Happy birthday, Mme. Speaker! Too bad about your face

The Daily Beast celebrates Nancy Pelosi's 69th birthday by scrutinizing her face to death.

Published March 27, 2009 6:31PM (EDT)

Yesterday was Nancy Pelosi's 69th birthday. To celebrate, Sandra McElwaine at The Daily Beast spent three pages pondering just how much plastic surgery the first female Speaker of the House may or may not have had. A nice card probably would have sufficed, but whatever.

McElwaine's major points in a nutshell:

  1. Politicians (including the male kind, but especially women) are all but required to have cosmetic surgery these days, lest they be judged old and ugly in the age of HDTV.  
  2. Politicians (including the male kind, but especially women) who have had cosmetic surgery usually keep it pretty conservative and as quiet as possible, lest they be judged vain and superficial.
  3. Under these circumstances, we the voting public can't be entirely sure who's had work done. Ergo, we are left with no choice but to judge politicians (including the male kind, but especially women) as simultaneously old/ugly for not having had enough work done to remove all doubt, and vain/superficial for looking too well-preserved to be completely au naturel.

McElwaine had to search high and low for a plastic surgeon who would go on the record as saying he believes Pelosi, specifically, has gone under the knife, but eventually, she found D.C. Surgeon Barry Cohen, who expressed point 3 just perfectly: "I would guess she had a neck lift some time ago, although is certainly ready for another. It would appear that she had the fat removed from around her eyes, but has a substantial amount of excess skin on the lower lids. She has not a line on her forehead, likely indicating a date with a vial of Botox, yet has remaining lines at her crow's feet (it wore off or was untreated)." Vain! Yet old! Superficial! Yet ugly! ! Unnatural! Yet horribly, horribly natural!

And that's not even my favorite part of Cohen's assesment. That would have to be, "She has her share of lines and wrinkles. Likely from all the time spent at high altitudes in her (our) private jet." Yes, that's likely it, since it's so rare to find wrinkles on a 69-year-old who travels primarily by bus. Also, after complaining about the droopy neck, excess skin and remaining lines on her face, Cohen goes on to pronounce Pelosi "a victim of West Coast surgery" -- which McElwaine describes as "a flashy tight look, a la Joan Rivers." Wait, I'm confused! I gather that I'm meant to be disgusted by Pelosi's face, but I don't know if it's because she's had too much surgery or not enough!

Curiously, after all that, McElwaine concludes that Pelosi's (allegedly) had just the right amount of surgery -- or at least, she had it at the right time, early enough to, according to Dr. Walter Unger, "look a lot better and avoid suspicion." "Unfortunately, not all of them are smart enough" to do it early, Unger opines, but McElwaine says, "Nancy Pelosi seemingly was. She caught on a while ago." Except, not so much with the avoiding suspicion, if this article is any indication. Confused again!

Out of this muddle, I can only reach one solid conclusion: 69-year-old grandmothers must stay out of the public eye if they don't wish to have their faces pointlessly scrutinized to death. Happy belated birthday, Madame Speaker! Sheesh.

By Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

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