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The Nip/Tuck Talk

Have you had this conversation at home? “Mom, the other kids are picking on me at school. They say I’m fat.”

“Oh, sweetheart. Kids can be cruel. The important thing to remember is that we love you. And we’re saving up for your lipo.”

No? Good.

Cosmetic surgery is certainly hot — as hot as ever. More than 12 million procedures were performed last year, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. And while teens accounted for more than 200,000 of those (oy, a column for another time), most parents still believe a good “beauty’s on the inside” talk trumps an adolescent collagen injection any day.

What’s good for the gosling, though, may not always fly for the goose. Having ridden the ole “love thyself” buggy about as far as it’ll go, lots of grown-ups opt for a nip or a tuck these days — then find themselves at a loss for how to explain it to their kids. How do you preach self-acceptance and practice self-alteration simultaneously?

“I have yet to hear a really good, healthy conversation between a patient and a mature child,” says a friend who works in a plastic surgeon’s office. “From what I’ve observed, young kids get sent off to grandma’s for the week and the parents don’t really tell the kids what happened. Or I’ve heard, ‘This is something to help mommy feel healthier.’ “

If avoidance isn’t your thing, consider the controversial picture book published by Miami plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Salzhauer last year. My Beautiful Mommy aims to help women explain to their kids why they’re having elective surgery (her new nose will be “prettier”!) and why they may be bed-ridden and appear beat-up afterwards.

But kids get trickier as they age. I had some unfortunately named “age spots” lasered off my face this summer and my 10-year-old lectured me about being happy with who I am. The nerve of this kid. I was downright delighted with who I was until the invitation to my high-school reunion arrived; then I was happy with who my dermatologist is.

Another friend just added a tummy-tuck onto her already scheduled — and much dreaded — hysterectomy.

“For me,” she says, “it was taking advantage of what I felt was a rather negative surgery and turning it into something that would actually make me feel better about myself.”

The best part: Her 10-year-old son is the one who suggested it, having heard about such things on TV. His take on plastic surgery is as perfect as a pair of silicone gel implants. “If you want to make yourself look like Michael Jackson, it’s your choice,” he explains. “But as for a tummy tuck, if you’re trying to lose weight and absolutely nothing’s working, you might just want to try that.”

Another friend, a single mom, gets Restylane and Botox injected every six months. Once, when childcare fell through, she took her five-year-old with her. “He was partly fascinated and partly horrified,” she says. “I told him I was getting vaccinations. He asked if it hurt. I said, ‘Yes, it hurts. But sometimes we have to see doctors to get better.’

“It wasn’t exactly a lie,” she jokes. “It made me better looking.”

The real reasons for her evasion were twofold. First, she knew he couldn’t yet comprehend complex motives like sexism, social pressures, and career demands. Second, she felt burdened as a child by shallow comments her own parents made about aging women — including her father exclaiming that he couldn’t stand cellulite.

“Apparently, I am every bit as shallow as my folks,” she says. “But I am trying not to pass it on to my kid.”


Published inColumnsParenting
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