By Karen Green
Upon turning 16, most kids are looking forward to things like getting their driver’s licence or maybe a new phone, perhaps even throwing a big party.
For my sixteenth birthday, I was offered a nose job.
It was not my mother, but another female relative that made the offer, and I rejected it almost immediately. Because by then, the bullying had already stopped.
I have a big nose. There’s no sugarcoating it, and I don’t need to hear cries of “But you’re beautiful!” to counter-act this fact. It’s a fact, and I know it, and I accept it. But it took many years for me to come to this acceptance, and in between the blissful unawareness of my early childhood and the acceptance, things were harsh.
Two brothers that went to school with me were the worst bullies (Oh, how I wanted to name them here. You have no idea.), helping to send my self-esteem plummeting from grades five through eight. Gonzo, Beeker, The Schnozz, pet names that sent me fleeing from the school bus in tears, though I outwardly held my head high and followed the only advice on the matter I ever got: Ignore them.
I held my head high and ignored it all, and by time I was 16 I had done a good enough job of convincing myself that I was stronger than society’s unreachable standards of beauty that I said no thank you to the nose job.
This week, I read an article about a teenager who underwent extensive plastic surgery to ward off the bullies that had been victimizing her, making her life hell. The work was done and paid for by a charitable foundation that corrects facial deformities in children. I was dismayed.
Do we now deal with bullies by accepting the blame for their cruelty? Are we just supposed do our best to erase their sustenance?
Are big ears, or a big nose—or an overbite, or a stutter—now classified as a deformity? Can this “solution” really be helping this child, or any child, at all?
I feel so deeply for this girl, I really do, and for all children who are bullied. As I said, I have been there. And if my children end up with my, and not their father’s small, straight nose, I might be there again.
Despite my visceral instinct to protect my children from hurt and harm, I don’t want them to change who they are to pacify somebody else’s cruelty or expectation. And if my children wonder if they are good enough the way they are, if they can be successful and independent and confident regardless of their physical attributes, I want the answer to be as clear and plain as the nose on my face.
Karen Green recently traded life in the biggest city in Canada for life in the biggest cornfield in Canada. Freed from her full-time job as a writer and editor, Karen now spends her time…writing and editing. And frolicking in the leaves with her two small girls. Karen is a speaker, the founder of Mom The Vote and the author of the blog, The Kids Are Alright, where she has been writing about the humorous and poignant moments of family life since 2005.