Friday, August 17, 2012

My rambly thoughts about bullying, plastic surgery, and kids.

I just watched this video about a girl who was bullied from a young age for her looks, then received plastic surgery through a charity designed for young people to receive plastic surgery. I'm really torn on what I think about this. The girl wanted the bullying to stop and felt there was no way to get it to stop besides changing her looks. She was 14, so potentially old enough to decide this for herself, especially with the consent and support of her parents. But, her body is still growing and changing. She looks better in the post-operation photos and her interview towards the end of the video, for sure. But is that simply because society has skewed our learned views to think of a symmetric face as beautiful? Or is that an inherent thing in our DNA? I remember the days of puberty, having to go to school looking pretty much awful, as your body didn't quite match it's growing proportions, coupled with new glasses and - oh joy! - braces. But as an adult looking back on it, I can see that I grew out of it. My body grew into adulthood. The braces came off, and I got glasses that fit my face shape better. I learned how to do my hair and makeup and how to dress to my body instead of dressing to fit into any clique in school.

But, now that I'm getting older (edging towards 30!), I still see myself in that young adult body. I still shop in the juniors section and probably wear clothes that are a bit too young, or sloppy, for my age. Or at least, what society's standards say. So comparatively, I am going through the same shift, once more, but with less hormonal angst. Having to re-learn how my body is changing. But, I'm lucky to not have bullies picking on my starting-to-wrinkle skin or my veiny arms or anything else, really. I do that all to myself in my head, thank you very much. But is it bad enough that I would undergo a surgical procedure to change? Was it ever?

I will never forget the time, in tech ed class in middle school, a boy said to me, "Cara, you could never be a chicken." "What?" I asked. "Chickens have breasts!" he proclaimed as he and his friends laughed at me, then completely flat-chested. That comment stung so bad that I still remember it, and when I feel self-conscious about my chest, I'm transported right back to that time of my life, when I was hyper-focused on my flaws and just knew that everyone around me was, too. (Oh, the life of a teenager...) But, even back then, I had no desire to have breast implants. I still don't. I like being able to sleep on my tummy without it hurting, thanks! But, that was one comment - the most I ever really experienced in bullying. Would my views be different if it were many comments on a daily basis? Would it have eaten away at my confidence and beaten me into my shell?

As I read and hear more and more about bullying being so bad these days, I can't help but feel like an old person and think, sheesh, kids these days, everyone was bullied! I just can't understand how someone could take their own life from being bullied. Or, go under the knife as a consequence of being bullied about their looks. I just can't fathom what it's like. Is the bullying really that horrible nowadays? Or are kids not having the support they need to safely get through puberty, into adulthood, where they can more easily tell a bully to fuck off?

I wish I understood. I don't want my baby sister to face any person or any situation that would make her feel like she's flawed, or not enough. In a few years, when she is in school and I am over 30, I suppose I will get to experience it through her eyes. Although, I think she's absolutely beautiful and she's only a behbeh. Could my love for her be enough, combined with the rest of the family, to keep her happy through her innocent years, even when kids can be cruel to each other?

So, yes, the girl in the video's looks have improved, because they are more standardized. But will having taken away her looks that made her unique end up hindering her as an adult? Or will this help? They say they will take her to counseling for the bullying, but will they teach her that she doesn't have to hyper-focus on her looks for the rest of her life? And who will teach the bullies that it's not okay, when she reinforced their bullying by changing what she looks like? If they are truly bullies, they will find another reason to pick on her. Just like an abusive relationship, if you fix what they harp on, they will find another thing to beat you down for.


And on top of it all, there's actually a charity to give kids plastic surgery. I can understand having it for physical health reasons, like the deviated septum, but how far should mental health play into changing one's body surgically?