Well, there’s one way to stop bullying: Got $20,000 or so?

dumboThe pitch that just arrived in my inbox may take the cake. And that’s saying something.

Now more than ever, we’re tuned into the dangers of bullying. Bullied teens take the self-esteem damage from relentless taunting and teasing with them well into adulthood. Today, parents are trying to stop the self-confidence problems before they start by giving their teen the gift of plastic surgery.

Manhattan plastic surgeon Dr. [Redacted] sees these teens walk through his door all the time. About 90,000 teens get cosmetic surgery each year. And while the reasons are vast, bullying is a major one.

Is he talking about kids with facial deformities? Disfiguring birthmarks? Cleft palates? Not quite.

Dr. [Redacted] only performs rhinoplasty and ear surgery (to pin back ears that stick out, for example).

In other words, if your 14 year-old is being bullied for not having a perfect little cheerleader nose and adorable little ears? Send her under the knife for elective surgery. Instant popularity!

We hope.

(Hm, I wonder if the doctor guarantees a permanent end to peer-to-peer harassment in his contract.)

I can’t even begin to describe everything I think is wrong with this. Most of all, I think it sends the message to bullied kids that you know, the bullies do have a point there. You’re kinda gross. Better fix that fast.

And while you’re at it, better stop playing trombone, wearing black, getting A’s, reading Tolstoy, joining the chess club, or whatever it is that bullies bully about these days. Something tells me they don’t draw the line at big noses.


65 thoughts on “Well, there’s one way to stop bullying: Got $20,000 or so?”

  1. I could not be more sad at this moment. What about teaching our children that they are beautiful and perfect and that people who bully are the ones who need help. I work really hard to combat the ideas that it’s outside beauty that matters.

    I don’t even have words to fully express how this makes me feel. The sad thing is it’s really the parents’ insecurity that brings them to think their child needs plastic surgery. That insecurity will cripple their child emotionally.

    My mom always wanted to to wear make-up and look prettier–but not for me–for her. It made me feel inferior and not good enough. I can only imagine how it would feel for your mom to think you need plastic surgery. For your mom to affirm that there is something wrong with you.

    How devastating and sad.

    1. I know adults who always hated their nose and indeed, were happy to have had surgery. But you bring up a great point – when it’s sanctioned by the parents the messages are disturbing.

      I had a friend growing up who was adorable. But her mother always pressed her nose in to “show her” how much better she’d look with less of it. She told her that no one would want to marry her if she wasn’t skinny like Liz (or whoever). This girl is now a mess of an adult.

  2. I’ll be sure not to tell my MIL about this since she’s been trying to convince my SIL to tape her daughter’s ears back.

  3. Wow. My parents were so wrong! They totally should gave gotten me breast implants in high school to keep the boys from calling me, PN, aka Pirates Nightmare, sunken chest. Why couldn’t they love me more?!How sad this makes me. To think someone wrote this pitch and it was ok’d is so squwicky.

  4. When I first read this was a growing trend all I could think was why would you do cosmetic surgery on a young body that is still in the process of growing? It sounds reckless to me. And sad. And sends all the wrong messages about where our priorities should be.

  5. Oh, wow. Just… wow. How depressing in that? I can’t imagine a parent looking at their child and not thinking they are the most perfect creature, ever. I can’t imagine a mom or dad saying, you know what, let’s fix your nose so you’re not made fun of… instead of saying, you’re perfect, and if you’re being bullied, let’s deal with that issue, because it’s not acceptable. Sad. Sad.

  6. I had a nose job when I was 16. No one ever bullied me and my parents never mentioned my nose was big. I don’t regret it one bit, honestly it gave me an extra spring in my step and has brought nothing but happiness to my life. I’m still have some questions about it though: Was I too young? Would I be just as happy now without it? Was it cheating?
    I never really thought about it until I had my daughter. I know my mother was in a car accident when she was younger and they reconstructed her nose in a “better” way. Maybe that’s where I got the idea that I needed my nose done too. I know my daughter is beautiful no matter what but if she looks me in the eye and asks to have her nose done I’ll have to think long and hard about what to say to her because I had mine done. I just know that I will never, ever, ever suggest, mention, or even hint that she would possibly need one (Just like my mother never did to me).
    The truth is that if she is unhappy and this is something I can help her do to make her happy, I’ll do it. But if I’ll never be the one in her ear saying she should be unhappy about herself.

  7. The only cure of this kind of advertising is showing how the plastic surgery on nose REALLY is – all the blood, chiselling, sawing… and tools are the same as one in local butcher shop (sanitized, of course).

    But, yes, you always have to wonder what kind of adult will take their teen under scalpel for the sake of being more as per Cosmo ideal? Then again, my mother pestered me for being skinny for most of my life, until I got pregnant and she pestered me for gaining too much weight. Being adult and being mature are two different things. And sadly, society is built of both of them, meaning, this kind of sad thinking “you are bullied because of your looks, lets fix the looks” is going to continue. I can only do so much fostering maturity and introspection in my kids, but, oh boy, do I need a hand from society at large. Please keep this kind of postings coming, as I used them liberally to point out life intricacies to myself, my husband and my kids.

  8. Whoa. This is totally what is wrong with the world we live in. I had a discussion recently with someone who does PR for Botox and another company that promises to take off the “last inch” of your waist after a baby or losing weight. And while her work is directed at adults, it was clear that she was upset by the stigma that these kind of procedures have. She compared it to getting teeth fixed (braces) or visiting a dermatologist for acne. Her opinion is that there are acceptable things that we do to make ourselves look a certain way, and so why not extend that to minimally invasive surgery or procedures. It’s a difficult place to navigate, when there is a line between acceptable forms of fixing ourselves and unacceptable things. I TOTALLY agree with you about not letting our kids get plastic surgery because they are being teased, but the reasons are about cost and risk, not necessarily about the message that we shouldn’t fix what we don’t like about ourselves. Because we can and should fix things we don’t like about ourselves, as long as it’s healthy and focused on growth and not motivated by self-hate and wanting to conform to a societal standard. I suppose the thing we need to emphasize is that we shouldn’t be making these decisions because of what OTHERS think we should do or be (including our parents). Let’s encourage kids to be themselves and love themselves and not be influenced by others, but we should also send the message that we can and should do things that make us feel better about ourselves, with the caveat of course that something like surgery should be a last resort and should wait until our bodies have finished growing. Clothing and hairstyles can go a long way to emphasize or de-emphasize what we were born with.

  9. I live in fashion obsessed Los Angeles. Unfortunately, I am not surprised in the least. But I’m still disgusted. That doesn’t really go away…

  10. Yup – giving more power to the bullies by actually changing the perceived flaw is definitely not the way to go.

    I still remember being figuratively slapped in the face by a chaperone during a church mission trip:

    The other girls made fun of me because the back of my hair apparently wasn’t exactly even. (My hair is half-wavy, half-straight, which makes it difficult to style. Of course I couldn’t flat iron my hair in the orphanage where we were staying since there was no electricity. And – oh hey! – we were there to build homes for impoverished people, not to look pageant-ready.)

    A chaperone asked why I was so sad. I told her that the girls were teasing me. Her reaction was, “Oh my god, they are RIGHT, Kari! Your hair is totally uneven. Let me give you the name of my hairdresser when we get back so you can get that fixed!”

    Um… thanks?

  11. What is so sad is that the only thing new is the marketing. Over 30 years ago, I had minor surgery (lumpectomy). My suite-mate in the hospital was another 18-year old girl, recovering from rhinoplasty. Having been presented with her before picture, I will admit she had quite a prominent nose, but she was an attractive girl nonetheless. When her family came in to visit, they fawned over her as if the surgery was going to change her whole life for the better… an instant remedy for …everything.

    That experience haunts me to this day.

  12. Holy shit.

    Liz, I don’t understand why you protect the names of places like this – they need to be discussed publicly!

    This is deplorable.

  13. My stomach dropped when I read that. Honestly, I could almost throw up. That is absolutely AWFUL.

    Say what you will about our culture of sometimes over-affirming how special everyone is, the LAST thing we need to do is feed into insecurities of looking anything less than photoshopped-perfect, especially in our kids. Heck, I can trace a fair amount of my own body-image issues to the fact that my mom took me to a NUTRITIONIST as a kid. Forget about plastic surgery.

    And really, bad enough that the doctor and his/her services exist for kids, but SHAME on him/her AND the PR company. This is just sick.

  14. Way back in the 90’s, the Washington Post Magazine had a feature article on how parents were resorting to plastic surgery to improve their kids’ popularity/self-esteem/ability to fit in. So, so sad that this trend has continued…I can’t imagine recommending that to a teen of mine as a solution.

  15. Oh, come on! A perky nose and unDumboish ears? Puhleeze! I needed boobs like nobody’s business when I was being bullied. (I still need them, thankyouverymuch). Implants are a real, necessary teen bully reducing surgery. What is wrong with this surgeon? Ears and noses. Pssh. He needs to go where the real money is, where the truly loving parents are, the ones who lobby for bigger breasts to make their kids better people. Stepping away from my own still flat chested self, the email does send the message that bullied kids need fixing, that there is indeed something wrong with them, the bullies are right HAVE YOU SEEN YOUR EARS MY GOD WHY’D YOU GET A PIXIE CUT? I do think this email takes the cake. And then it hides and eats the cake, not sharing one damn bit of icing.

  16. I was taller than all the boys through fifth grade and it was a nightmare. I look at my sons and see that one will be short and one will be tall, so maybe we can saw off a couple inches at the shin and give them to the short one. Uniformity is key.

    Then again, bullied held me down in sixth grade and connected a wire, a battery, and a lightbulb to my braces and lit the bulb. And two of them were taller than me so now I’m all confused.

  17. I did a vlog about a similar subject. Meghan Tonjes did a terrific vlog about accepting her body at the size it’s at, and I was so moved I did a reply vlog about accepting the our body and facial features because they reveal our family histories. It’s here: http://youtu.be/2bdsLE-F7DQ

  18. It’s obvious from that copy that Dr_ thinks he’s some sort of brilliant humanitarian! How about “teach your kids not to judge each other on superficial appearance”? So is he suggesting that if I DON’T get my kid the plastic surgery that somehow I’m a mean parent setting my kid up for ridicule???? GRRRRRRRRRRRRR

    On a related note, I’d love to slap the local plastic surgeon who runs ads at the local movie cineplex that shows a patient giving a testimonial that says “I know this is the way God would have wanted me to look.” Um, no, I’m pretty sure He liked the job He did in the first place.

    1. “I know this is the way God would have wanted me to look.”

      Holy shit. That’s a post in itself. Nothing like trying to use God to endorse your business.

  19. Speaking as the parent of a child with a craniofacial birth defect that has, so far, required FIVE surgeries….this makes me want to vomit. My child gets up every single day knowing that she’s “different” and there’s not a damn other thing she can do about it except embrace who she is and how she was made fully and without cowering in a corner.

    I can’t think of anything else to say here that wouldn’t send me over into Troll-ville.

  20. Why did you remove his name? I’m seriously asking. Granted, I’m also really angry, but sometimes I think hordes of angry internetters is needed to get a MUCH NEEDED point across.

    Where’s my pitchfork?

    1. His name isn’t important in telling the story. I’m sure others who got the pitch would be happy to turn over the details, but it’s not my style.

  21. My gut reaction to this was WTF? WTF? WTF? But then after all the cussing, I paused for a moment and thought about it. The approach here was HORRIBLE. Plastic surgery as a solution to your woes is laughably idiotic and shallow. However, as a kid who was bullied and beat up incessantly as a kid, I know how much it hurts to be different (of course there was no surgery then to make me not Asian). And as adults we can sit here and tell our kids to own their differences and be proud and feed them all this self-love propaganda that we know is the “right thing to do.” But as parents, we are not the ones sitting alone at lunchtime. We are not the ones who are scared to walk across the quad because we just know that before we get to the other side, a taunt will be launched from somewhere in the crowd, followed by much laughter and pointing.

    My son was born with a minor, but noticable growth on his ear. When he was 4, we got it surgically removed. Some may say that we were bad parents for risking surgery for such a minor thing. And yes, owning your differences builds character. But trust me, I would trade gallons of character for one MONTH of being free of teasing when I was in the 5th grade. I am 40 years old and it STILL hurts to think back upon those days. Yes, a growth on your ear isn’t the same as racism, but as someone who has felt the sting of cruel kids’ laughter, I could not send my kid to school risking that. To me, the minor surgery was worth it. There are so many other ways to build your character.

    I am not defending this bad pitch. I’m just offering another perspective that we as strong confident adults may not always see. Or we choose not to see it because we survived it and are “fine” now.

    1. You make a good point, here, but to me, it’s the approach. The subtext is, “bullying is a huge problem in the U.S. and I intend to capitalize on it and parent’s fears for their children by playing the emotional-helicopter parent card.” That’s what I have a problem with.

      I don’t have a problem with plastic surgery either….without it my daughter wouldn’t have an ear at all.

    2. As I said in my post, I understand unusual circumstances that would require surgery so that a kid fits in better or feels more “normal.” I agree with your choice entirely. And I totally understand the notion of wanting to do anything to shield your child from cruelty and hurt.

      But as others have said above, it’s the idea of this guy capitalizing on bullying to promote and sell $15,000 surgical procedures that feels like bottom-feeding to me. And they want me to write about it? To recommend this guy as an answer to all my readers’ children’s bullying problems? Blergh.

      Thanks for the perspective Jim. It’s a good one.

  22. This is ridiculous! It’s heartbreaking that people will use the platform of bullying to promote plastic surgery. Highly upsetting. Thanks for sharing. ~Xiomara

  23. Wow. I mean, I don’t have a huge problem with plastic surgery. My mom had a nose job and face lift after getting divorced and it did wonders for her self confidence. And I’ve been dreaming about a boob lift every since I first felt them brush my stomach. But teens? I cannot even fathom what it would do to my own daughter if she came to me and said “I don’t like my ears, mommy.” And instead of telling her she’s beautiful just the way she is I said “You know, you’re right. They’re hideous. Let’s make an appointment to fix you.”

  24. Here I am, all worried about how to intro the subject of brow waxing with my daughter without leveling her self esteem, and I read this.

    Also, people are idiots.

  25. What a great way to teach your kids individuality and raise their self-esteem. “Honey, let’s get your ugly ears pinned back and you enormous snout fixed so you can look like everybody else.” Geez.

  26. I was on the “pitchfork” bandwagon until I read “BusyDad”s comment above…and I have to say I agree. This doesn’t have to be a “black and white” issue. There are gray areas I think, and removing or fixing a deformity is totally okay. Even fixing cosmetic issues is probably okay. But frankly, using “bullying” as a reason is completely morally detestable. If a parent wants to pay for cosmetic surgery for their kid, go for it! But don’t whine and ask other people for money to make it happen! Ugh!

  27. Wow, that is horrifying. The saddest part is that I’m not wholly surprised, given how celebrity-obsessed and body-conscious we have become as a society.

    I’ve always had a big Italian schnoz, but so does the rest of my family. Instead of telling me to get surgery, my mom talked with me about her experiences being teased. It made me feel understood (even if not completely better).

    Once when I was working in Bolivia someone said that I should “take advantage” of the low prices to “fix my nose” (ajustar mi nariz). Seriously? My nose is part of who I am, just as my ears, eyes, voice, brain and heart are.

    We should be teaching our children to embrace themselves, not scrub away every edge they have until they are an empty shell of their former selves….

  28. You should definitely not watch the TV segment from GMA about a 14 year old girl who’s had this done (http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2012/08/09/bullied-14-year-old-girl-gets-plastic-surgery-to-fix-ears-nose-chin/). She was teased about her ears and when a non-profit offered to do her surgery for free, the doctor also did a nose job, some chin work, and a list of other changes. She already felt bad about her ears and then a doctor goes on telling her everything ELSE that is wrong with her. Not only is it a terrible message to send to kids, but there are non-profits dedicated to doing it for free!!!! How about more non-profits preventing bullying or building self-confidence in teens?

  29. Can you imagine if we all got plastic surgery to fix what was wrong with us at 14??? I’d be into them for more than $20,000, I can tell you that!

  30. We can’t control the bully, but we can teach our kids confidence, which is most certainly something that CAN’T be bought.

  31. In the mad pursuit of relevance common sense is going out the window. My husband and I were walking past a salon with images of young woman in the windows. Presumably they were there to get teens to get their hair done there. Each on had her eyes obscured by bangs and their lips were parted in a 2×4 to the face kind of suggestiveness.

    “What the hell are they trying to say? Never mind, I know exactly what they are trying to say but what does that have to do with hair and teenagers.” It keeps coming back to how closely you conform to society’s idea of “doable.”

    Sorry. Crass, but so is a pitch that looks to use two different kinds of fear to profit on the sale of acceptability that you really owe to your kids.

  32. Sadly, there’s no plastic surgery to lop 4 inches off my height so I’m not Giraffe or How’s the Weather Up There? And worse.

    Aren’t kids sort of Dr Jekyll/Mr. Hyde — one really malevolent, sociopathic sadists on one side?

    In other words, nobody is ever perfect and I guess in general I’d rather work on what I can control — who I am — that what I can’t — the looks I came with. It’s not to say I don’t understand sometimes people getting cosmetic surgery but…

  33. Plastic surgery is awesome. It allowed my daughter to get surgery on her tear ducts and nose with minimal scarring and facial changes.
    It is sucking the character out of people’s faces! When my mom had to get her front tooth fixed I was horrified when they made it straight. All my life my mother’s smile looked a certain way, then poof! different. I adored the lines on my grandmother’s face and the hair in my uncle’s ears. It made them interesting and made them mine.

  34. Horrible in six billion different ways. Not least: leveraging pain to one’s fiscal advantage.

    I was teased for my nose when I was a kid. Fixing my nose (which I never did, even though I fantasized, and begged my parents for more than once) would not fixed the broader social problem. And it wouldn’t have fixed ME – nor should it have been expected to. Which is the real issue here, in a way – the message that the solution to bullying is for the bullied to FIX themselves.

    Like it’s them who are broken, and not the bullies.

    1. An anonymous dissenter on Facebook wrote “Forcing a child to endure bullying when they have an unfortunate feature that can be easily corrected seems like an emotionally abusive act…Give your kid a break, and get him the nose job. Don’t force him to be a pariah to salve your own high-school battered psyche.”

      And then I read this.


      It’s not braces, for fuck’s sake.

  35. Bleh. Blehblehbleh.

    …”giving their teen the gift of plastic surgery” …not a sentence I ever thought I’d read.

  36. What? You have a problem with suggesting that parents surgically change their children’s faces to conform to the expectations of adolescent assholes?


  37. No boob jobs? He’s clearly not fully addressing the problem!

    Seriously though, this is stupid and what’s worse is I’m sure he has plenty of willing customers.

  38. Like the above comment, my first thought was boob jobs are next. That is what some girls are asking for their high school graduation present. Or is it presents? Shame on that doctor.

  39. Wow. There’s a lot to dissect here. First of all, bullying is sort of the flavor of the week in the media right now. There are people in the world who are unkind and we need to teach our kids how to handle those situations with dignity and grace. But when every unsavory act gets labeled as bullying then it detracts from those kids who are genuinely getting bullied.

    If my child had to undergo plastic surgery for a cleft palate or to remove a growth or some other genuine reason, I’m sure we would do it, but people need to acknowledge that surgery is dangerous.

  40. I graduated from high school in 1985 and I know girls who got their noses done back then. This is nothing new.

    1. As did I. (We’re close to the same age.) It was practically a sweet sixteen gift for girls of a certain socioeconomic status in certain towns. But I wasn’t seeing ads on the subway then that said “STOP FRESHMAN YEAR BULLYING WITH A NOSE JOB!”

  41. It is sad! Bullying is a systemic problem in our culture. The ethics of performing certain facial surgery on teens concerns me, because as a teenager one’s face has not fully matured. For instance, the jaw bone is the last bone to mature in the face. I will generally only perform cosmetic surgery on the ears and the nose for a teenager under the age of 18, and only after a thorough consultation with the teen and his or her parents. I believe that informed and thoughtful guidelines must be observed during a consultation.

    Dr. Rhys Branman

    1. Thank you for your comment Dr. Branman. This doctor also made it clear he would only perform cosmetic surgery on the ears and nose starting at 14. I still have big questions about that. 14? Has the child really stopped growing then?

  42. Hahaha. i think i would normally agree with the ‘horrors’ of cosmetic surgery for young kids. but the ear-pinning put it in a whole new persepctive for me. I am now 37 year old mum of 2 kids, HIV nurse, and pretty much the most un-cosmetic type surgery person you can get, let’s call me low maintenance on the whole fashion-wardrobe-cosmetic spectrum. but back when i was a (pretty wholesome) red headed freckle faced kid, my ears totally stuck out! and you know what? i hated it. i was on pretty much every sport varsity team in school and so since i spent all my time (7am volley ball practcve until 8pm karate classes) in ponytails. and for some reason, i became very self conscious about the light shining through my ears, (turned them a nice glowy red). i was never bullied or even teased about it by other people, but i can say to this day, it was one of the few things i have ever wanted to really reallywanted to change about me (and i am far from perfect). somehow i managed to get my (modest, low key) parents to let me pin my ear back when i was in grade 8. and yah! one quick day surgery, my one and only valium in my life, and ever since then, i definitely felt much more confident about all my other ‘natural’ beauty flaws. to this day, i do not quite understand the need (vanity?) that made me want to pin my ears. (i mean, it was not exactly societal pressure). i think i just really really did not want the light to shine through the back of my ears!!!! haha. anyway, it freed me to spend the rest of my highschool (and university and beyond) doing what i loved most – playing sports, gardening, being as casual (low key) as i wanted, with my hair up in a pony tail…. but without needing to feel like a big magnifying glass for the reflected sun! to this day, most of my friends fall over backwards when they realize that i did it. no regrets. even though i am on the no-need-for-cosmetic-surgery camp.

  43. I went to school with a kid whose ears stuck out badly. He put Alfred E. Neuman to shame. He was made fun of almost every day. Although he did his best to keep his chin up, it was obvious that the ribbing stung. When he found out there was a surgery to fix his issue, he begged his parents for it. They refused. They saw his pain and his shame, and they ignored it.

    As soon as he turned 18 and saved up enough money, he got the surgery.His life changed immediately. I remember him saying “Now I can get a girlfriend — maybe even a decent job!”

    He did his best to overcome the bullying. His parents did what they could to bolster his self-esteem. But none of that would have ever really mattered. He wasn’t necessarily a victim, but he was a realist. He knew that his appearance would always hold him back, that he’d be scorned, be passed over for promotions, have trouble attracting a mate, etc. So if he could do something about that, why shouldn’t he?

    I have a feeling that many people who are commenting and slamming the notion of this type of surgery would do an about face if their child was hurting. What if your child was born with a big port wine birthmark on his forehead? Would you say “Wow, what a great opportunity to teach him about self-esteem when he grows up, and to educate our community!” Or would you look into treatments that would minimize its appearance? Or what if your daughter had an accident that cut her face badly? When you got to the ER, would you turn away the plastic surgeon because of idealism, or would you welcome his presence in the operating room so that he could mitigate the damage?

    This press release might be silly. The doctor’s approach might be crazy. But who are we to judge someone who chooses to have plastic surgery because they are being bullied? Who are we to discount their pain and their hardships? We don’t know what they’re going through. And self-esteem can only go so far. Even with a healthy ego, the world can still be a harsh place. We can’t control how others react to us. But we can sometimes control what causes that reaction in the first place.

    1. Actually Amy, I mentioned those examples in my post above. No, of course I would not fault anyone for corrective surgery on something disfiguring. But I’d imagine that for your friend, the surgery was his final resort, not his first option. Not a “solution to bullying” – it sounds more an essential tool in building self-esteem and I really do get that.

      Admittedly though, the one thing that makes me squirm a little is your point that “we can sometimes control what causes the reaction in the first place.” What causes bullying are bullies. If we want to react to bullying, fine. But to assert that a child’s looks causes people to attack him…I have to disagree.

      I really do appreciate your comment and this perspective.

  44. For starters, it would be more of a good thing if the parents also encouraged and help their children on these situations; like give them advice to ignore those taunts and report them to the teacher or principal. I can vouch for that because ever since grade school, i was the main focus of bullies telling me that i look like this and that. but at the end of the day, it is how you respond to their teasing and taunts, if you show that you are affected by them I assure you they will keep on doing that since they know they intimidate you by all the teasing. but when you show them that it doesnt bother you and you can shrug it off, they will eventually go away. It may be tough but with a proper support system you can end bullying.

Comments are closed.