Are we born with beauty or is it something that has to be developed?  If beauty can be created, can it also be destroyed?  What about the soul underneath the skin?  Does that person lose parts of herself as the exterior rots?  Writer Elaine Sutton explores the issues of 'modification' in her ethereally blinding piece, "Headless (Jenny's Story)," while photographer Camile Grace's portrait contrasts with an image of beauty regained, reclaimed, and renegotiated.

HEADLESS (Jenny's Story)

by Elaine sutton

From a Historical Humanist:

It seems childhood afflictions go in and out of vogue. When I was young it was ear infections. I remember these strange stories, which I‘ve heard repeated by people around my age, of drainage tubes. Tubes to drain earwax which were never removed. Your anatomy just integrated with and grew around them or that was the idea. For me, my tubes were a constant source of pain and infection. Ear infections then ADD and ADHD came into vogue, then obesity, and now allergies. Some allergies even come back around like trends---chocolate allergy is a thing again.  Now look to the transhuman course we are on: a few tubes in our heads will be the least of our worries. 


March 17, 2364

“It’s your Lucky Day,” Jenny’s mother said to her PMS-ing eleven-year-old.

“Mmmrph” grumbled Jenny through her pillow.

“Your outfit is on the door- and when you’re all ready we can do some green makeup too. Wash your face really good with the stuff they gave you.”

Jenny: Today is supposed to be a right of passage. The day I am to be fitted for my first Mod. Daddy almost buckled and let me get it when I had the chicken pox when I was eight but he told mommy I was too young. So they waited ‘til I got my period, waited until now.

Jenny’s mom: “I like to think of it as a bright spot on what can sometimes be a painful experience.”

Jenny:  Oh yeah real bright, you’re all crampy and bleeding and TADA!  Here’s a new face for you to worry about and fuss over. My PJs, my eyes, today in general, red and green---opposite colors. Like Christmas but only stranger with rainbows and leprechauns and gold and complete with pain. Maybe because it’s during lent. Why did dad have to go and show me those strange episodes from that old show? Granted they were more interesting than the other black and white stuff he’s tried to show me but still...

Mom barged in when I was still in my black Hanes panties, high cut so not so sexy, especially not so sexy when you count the diaper-like pad protruding, but the touch of black lace made them better than my tighty whities.

“No food this morning dear, for the anesthesia but I’ve booked us facials at, ‘The Cat and the Serpent.’”

“Us? You’re going wearing your actual face?”

“Yup, you and me baby- naked to the world! Oh, and you can have some coffee or tea if you want, I’ve made espressos and that caramel honey chai you like.”


The Cat and the Serpent Medi-Clinic Salon and Spa,

later that day

Jenny:  The bed is warm and cozy with heated blankets. Various treatments with lemon for digestion and lavender for calming are applied delicately to my skin. There are antiseptics in the lemon and the lavender promotes cell turnover.

I feel as though I’ve been lied to. Becoming a woman is supposed to be a wonderful thing, they don’t tell you about pain that makes you vomit and want to die. What does God have against women? Will this be the last time I truly feel my face before my nerves are severed and I become someone else? I guess you never truly appreciate something until it is about to be ripped from you. Why do I need a new face? I consider asking the esthetician if she can feel that ‘thing,’ really feel it, -her fake face, but it is rude to talk during a facial, and she probably wouldn’t consider it very nice to call it a ‘thing’ either. Maybe I should pick a face like Wonder Woman but in truth I don’t want to be a Superhero either.

I wonder if mom will spring for the YFBB or Your Face But Better, package.


From a Humanist Historian

MTHR or Modular Therapeutic Head Replacement (also Mod for short) was first developed to treat migraine pain. It started to gain popularity when it was marketed as a way for women to level the playing field, to get a one up on younger less affluent colleagues but like all new technology eventually every woman wanted one. The procedure is relatively non-invasive enough considering and it’s affordable enough that it has become a rite of passage on par with getting your first cell phone. The procedure has very few side effects and about the same amount of unforeseen casualties as standard anesthesia. There are however outliers in the data as with most things in medicine. Jenny is unfortunately one of these.


That Evening

Jenny: I awoke in the hospital to find my face was not the only thing I couldn’t remember.

“What happened? Where am I?” ‘Who am I?’ I used all the contextual clues I could find -mainly my body. There were no mirrors -but the facial features I touched, were not my own. ‘I am a young girl.’

“Relax dear it’s just temporary side effects from the anesthesia. You are at Woodside Medical Clinic your name is Jenny. Remember?” said a disembodied voice over a speaker in the corner, I think it was the speaker, it could be bone conduction. 

“No. Where are my parents?” ‘Who are my parents?’ My head was still pounding and spinning---the pounding battling the spinning for dominance of motion.

“They’re right here. Now there is one small piece of business we need you to take care of, there is a contract we need you to sign.”

An average, attractive male nurse entered, without knocking, with a large document on a clipboard and hands it to me. I read: ‘I Jenny Stamos-Garcia-Caputo (is that really my name?) do hereby consent to--’

I looked up, “Shouldn’t I have done this already?” I said quietly, “May I speak to my father?”

“Sure thing, he’s right here.”

“Hi honey,” said another unfamiliar voice.                     

“I can’t remember anything, I don’t really understand this thing, it seems to alleviate the Medical Clinic of all responsibility if anything goes wrong. Shouldn’t I have signed this already?”

“It’s okay honey just sign it so we can get you remembering everything,” said my apparent parent.

“What else does this thing say?” I asked.


Jenny (in retrospect): I signed it, what else was I going to do? Besides I think I was still a little high off the drugs they gave me. I never recovered my earliest memories. I woke up with a new face and was literally born again. Every new event became surreal and dreamlike. I remember being driven home, from the Medical Clinic and passing a church billboard that read: “The Easter Bunny didn’t die for your sins, Jesus did.” The entire way home I hallucinated a giant bunny nailed to the cross with chocolate flowing from the wound at his side, dots of raspberry blood dripping from beneath his carrot crown of thorns and voiding himself in a holy mess of jelly beans and chocolate. My new smaller nose could pick up the faintest hint of dark chocolate.

My mother was Greek so I was raised Greek Orthodox. One year when my Yia-Yia was sick it was up to my aunts, my Thea Calli in particular, to prepare the eggs. Thea Calli was a ditzy woman. She was my strange, unmarried aunt. It is a Greek Tradition to dye the eggs red, to represent the blood of Christ. On Easter the hard boiled eggs are pit against each other nose to nose and tail to tail and it is tradition to repeat, ‘Christos Anesti-’ or Christ has risen, ‘Alithos Anesti-’ truly he has risen. The winner or the person with the surviving uncracked egg is supposed to be lucky all year. Well this one year, Thea Calli must have been distracted because the eggs were hot pink and some of them were not fully cooked. I was the first one to discover this when my father smashed my egg, “Christos Anesti!” My egg splattered all over the front of my pretty purple dress. Easter would be Russian Roulette with eggs from then on.

I have been referring to MTHR as my face, but in all actuality it is my head. Now they offer full hair and scalp packages too, which I certainly appreciate with my situation. Who knows what else they took out with my memories. I like to think of my old face and personality as being raptured. They went straight to Heaven and left me here.

Yeah, the hospital lost my face. After that day I never saw it again save old photos and videos of myself.  Even though I have a graduate degree, I am now an MAE---a Modular Aesthetics Expert, which is something akin to a makeup artist but with more programming. I kind of fell into it. I have an eye for color and I like to make women feel better about being in their skin. The degree is good to have though, one day I may want to be an account executive and they like a degree for that position. I always see things from another point of view. I could go far. I am still young and I don’t want kids. What kind of intelligent soul would want to add to the population in a world like this?


From a Humanist Historian

How do you feel about mods in general? Do you have any personal biases or fears concerning your own {Mod} or the staggering number of young girls being fitted for them every day?

Jenny: Wouldn’t you? Of course I do. Let me start with the first question. It is a curious bit of doublethink. I love it and I hate it. I love it for the freedom it gives me to change my look at will. There is something spiritual in being faceless, everything and nothing. In other ways facelessness is like being a Dalit in India, untouchable, non-human. I hate it because sometimes it feels like a trap. In the burgeoning days of technology you had more freedom. There was no fear that some government official or program in response to something you posted online would send an electric shock through your computer or watch or brain killing you instantly. It is always blamed on some glitch, some error.

I do not trust the news, except from the far left and the far right. It is only from the outsides of both sides that the true nature of the beast can be seen. The far right is correct about the war on weaponry, and certain personal liberties, the far left is correct about the government trying to starve out/overfeed, dumb up and economically deprive the population. They are both paranoid that we are being poisoned. It is not a distraction it is a system.

To the second question yes. Unequivocally yes, I wonder how many girls and women have similar stories to my own. I do not understand why there is no regulation of this and many other industries. I’ve seen girls as young as five with their parents just okay with it, to compete for some charity pageant or the like. Beauty can be ugly- it can be sickening, would you like me to show you?

Humanist Historian: If you wouldn’t mind.

Jenny: Of course not. If a broken clock is right twice a day how often is a faceless clock right?

Jenny pulled her hair into a ponytail. She sprayed antibacterial gel on her hands and proceeded to press two buttons buried beneath the hair behind each temple above her ears. Then she reached with her right hand to the nape of her neck. There was a little hydraulic sound and the entire scalp lifted up. She pressed the spots below each earlobe and then clicked one under her bangs behind her widow’s peak forward. Her face dropped into her palm like a silicone mask, or a flapjack, with a bounce and a ripple. The remaining flesh behind it had not seen daylight for the better part of two decades. It more closely resembled a pink cicada after shedding its shell, or the flesh of a baby mouse. A delicate damp thing, with no nose (a tube had left each nostril hole when she took the thing off). Her lips were thin, like that of an old person. But the most frightening feature had to be the eyes. Big dark sockets with the eyeballs suspended in some kind of petroleum jelly like substance, with a deep viscous yellow ooze where the tear ducts should have been.

Jenny used both hands one holding ‘the face’ and the other inserting her two forefingers up the nose of the thing. She sniffed inward loudly, inhaling the breathing tubes, and delicately adjusted it back into position and pressed her scalp down onto the thing. She once again pressed all the relevant points, arranged her bangs and let out a sigh.

Jenny glanced down then straight ahead and grinned coyly, “Rest assured, this is not something I show anyone on a first date.”