “If you have the right moves” perspective. With all his blinding personality, James still said, “Looking less weird would be cool.”

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About Jen

After acquiring a degree from Vassar College in psychology, I moved to Western Mass where I ran a peer mentoring network for disabled college students as well as activism and organizing around disability issues. I also conducted research on disabled women’s body image. An Upstate New York native, I eventually followed my heliotropic nature to the sun of Southern California. I divide my time between writing (disability fiction and essays) along with moderating San Diego Bisexual Forum which is one of the oldest groups of its kind in the country. In my off hours I can often be found in my neighborhood live music venue enjoying our local talent.

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