Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Nip/Tuck Jr.

From the New York Times:

The number of cosmetic surgeries performed on people 18 and under reached 74,233 in 2003, a 14 percent increase from 2000, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Girls and boys as young as 6 get plastic surgery to flatten protruding ears. Adolescents of 13 or 14 have nose jobs. And nearly 3,700 breast augmentation surgeries were performed on teenage girls last year, according to the society. Almost as many teenage boys - 3,300 - had overly developed breasts reduced.

They continue to describe the "red flags" that consultations can bring up suggesting the patient is not ready for the surgery (i.e. wishing to look like a celebrity, parental pressure, or to please a boyfriend/girlfriend).

But surgeons also say that many teenagers make level-headed decisions to have cosmetic surgery. That perception is backed up by a series of recent studies from Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands, where patients 12 to 22 were interviewed about their body image, their reasons for wanting plastic surgery and their experiences after getting breast implants, nose jobs or ear reconstruction.

The teenagers were notably realistic in their assessments of the body part they wanted to have changed, said Dr. Hans M. Koot, a developmental psychologist who is now at Free University Amsterdam. Rather than overestimating their physical problem, they typically rated their deformity as less severe than the surgeons did.

The study subjects were found to be as satisfied with their overall appearance as the average teenager. After undergoing cosmetic surgery, they reported that they were no longer concerned about their appearance, and that they felt more self-confident. In contrast, a control group of young people who were dissatisfied with their appearance but who did not have surgery did not develop a better self-image or gain self-confidence.

I am not against the idea of plastic surgery. Revolted by the perversion of the process by shows such as The Swan, yes. But there are a lot of cases where one body "flaw" correction could actually lead to that person living a happier life. Not everyone is psychologically capable of reaching the point where they can overcome that insecurity and love themselves, nose bump and all. I am, however, extremely against plastic surgery performed on minors. With the exceptions of reconstructive surgery or procedures done to alleviate pain, I don't believe it should be done on anyone under the age of eighteen. As is mentioned in the article, the biological and psychological processes are still so pliable that it is a dangerous road to walk down.

As for six year olds having their ears pinned back, that is sick. I can understand that the child is being teased at school. But even the most attractive adults I know (who were also attractive kids) were teased about some aspect of their looks growing up. It's the way kids get to each other. In adulthood, those same physical quirks often end up endearing. Many celebrities have gaps between their front teeth. I can think of one action star in particular whose ears stick out quite obviously. Maybe, if given the chance, these six year olds will grow to like their quirk as well. And if they don't, they can have it fixed when they are adults.