Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"The Bullies Made Me Do It..." Well, that's unfortunate.

I recently watched a story on Nightline (valid news source- it has a pretty intense theme song and that's how I gauge those sorts of things). The reporter was interviewing a 14 year old girl who had undergone plastic surgery this summer to fix her ears and crooked nose because of excessive bullying. While the doctor was in there tinkering with her face he decided to throw in some cheek implants and touch up her chin. The surgery cost close to $40,000. Now, before you go thinking that her father, Daddy Warbucks, foot the bill please note that the entire surgery was paid for by a charity organization. This organization is dedicated to providing surgeries to children who have deformed faces including a cleft palate or perhaps horrible burn scars. And, apparently, elf ears and nose jobs.

Now, I'm not trying to say that bullying doesn't force a child or a teenager into wanting to change their appearance. When you are constantly picked on, day after day, tormented for the way you look or dress, you can't help but beg for some kind of cure-all pill to stop it all. When the girl was asked if she was worried that the kids in school would make fun of her for having plastic surgery she simply responded: "Well, they made me do it so if they pick on me I will just have to deal with it." And her self esteem has skyrocketed as she now wants to do teen modeling.

So what's the point of this entry you may ask (well, truth be told you ask that every time you read this blog)... to verbally slap the doctor and the parents involved in this situation. They won't read this, obviously, but at least I'm attempting to make my point. And I'd also like to throw in a slap for all the Facebook commenters who supported her surgery and compared it to "parents allowing their children to get braces."

Well... now it's personal kids. 

How a $40,000 plastic surgery face transformation and orthodontic procedures are the same thing is beyond me. I've said it before, I'll say it again and I will most likely find a way to get it on my tombstone: I was bullied. From the age of 6 to about 17, I was called names, pushed around, thrown into lockers, poked, prodded, followed, the victim of gum in the hair and spitballs in the face. I pleaded with my parents to help me and to do something so the kids would stop picking on me. Their solution? Well, she's fat so let's put her on the soccer team. Fabulous idea folks! I couldn't run, needed an inhaler and the uniform was purple so it looked like Grimace was attempting to defend the goal. That really helped. And my teeth? Well, I could mow the lawn with my overbite. I required things only Robo-Cop would be given. I had apparati including: a bionater, headgear (denim--- super snazzy), braces, spacers, rubber bands, retainers, and wire wrapping around the back of my teeth. Sleepovers were out of the question (with the few friends I had) and attempting to talk in public required a translator (and towel for those in front of me). I wore glasses. I had a horrible haircut courtesy of Timothy Patchowski who stuck gum in my hair and required inches upon inches falling to the floor in a salon. I wore hand-me-down clothes and at times, out of the pure evilness of her heart, my mother dressed me and my sister in matching outfits. I was the teacher's pet, the cop's daughter, the last picked for the team in gym and I was frequently seen wearing a "Bryan White" t-shirt to school.

My parents knew what was happening in the classroom and on the bus. They knew I was heartbroken and miserable as the girl who everyone picked on. But they decided one thing: She will get through this. We will provide her the love and support she needs at home and one day she will overcome this horror. It will require years of therapy but we'll get her there. I love them but they could have done without the matching outfits and they could have refrained from putting me on the soccer team. (To this day a piece of me dies on the inside when I see Grimace on tv). They never offered me the option of plastic surgery even when the acne on my face could easily have been confused with a large pepperoni pizza outside the box. They paid for orthodontics because otherwise I would have been forced to graze in a meadow in order to eat. 

I thank my parents for their decision to stand by me and make me get through it. There was no easy way out and they did what they could for me (again, mom, the damn matching Hawaiian skort set? Really?) Now I'm sure you are all (well, all 2 of you) reading this and thinking--- "Hey drama queen, it wasn't that bad." Oh my friends. I'm not embarrassed to provide evidentiary support. Below you will find photos. If I had some with the headgear I'd have posted those as well. Or with the glasses but I was bad about wearing them (hence walking into walls all the time). My prized possession, the photo with Bryan White, was the epitome of my early teens. And I thought I looked so goooood. I took jeans tucked into sneakers to a whole new level.

Change the bullies... don't change your kids. Let them grow into who they are going to be. Don't let them get to the level of despair where they can't see a way out (obviously I'm not advocating ignorance here) but a $40,000 surgery on a 14 year old? Epic parenting and physician fail. But please promise me that if your 300 pound 16 year old tells you she wants to cut off all her hair... intervene. Nothing good comes from that.

Everyone will grow up to be who they are supposed to be and look like they are supposed to look. And the bullies? They'll grow up to be miserable, jobless, wash-up, has-been's that revel in the years they "peaked" in coolness- on the playground in 4th grade and on the junior high football team. The bullied kid will look at them all and say... "how do you like me now?"

And then your child, seen here with bacon, turns into a vegetarian.

Crimping your hair? Everyone else was doing it. 

Thank you Timothy Patchowski for the short bob. And yeah, I rock the one piece jumper.

It took me days to pick out this outfit. Awkward 13 year old? Says who... 
Really... an intervention would have been appreciated here. 

And by the way... I remember who you were that picked on me. I will never forget your names or your faces. And I will always think fondly of you as I look back at my youth. You're usually being hit by a bus when these fond memories arise, but I still thank you for making me the person I am today. And for teaching me that people truly can suck at life- they're called bullies.