A NYC-based nonprofit called Little Baby Face provides free plastic surgery to underprivileged kids who are bullied because of facial deformities. One 15-year-old girl who received a nose job says she had to be homeschooled for three years because of the viciousness of the harassment. She appeared on the Today Show today to tell her story.
When Renata requested her nose job, she wrote, "I tried convincing myself that I am fine the way I am, but I just don't believe it anymore." She was chosen to receive the surgery after foundation director Dr. Thomas Romo diagnosed her with hemi-facial microsomia, which means her nose leans to the left.
Dr. Romo also performed a chin job, to help Renata balance out her face.
While psychologists say teens shouldn't have to resort to plastic surgery to avoid bullying, Renata's mother defends her daughter's decision. "Parents correct kids' teeth with braces to make their teeth straighter," she said. "They're still the same kid on the inside, but, unfortunately, people are judged on how they look."
I don't know quite how to approach this. On the one hand, adolescence is unbelievably difficult, and if programs like this can help immediately improve the quality of life for kids who are being bullied, that's a net gain. (Though I am wondering what qualifies as a "deformity.") It's a pleasant, romantic ideal to wait for incremental changes that will eventually make the culture more accepting, but kids are suffering RIGHT NOW. What do you tell them? Some day we'll fix it? Maybe it'll be 10% better by the time you retire?
But on the other hand, I really hope parents and teachers read this story with the understanding that this framework is fucking unacceptable. Kids shouldn't have to resort to surgically constructing a new face because you couldn't manage to teach your dumb kid to be kind to people with facial differences. Not only does it reinforce the idea that conventional physical beauty is paramount, it helps obscure a much more important truth: Renata shouldn't have to fix her face—YOU SHOULD HAVE TO FIX YOUR KID'S SHITTY ATTITUDE.