Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

David  Sedaris

Meghan  White 

A History of Plastic Surgery

David Sedaris: Hiding Insecurity Behing Humor

Growing up in a dysfunctional family has forced author David Sedaris to turn to humor as a coping mechanism for his insecurities. Sedaris often depicts himself as a child in his work, using his poor social skills and severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as fodder for his humorous essays. He describes how these childhood problems, rather than dissipating as he has grown older, have continued to make him self-conscious and insecure in his adulthood. In one story within his collection When You Are Engulfed in Flames, Sedaris recalls a visit to the doctor when he is forced to sit in a waiting room wearing nothing but boxers, and he exaggerates his shame and social awkwardness by relating various forms of suicide he is contemplating. However, Sedaris’ emergent self-acceptance as an adult is evident in his book Naked when he removes his boxers at a nudist colony, in spite of his insecurities. Sedaris illustrates that finding the humor in life’s obstacles is the best way for him to appreciate the differences that make him unique.

While David Sedaris uses humor as a way to cover his insecurities, plastic surgery was a more permanent, substantial relief for American veterans and others seeking an ideal body based on societal standards of beauty. The rationale behind plastic surgery sometimes was to reconstruct facial damage due to war injuries, and at other times, to regain or gain beauty as defined by society. The American Association of Plastic Surgeons (AAPS) was founded in 1921 as a “direct result of war,” to assist wounded soldiers by many procedures such as hand surgery. No one questioned a wounded veteran’s need for surgery. However, seeking plastic surgery for aesthetic reasons could be misunderstood as a symptom of an image disorder, or as a celebrity’s desperate attempt to achieve perfection. Surgeons perfected their techniques for liposuction, breast implants, and nose jobs during the twentieth century. Though plastic surgery had a reputation for encouraging a superficial emphasis on youth, and on eliminating signs of aging, it was also used for needed reconstruction from war injuries, to regain self-confidence and have an easier transition into society.

Major Works Consulted:

Gates, Heather. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Accessed Feb. 20, 2015.
Haiken, Elizabeth. Venus Envy: A History of Cosmetic Surgery. Baltimore: John Hopkins U. P., 1997.

Sedaris, David. Naked. New York: Back Bay, 1997.
---. When You Are Engulfed in Flames. New York: Back Bay, 2008.
Photo Credit: Sedaris, David. “EW Exclusive: David Sedaris lends his support to National Audiobook Month” 8 April 2015.