On newsstands across America, tabloids are filled with images of Kim’s rear, Britney’s tummy, and Lindsay’s new face. in a society where looks come first, it’s no surprise that many turn to plastic surgery as a means to achieve an ideal look.
The decision to get cosmetic surgery is often years in the making, and requires much consideration by both the patient and doctor.
“It’s a very personal choice,” stated Sofia Fabiancic ’12. “If you feel that it’s something that you would like to pursue, nobody should be telling you whether to do it or not.”
The reasons for plastic surgery are diverse, stretching from aesthetics to rare medical conditions. “It’s a very good surgery for people who are burn victims, or need something removed,” declared Jonathan Goldstein ’13. “But, I think a lot of people get it to just totally change their face[s].” Commonly known as a “nose job,” rhinoplasty is a procedure that modifies the bone or cartilage of one’s nose to either reconstruct its form or restore its functions. Nose jobs are the most common cosmetic surgery for teens, with over 35,000 done in 2010 alone, according to ABC News. the procedure is also the first choice for SHS students. “Usually they get nasal rhinoplasty,” explained plastic surgeon and Scarsdale resident Dr. Steven Kushnick. However, Kushnick noted that there are certain age parameters for this procedure. “Fifteen for a girl is usually the youngest, and then sixteen for a boy for the nasal surgery,” said Kushnick.
The Nose Knows
Oftentimes, there is an emotional reason for undergoing such a procedure. History teacher Neil Ginsberg concocted an amusing, albeit hypothetical, situation in which plastic surgery would heighten one’s morale.“[Let’s say that] I’m a very shallow person and now suddenly I get work done on my face or other parts of my body…and that gives me confidence. maybe then it’s a good thing,” Ginsberg mused. for Clarissa*, such a procedure–a nose job–provided a much-appreciated boost of self-conﬁdence. “[My nose] was something I felt insecure about,” she explained. “I did it to feel better about myself.” this decision was made with the support of her friends and family, who helped her throughout the process. “My parents understood how I felt, and they wanted me to be happy with myself,” she reflected.
During the summer before her junior year, Clarissa underwent surgery. “I was definitely nervous before hand; I hate anything medical,” she remarked. “Preparing for it was the most nerve-wracking part, because I had to take a ton of tests and consult with my doctor.” After the procedure, Clarissa spent the next few weeks in recovery as she awaited the unveiling of her new nose.
However, she wasn’t the only one who noticed a difference. “I’m sure people said terrible things about me behind my back,” she explained. “It’s important to show that you’re not embarrassed. I know that they know, and it’s not a secret.” Clarissa’s attitude helped her to ward off criticism and move forward with her life. “Occasionally, I’ll be like ‘I remember that time I got a nose job,’ but it’s just become another part of my face,” she said.
While she had no regrets about her surgery, other students are not as keen about going under the knife. “I’m not anti-plastic surgery, but I’m definitely hesitant to say that plastic surgery is a good thing,” explained Leah Kashar ’15. “It’s unnatural, and you’re changing who you are.”
Others argued that plastic surgery has no substantial impact on the way that one is perceived. “If I were looking for a woman…and I see someone and I’m like, ‘oh, this person is beautiful’, in the long run, the beauty isn’t going to make…a difference with [that person],” said Ginsberg.
Some have no issues with plastic surgery itself, but express concerns that teenagers are not yet mature enough to making such long-lasting decisions. “Teens don’t really know what they’re going to look like when they get older, so they shouldn’t try to make changes when they’re so young,” stated Lisa Studway ’13.
Students noted that extenuating circumstances could justify the use of cosmetic surgery in adolescents. “If you have a bad scar, or your face got damaged, then I’d say it’s okay,” said Amanda Clark ’15. “I’d draw the line when you’re making adjustments that aren’t necessary.”
Others extended this reservation, stating that plastic surgery should be used only as a last resort. “I think that [plastic surgery] should definitely be left until it’s something that’s really awful for you,” explained Kashar.
Some are neutral towards plastic surgery under the tenet that individuals have the right to make their own choices regarding their bodies. “Your body is your own to change and alter as you want, and nobody should tell you what to do with it,” claimed Fabiancic. the decision to receive plastic surgery is highly individualized, and varies from case to case. Because the situation is so personal, it can be difficult to judge another’s course of action. “Whatever makes you feel better about yourself,” said health teacher Jessica Levenberg. “I’m not here to judge. your decisions are completely up to you.”
Teenagers are constantly bombarded with supposed paragons of beauty that have become integral in popular culture. What students fail to understand is that these beauties are ordinary people whose pictures have been edited in Photoshop. Because of the ubiquity of such idealized images, students often feel the need to alter their own appearances accordingly. Kushnick cited pressure from the media as a key motivator for students to get plastic surgery. “Some of it is the parents, some of it is their friends, and some of it is based on what they see in magazines and on TV,” he said. These images, manufactured by the press, can contribute to a bad self-image. “The media puts [out] all these images of unrealistic people. They have people that are so perfect,” noted Zubin Koticha ’14. “It’s unattainable, that kind of perfection.”
When students are constantly exposed to sensationalized images, they begin to contrast their own physical features with those of models. “People compare themselves, and they want to be like what they see in the magazines,” added Koticha.
Special medical circumstances aside, many view students’ growing sense of low self-esteem as directly linked to the increase in plastic surgery’s popularity. “Some people get plastic surgery for medical reasons, so it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have negative or poor body image,” noted Levenberg. “But for the most part, a lot of it is related to negative or poor body image.”
Some also view the celebrity culture as an influencing factor. “We ﬁnd out about all these actors or actresses getting plastic surgery done to themselves,” claimed Koticha. “We want to be like them, so maybe to be like them we need to do that.” although the media influences both genders, some believe that girls are targeted more than boys. “I think that we’re all kind of moved by the media, especially women,” explained Biology teacher Margaret Siegrist. “We’re always trying to perfect ourselves.” Jacob Wallach ’13 supported the notion that women are more likely to feel insecure about their appearances than are men. “This is going to sound really sexist, but women want to make themselves look better for men,” he noted.
The pressure to maintain a perfect image also burdens celebrities, who constantly need to look attractive to appease the tabloids documenting their every move. “Since there’s all of this emphasis on feminine beauty, I think a lot of women on television shows often try to get plastic surgery to try to become more attractive and glamorous,” said Goldstein. “I’m sure there are a lot of men who are also as superficial and get a lot of plastic surgery, but I don’t think it’s talked about as much.”
A Common Occurrence?
Because it is such a personal matter, plastic surgery is not widely publicized at SHS. “I’ve never heard of an instance of plastic surgery [at SHS], so I don’t believe it’s that common,” commented Koticha. Kushnick too believes that a teenager from Scarsdale undergoing plastic surgery is an event that occurs “not that frequently.” “A lot of people in this town have gotten nose jobs, but they just don’t talk about [them],” claimed Clarissa.
Ultimately, whether the procedure is common or not, the decision to undergo plastic surgery has to be based on an individual’s own desires and not on the opinions of others. “If someone is getting made fun of because [he or she has] a big nose, and [he or she] just get[s] it because people say that [he or she] should, then it’s not a good idea,” stated Clarissa. “It needs to be something that you want for you.”
Additional reporting by Jonathan Faust and Rachel Wolfe
Note: Clarissa* refers to a student who wishes to be kept anonymous
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