Postpartum depression—for both females and males—lasts well beyond the first few months. In some cases, it lingers until adolescence, when parents realize, after guilty thought-dreams of reappraisal, that perhaps their child’s lifespan could have been divergent, more beautiful.
Technology hasn’t quite reached the stage where the rich can assemble engineered genetics at a mall kiosk, but it’s catching up quietly, and the aftermath may be messier than ever.
I Was a Delinquent, Druggy Teen
My high-school years were pretty, uh, turbulent, to say the least. By eighth grade—13 years old—I’d already been arrested for breaking and entering. More often than not, I showed up for class wrecked on reefer.
That year’s corresponding yearbook photo—stoned, unwashed, peppered with pimples, sneer instead of smile—was, I suppose, on par with the lifestyle. But I can’t help but wonder if my parents wanted another print to frame.
Photographic technology was so-so back then. For an additional fee, the shutterbug could blur out pimples. What they couldn’t do was whiten my teeth (and eyes), cut and wash my hair, pale the black baggage under my eyes, remove my braces, and give that apathetic curl of the lip a little optimism.
Naturally, all that has changed now.
“Ma’am, Your Kid Is Fugly. Let’s Fix That.”
Of the 30 million elementary-school student photos Lifetouch takes a year, about 10 percent of them are now retouched. Joseph Sell, the New York area manager for Lifetouch, told The New York Times that by senior year, “sometimes half of a class requests retouching.”
Lifetouch offers several levels of retouching, which can include a $6 “basic” treatment for small changes like removing the glare from eyeglasses; a $10-to-$20 “premier,” in which the teeth will be whitened or a cowlick tamed; and intricate, and more expensive, custom changes, like adding a tie or making short sleeves long.
A more revolting scenario: parents thinning their kids. What’s stopping us? I know far too many beautiful girls who have developed eating disorders because of Mommy’s cold obsession with weight maintenance. Wouldn’t it be easier to just disremember that baby fat?
These utopian modifications are establishing a standard: get pretty, stay pretty, or we’ll make you pretty.
Science, obviously, has one-upped Photoshop. Now you can choose your child’s gender, or, for the granolas, use natural methods like diet, timing, and douching with an acidic or alkaline solution to zap that pesky penis away.
And though the APA claims there is no “gay gene,” scientists continue to pursue the evasive bugger—and might have found it in mice. You can bet your prom dress that once (or if) the gay gene has been singled out, the rich and bigoted will wipe it from their spawn to not only eradicate the difficulties inherent with growing up gay, but to cling to and selfishly pass on the family’s “good name.”
The Good, the Bad, and the (Temporarily) Ugly
In the face of Big Bad Science, photo retouching hangs on the trifling spectrum of child refinement. Still, it’s the deceitful implantation of false memories, the erection of technology-reliant perfection, and, at its very base, an unspoken admonition of our own genetic codes, our futures.
Not all parents are guilty of this kind of behavior, and in some cases, a little touching-up is harmless, even valuable to a challenged confidence. But should it veer into the vain, we’re tight-roping a precarious line, one that could prove more damaging than beneficial.
For all my troubles in high school—and there were many—I wouldn’t have it amended. We live, we learn. It’s high school. And we can’t plant idealism in unfertile ground. Especially not with a checkbook.