You must have seen her. She’s blonde, fair andclear-skinned, blue-eyed with a perfect pout and an evenmore perfect nose. She’s staring at you frompractically every billboard in Beirut and urging you to takeout a “Plastic Surgery Loan” from First National Bank, sothat you too can look perfect.
Going under the knife to give you that edge—personally orprofessionally—is no longer a taboo. Beauty is no longergenetic luck. It has become attainable and affordable, andFirst National Bank have just made it even easier to getthere.
In fact they’ve made it very easy. As long as you earnover $600 a month and can afford to pay it back within 24months (with 6% interest), the patient-to-be can borrow upto $5,000 within 48 hours, with no down-payment required.You can have any procedure you want, from laser eye surgeryto orthodontics via laser hair removal and botox. Hate thatgut? Get rid of it!
The ad itself, part of a bigger brand awareness campaign, issomething of a marketing coup and has the whole towntalking. Among the hundred or so daily calls that the bankhas been receiving since the launch of the campaign, areinquiries from CNN and the BBC, who, like everyone else,noticed the blonde on the billboard and decided it was aquirky story.
While many who believe that we should not tamper with whatHe gave us, or feel that as a society we are heading toShallowsville, it would not be fair to accuse First Nationalof exploiting vanity—buying a car is also a style statement.It is merely responding to a demand that reflects the needsof a population that places high value on looking its best.Each year the Lebanese spend a fortune on cosmeticprocedures and First National expects to approve hundreds ofloans. And it’s not only the women. Over a third of thecalls that the bank has received have been from men.
According to FNB, the product is not new and had been indevelopment since 2004 and was scheduled to launch on 28July 2006. The project was delayed because of the summer warbut after the guns fell silent, the bank noticed that demandhad not diminished; quite the contrary, it increased.
It transpired that the war had proved the perfect window fora quick surgical procedure. Social events were kept to aminimum—a combination of decorum and danger had seen tothat—and so there was ample time to recover from a minorprocedure. Others had more pressing needs, especially thoseinjured during the war—burns and facial disfigurement andthe like—and who could not pay for a procedure without aloan and FNB have gone to some lengths to explain this.
Still there is the billboard picture of the perfect blondestaring at me telling me that I can now get the makeover ofmy dreams and live the life I’ve always wanted.
It’s nice to be a looker but is it a factor in success? Wellapparently yes. Many studies have shown a positivecorrelation between beauty and professional success, bettermarketability, better positions in the workplace, highersalaries and even stronger political prospects (baldleaders, for example, are perceived as lacking in that finaldollop of charisma).
In Lebanon, plastic surgery is available on every streetcorner, it is relatively affordable and the doctors areexcellent. And with the country so depressed at the moment,it’s probably a good idea to give yourself a littlesomething to feel good about. The Lebanese have proved, onceagain, to be above all hardship. The trophy wife mantra usedto be “when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.” Inour case, when the going gets tough, we sign up forRhinoplasty.
RANA HANNA admits to having had plastic surgery