14-year old Nadia Ilse is bullied at school because of her ears. She contemplates suicide and writes to Dr. Romo from the Little Baby Face Foundation for help. He performs $40,000 of plastic surgery for free.

His remarks when asked if every bullied teen could receive free treatment: “She wasn’t picked to have her surgery because she was bullied. She was picked for her surgery because of her deformities.”

At what point does the face of a teenage girl become a deformity? By what standard are her features being judged? How is it that we have arrived at the point where this seems normal?

Those who justify the decision by pointing out that the plastic surgery is something akin to the ubiquitous childhood braces are, I think, a little off track. Sure, some of those adjustments are purely cosmetic. But, the alignment of the teeth and placement of the teeth within the jaws are more a matter of health. Dental problems are painful and costly and can be detrimental to an individual’s well-being. I think those are significant differences.

I won’t indulge in the whole “beauty is within” spiel. We all know it by heart. What concerns me is her age, that young women are so beleaguered by expectations for their appearance that they can’t just be young and awkward anymore.

Furthermore, this strange sort of drawing of lines by our society- no one can get a tattoo (presumably because of the permanent nature of the tattoo) before the age of 18 in most states but plastic surgery would be allowed? Interesting, at the least.

What do you think about Dr. Romo’s use of the word “deformity”? Should minors be allowed to have plastic surgery because of cases of extreme bullying? Has bullying based on appearance always taken place; are we simply becoming overly sensitive, or has it reached epidemic proportions in the United States?

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