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Asians want to look…whiter?

Yesterday was the first time in three years something more interesting than a pulled muscle happened to me at the gym.

It started a few weeks ago when I first noticed that one of the girls I attended a weekly Pilate’s class with just stopped showing up. I noticed her because she was one of the few women at my all-women’s gym that wasn’t overweight, age 50, or attending an intense core workout class clad in a flowery pink moo-moo.

I have to admit, I had grown to envy this girl’s beauty, mostly because she looked so different than me. She was a beautiful Asian girl with pin straight black hair, exotic dark eyes and a perfectly even skin tone; no fake bake orange or burning fluorescent tanning beds required.

She had never missed a class before. So I knew something was up.

Yesterday evening marked three weeks since her first absence. It was then that I discovered what that something was.

Two minutes before the instructor started the class, a bleach blonde with D-size busting breasts, a Brazilian bronze tan and wearing a skin tight, bright pink jump suit with the word “Fabulous” sewn between the shoulders and outlined in shining gold and silver sequins walked into the room.

My first thought was, Wow, another suburban housewife with nothing better to do with her time and her husband’s money than work toward looking like Barbie.

But then she took off her dark Ray Ban sunglasses and I recognized the face immediately, despite the strangely rounded eyes and the blaring blue contact lenses.

It was her. The girl I envied for her distinct, natural beauty. I almost couldn’t finish the class I was in such shock over what I knew had happened.

Seeing this really put things into perspective for me. It made me realize how anesthetized I’ve become to the obvious fact that the Western perception of beauty is disgustingly skewed; so skewed, so utterly torn, that this girl chose to undergo the physical pain and outrageous expense of plastic surgery just to look like another race.

It’s true that I don’t know this girl personally. I never asked her what her reasons were behind doing what she did. I figure it was obvious enough seeing her go from black to blonde, A to D and brown to blue.

I had to research this to try and find an answer to my pressing question of, Why?

This is what I found.

According to a survey by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the number of minorities getting plastic surgery quadrupled between 1997 and 2004. And in 2005, Asian-Americans had 437,000 cosmetic surgeries, up 58 percent from 2004.

I purchased a few Asian magazines and was shocked at what I found: onslaughts of ads for cosmetic surgery procedures. From eyebrow tattoos to dimple and split-chin fabrications, to facelifts and breast augmentations, it’s all there, even with an available “easy-to-pay” credit plan.

The most popular procedure, and not surprisingly, is known as blepharoplasty, or double eyelid surgery. It can be used to create a crease in Asian eyes that are naturally absent at the fold. Essentially, the procedure can provide for a “lacking” second eyelid for those who want one, giving the appearance of a much rounder, fuller eye.

The “before” and “after” pictures are even more disturbing. In the “before,” which is often blurred, the person is slouched, has a drawn face and looks simply miserable. In the “after,” the person is smiling bright, chest pressed outward, is well dressed and looks to be just loving life.

Something else I realized – sadly, only after really thinking about it – was how Westernized Japanese anime characters are, characters in comics and cartoons that are taking the world by storm. These characters and shows are a source of pride for Japan, certainly, but when you take a closer look, you can’t help but wonder if that pride is justified.

Take popular anime shows like Naruto, YugiOh and InuYahsa, for example. Most of the characters in these programs have round, large eyes that are usually light colored, such as with Naruto who has blue eyes. Characters also sport blond, red and brown hair, colors not so typical on Japanese heads.

Of course, it isn’t correct to say that all or even most Asians are trying to fit a more Western look, but some certainly are, and I can’t help but feel sad in knowing that truth.

Maybe someday someone will some serious pull will push the fact that you don’t have to be a size zero, look like a Martian with an oddly orange tan, have giant balloon-like bulbs blasting out from your chest and stone white blond hair to be considered beautiful.

Scratch those old adages: “beauty is only skin deep” and “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Beauty is you.