Teen Bullying Cannot Be Solved With Plastic Surgery


Is plastic surgery for a minor ever acceptable? What if the child is bullied, or has difficulties doing things the average person takes for granted due to a facial deformity, such as smiling?

In steps Little Baby Face Foundation. Based in New York City, LBFF provides free corrective surgery to children whom are bullied for their physical appearance. Founded in 2002 by Dr. Thomas Romo, III and Lauralouise Duffy-Blatt, the non-profit has helped over 150 children from all over the country and the world, who were born with a variety of facial deformities ranging from Microtia to Hemifacial Microsomia.

Such children obviously benefit from the corrective surgery. It greatly improves their quality of life, and it can do wonders for their self-esteem. Living, then, becomes much easier, and I think the aims of the foundation in this regard are brilliant.

But what about the average teenager who is teased for their physical appearance? Nadia Ilse is 14 years old, and has long been known as "Dumbo" to her classmates because of her ears. The teasing reached such a point that by age 10, she was begging her mother for otoplasty, a surgery to pin back the ears. While the cruelty of her classmates clearly had a deep negative impact on Nadia, is going under the knife to stop the taunting of peers an acceptable lesson to pass on to the younger generations? What happened to developing the metaphorical "thick skin"?

Courtesy of LBFF, Nadia received the free otoplasty, but Romo didn't stop there. He also performed rhinoplasty (nose job) and mentoplasty (chin altering) -- all in all, a $40,000 dollar procedure. Now Nadia has everything she asked for, and more. Next is counseling, to rebuild her self- confidence, but will that be enough? Perhaps now her classmates will only mock her for getting surgery, or she will find (as teenagers are wont to do) something else about herself to be unsatisfied with.

Comparatively speaking, Nadia's face was not deformed. She was just the victim of a culture that perpetually bombards girls and women with images of perfection -- perfection that is not even real. But there is something wholly invaluable about learning to not let the rude comments of others impact your self-esteem and self-worth, and about embracing your appearance and your attributes. These are lessons, however, I feel we are no longer vigorously teaching our children. Instead of imparting the wisdom of mental toughness and self-acceptance, we legislate laws and provide free surgery. We create a veritable bubble around childhood. We continue to enable a delicate sense of self-value, but this is only detrimental to the children, who will find themselves emotionally and mentally unprepared for the adult world. Childhood and the teenage years are about figuring out yourself and going through all the awkward pains of growing up; they prepare you for the world ahead. Living is not always easy, people can be mean -- and childhood is where you are meant to learn that.

I was teased as a child for being taller than everyone (taunts of being called the Jolly Green Giant still sometimes surpass the barrier of age and experience I have cultivated since), and having a different body type from the rest of the girls in my class. Being half black at a private Jewish school, I had to learn that I was not alone in my appearance -- that I was not weird, just built differently. So, too, Nadia should have taken heart with her original ears. She was in pretty good company.