Whenever people ask me what I'm writing about for a Sri Lankan newspaper, I usually answer with a flippant, "Whatever I want," which, if you've followed this column at all, is quite true. However, I find that aside from random aspects of my life, I most frequently write about my adopted hometown, Los Angeles.
In short, I hate it.
I can't be any more blunt than that. But like some kind of co-dependent who can't leave their abusive partner despite the pain and misery they endure, I remain. Perhaps I'm a masochist, but more likely I'm just too lazy to pack up and leave. Besides, I wouldn't know where to go if I did. However, this column isn't about my co-dependence, it's about a common element all Angelinos share. Namely, I think everyone here is in some way or another scarred.
The scarring can come about in many different ways. For most, it's emotional, below the surface, and unless you really get to know that person it won't be revealed until you've spent months or years together, forging a seemingly strong bond of friendship which once thought to be unbreakable, comes quickly undone once the crazy is revealed.
For others, it's the physical scars. Those that people inflict upon themselves and are usually as plain as the altered noses on their faces.
Of course, I'm talking about plastic surgery.
Take, for example, the woman I recently saw whose lips extended so grotesquely beyond her face I had to wonder why she would purposefully make herself so monstrous. The answer came to me one day while I was hiking.
Runyon Canyon is a popular place to hike since it's conveniently located at the foot of the Hollywood Hills near the center of Los Angeles. One afternoon, as I was jogging down the trail, I couldn't help but notice a lovely woman jogging towards me. She definitely had a beautiful figure. However, I became transfixed as the closer she came to me, the more I could see she was more than just shapely, she was also very fake. This seemingly beautiful figure had, before my eyes, transformed into a hideous creature. Everything about her seemed monstrous: her fake breasts, her Mick Jagger-like lips, her face pulled so far back it resembled a snare drum. Suddenly she contorted into something resembling Batman's nemesis, the Joker.
As we passed each other, I couldn't help but think, "What a monster!" Then it occurred to me -- she really was a monster! From that point on, I referred to anyone with too much plastic surgery as suffering from the Frankenstein Syndrome.
Just as Dr. Frankenstein wanted to bring dead tissue back to life, people in Los Angeles hope to surgically instill youth into their aging bodies. They do this by adding a little bit here (breasts, lips, calves, buttocks) and taking away a little bit there (face lifts, tummy tucks, and liposuction). If only one of these things were done, and done discreetly, the alteration could be accomplished without being too obvious. However, this is Hollywood. Everything is done to excess.
Everywhere I look, I see massive billboards adorned with oversized celebrity faces. I can't help but marvel that these people who I know are older than me because I have seen them in movies or on TV since I was a kid or a teenager, still manage to look no older than they did twenty years ago thanks to the magic of air brushing and CGI. No one in this town can age gracefully anymore. This is primarily because of the scars they're carrying. Not just the ones on the outside due to too much plastic surgery, but the ones on the inside -- that compel them to stay young forever.
Of course, we would all like to remain young and beautiful, but we must also face reality -- aging is inevitable. And whether we decide to age gracefully or not is up to us. I only hope that I never succumb to this disease known more commonly as vanity.