When I read the article about the bullied girl who had plastic surgery on her ears, nose and chin because she was tired of being taunted and teased, it bothered me on many levels. I know what bullying is like, and I’ll agree that it’s awful. However, I felt that such changes were drastic and that there were some deeper issues as to why this girl couldn’t accept herself the way she was. As the surgeon, I would have recommended counseling before going through such procedures. Instead, he said she had “deformities.” I’ve seen deformities and I don’t feel that this girl was “deformed” in any way. She could have done other things to make herself feel more confident, such as getting her hair cut and styled to make her ears stick out less and frame her face better. I also read another article about something similar, involving nose jobs and botox for teens.
I think this girl could have also gone to her mother or talked to an adult she trusted at the school about how bad the bullying was. Instead, she kept silent as it continued to escalate. And when she finally told her mom, instead of working through the problem together, her mom immediately resorted to plastic surgery. I think it was like saying that was the solution–or that she also couldn’t accept her daughter’s physical appearance, either.
Another factor in all this is that girls who are deemed to be attractive have been bullied, as well. They’re seen as a potential threat when it comes down to the bully liking a guy and seeing him talk to certain girls. In the case of Phoebe Prince, a girl who committed suicide over two years ago as a result of bullying, she was attractive and girls made up rumors about her because she was talking to guys they liked. The bullies even got the guys on their side to gang up on her. So being attractive isn’t always the key to staying free of bullies.
Growing up, I had wild curly hair that would get frizzy all the time. Naturally, I got teased over this fact often. People would call me names or ask if I stuck my finger in an electric socket. However, I never once thought of straightening it or keeping it hidden under a hat. (I did, however, take sick days from school when I was having a bad hair day. I could only take so much from people.) When I was in high school, I became friends with other girls who had curly hair and we’d wear it wildly and proudly. Being Jewish, my hair defined me…but so did my nose, which is slightly crooked if you look at me from the side, and red on top because of an accident in high school. However, as much as my mom would try to pressure me to get a nose job, I never wanted to. I saw girls having it done, but was too scared to get one myself. I think I read one too many articles about Jennifer Grey and thought the idea of something changing my face or making me unrecognizable would be too awful to even fathom!
As a mom, I worry about potential bullying and have already talked to my sons about not making fun of people for their differences. However, I haven’t talked to them much about how to handle being bullied and I realize that this is a discussion we need to have soon. My son E wears a cochlear implant, which already makes him stand out a bit. He has been confident about his implant and thankfully his school conducts a seminar for kindergarten students about hearing loss, since it’s so prevalent in his school. Now that he’s in first grade, it’s going to be a whole new playing field. Hopefully the kids will have retained what they learned about hearing loss and will continue to be accepting. I do worry about the kids who decide it’s a reason for them to be mean to him and how he’ll handle it when that happens. Even thinking about it breaks my heart. My daughter also has cochlear implants and I worry that she’ll face challenges as she gets older and has to deal with possible “mean girls.”
All I can do to combat this is to educate my kids about how to handle bullies–and instill confidence in them about their cochlear implants and why they are so important to wear. I clearly can’t give them new cochleas in their ears the way I had LASIK done for my eyes (which was done to help my vision, more than for vanity, as I looked cute in glasses). I’m also not going to suggest plastic surgery as an answer to their problems. I think my kids are adorable and wouldn’t change a thing about their physical appearance. I just hope they have enough confidence in themselves to deal with whatever comes their way as they get older.
About Melissa A
Melissa A. and her husband have 2 young sons, E and M, and a new baby daughter. Melissa's son E has hearing loss and wears a cochlear implant. Melissa works as an administrative assistant for a non-profit and also runs a bullying prevention group and a book-related fan group, in addition to blogging for Empowering Parents. You can check out Melissa’s personal blog here.