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Back in 1944, while teaching music in public school, Donald Gardner asked his second grade class what they wanted for Christmas. Noticing how almost all his students answered him with a lisp because they had at least one front tooth missing, Gardner sat down and wrote the song, “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.”
Unfortunately, at least for many youth, it takes much more than two new front teeth to fit into the norm physically; it takes a nip here and a tuck there.
Many, if not most, adults get cosmetic surgery because they don’t want to look their age; they don’t want to look like the rest. They want to be noticed in the crowd.
What’s interesting is that the increase in teenagers getting cosmetic surgery (cosmetic surgical procedures on youths 18 and younger more than tripled from 1997- 2007, with the controversial procedures, breast augmentation and liposuction, increasing six-fold) appears to be for the opposite reason adults choose plastic surgery. In a report by Camille Sweeney in The New York Times, Dr. Frederick Lukash, a cosmetic surgeon in New York City who specializes in treating adults, said, “Unlike adults who may elect cosmetic surgery for the ‘wow’ factor to stand out in a crowd, to be rejuvenated and get noticed, kids have different mantra. They do it to fit in.”
Undergoing surgery to fit in is not without risks, risks most teenagers don’t think through.
“Teenagers are often oblivious to the well-documented long-term health consequences of smoking, tanning, and other risky behaviors, and are likely to pay less attention to the risks of cosmetic surgery, making informed consent difficult,” warns psychologist and women’s health expert, Dr. Diana Zuckeman.
That’s not to say all corrective surgery is wrong. On the contrary, some cosmetic procedures have worked wonders for a child’s self esteem. Michael Laudiso, now an adult, reported to Camille Sweeney that having his large ears pinned when he was ten was a life saver: “That surgery made me free.”
Neither is there anything awry or unusual with trying to improve how we look or taking measures to look younger. Jane Fonda decided to go under the knife when she walked by a mirror, caught a glimpse of herself and wondered who that face belonged to.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s me,’” Fonda told TODAY’s Matt Lauer earlier this month. “I just decided I wanted to buy myself some time and look more like how I feel.”
She had work on her chin, neck and under the eyes.
But, the real danger lies when we adults create a cultural environment where a young person thinks every tiny detail has to be picture-perfect, and where we think it’s necessary to undergo countless procedures to keep getting that “wow” effect.
We forget the inner beauty that lies much deeper than our aging skin, a beauty that can grow even more attractive with age, a beauty that can’t be touched by a scalpel.
Apparently, Lauren Scruggs’ beauty is more than skin deep. She’s the 23-year-old model who walked into the propeller of an airplane, fracturing her skull, severing her left hand, breaking her collar bone, injuring her brain, and causing extensive damage to her left eye.
Her first spoken words after regaining consciousness were, “I love you.” And, when Lauren used a mirror to see her face for the first time after the accident, her response was, “That’s not that bad.”
I thought of her words as I was getting my haircut the other day. Glancing in the mirror at myself, I noticed a new wrinkle here and some sagging skin there.
“Who is that guy who seems to be getting older quicker than I thought he would,” I thought. Then, with a hidden smile, I repeated Lauren’s words to myself, “That’s not that bad.”
And thanking the Lord for the gift of life itself, I said it again, “No, not that bad at all.”
Email David B. Whitlock, Ph.D. at firstname.lastname@example.org. or visit his website, davidbwhitlock.com