While some undergo plastic surgery out of medical necessity, others take procedures too far, fueling a beauty-obsessed culture.
Michelle Kendra was 14 years old when she underwent surgery to have her ears pinned back; it was the summer before she would enter high school. Her peers had teased her relentlessly because of her ears.
Kendra, a junior nursing major at Neumann University, is not the only person who has corrected an “imperfection” through plastic surgery. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reported that in 2003, nearly 2 million individuals in the 19 to 34 age group underwent some sort of cosmetic procedure. In 2008, this number grew to 2.2 million.
On top of that, the media has exposed young adults already dealing with body image problems to stars like Heidi Montag, star of MTV’s The Hills and co-author of How to Be Famous: Our Guide to Looking the Part, Playing the Press and Becoming a Tabloid Fixture, who had 10 cosmetic procedures in the same day and was subsequently featured on the cover of People magazine. Anyone who is unfamiliar with the blond-haired wannabe pop star should know that Montag was no leper prior to her plastic surgery onslaught.
If there is something about an individual’s body that compels him or her to go under the knife to change it, then by all means, that person should change it. But when someone like Montag enters a hospital and leaves looking more plastic than a Barbie doll, there’s a problem.
Body image certainly plays a large role in an individual’s decision to have a cosmetic procedure.
“There wasn’t anything wrong with [my ears], per se. They just stuck out, so I had them pinned back,” Kendra said.
Like Kendra, Sarah Fox, a Neumann senior business and marketing major, dealt with harassment from peers because of her nose and had a cosmetic procedure.
In addition to having her deviated septum fixed, Fox had a rhinoplast, or nose reshaping, and received a chin implant because her doctor said she had a recessed chin, meaning her chin was not in line with her nose.
Fox underwent the procedure at 18, before she began college.
“I wanted a complete fresh start because these people didn’t know me, and I didn’t want them to know me as a big-nosed person,” she said. “When I tell people now that I had my nose done, they can’t believe it.”
The surgery cost Fox $13,000, $5,000 of which her health insurance covered. Kendra’s procedure cost $3,500, on which she was given a 10 percent discount because her parents paid with cash.
How teens nowadays can afford such expensive procedures confounds me.
I want more than anything for people, especially teens, to be content with what they have and to find a balance between inner- and outer-beauty. This is apparently wishful thinking on my part, since ASAPS reported that more than 205,000 of individuals 18 years or younger had undergone some sort of plastic surgery in 2007, with the two most popular procedures being breast augmentation and liposuction.
The teens who received breast implants or liposuction paint a disturbing picture for youth in the U.S. Along with Montag, these teens and young adults are sending a message that unless every inch of you is perfect, you need plastic surgery.
Fox said plastic surgery is good for people who have accidents, health problems or are just physically unhappy and need a small change, but she said Montag’s surgeries are like going into “a food store and [picking] out any surgery that she wants like it’s nothing.”
“If you think beauty comes from within, why are you getting so many surgeries?” Kendra said. “Ten-plus surgeries later, and beauty isn’t coming [from] within, it’s coming from a knife.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Josh Fernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.