Tag Archives: parents

Kids, Bullying and Plastic Surgery

plasticsurgeryI was somewhat floored this weekend as I listened to a brief radio report on my local public radio station about kids and plastic surgery.  The story (which made reference in the intro to Renee Zellweger’s altered appearance at a recent awards show) talked about the number of kids having plastic surgery and the reasons behind it.  The report opens by talking about the number of teenagers who have had Botox (TM) in 2013.  According to the report, that number is 17,958.  Now the report was careful to state that most of these procedures were for medical reasons.  Botox is used to treat migraines, strabismus (cross eyed) and facial spasms.  Yet when all was said and done, over 1,000 of these Botox procedures were performed on kids in America for “purely cosmetic reasons”.

Now I’m not going to tell any parent or kid what they should do with their own bodies.  It’s their body and their choice.  I don’t think I would let me kid have Botox treatments (if I had one).  But you know what, I think it’s a lot easier to judge if you are not in the situation.  In fact the report went on to state that cosmetic procedures are on the rise among young people, and experts suggest that the reasons for that rise probably include social media culture and the rise of the “selfie” as well as a rise in bullying in our schools.

My knee jerk reaction at the time was, why aren’t they fixing the BULLYING?  Why are kids undergoing the risks and rigors of plastic surgery all because kids can’t stop being mean?  And then I remembered my own school days.  There was a period in my school life, after I had moved to a new school where I was bullied relentlessly.  I was verbally abused and physically abused.  I had my property repeatedly stolen or damaged.  It was so bad, that I often got physically sick from the stress of it all.  My parents were extremely worried, but I felt that their involvement would  only make it much, much worse.  There was no surgery that could have fixed my situation.  And even if there were, I doubt we could have afforded it.  But I wonder, if there were a medical fix, that we could afford if we would have used it.  I was miserable.  My parents were deeply concerned.  Would we have undergone a medical risk if it meant that the problem would go away?  I don’t know.

What I do know is that not all people who are bullied can have that problem fixed by surgery.  The reasons for the bullying are not always physical or may not be easily physically corrected.  And even for surgery that is readily available, a whole lot of people cannot afford it.  And this lack of access to procedures that can make our social media selfie red carpet ready is just another gaping chasm between the haves and the have nots in our world.  So on the one hand I sort of feel like the families that are “opting out” of bullying by changing their physical appearance are making things even harder for the families that do not have that privilege.

It’s easy to heap scorn on the families who seem to take the whole notion of cosmetic surgery very lightly.  The report stated that husband/wife cosmetic surgeries are followed only by mommy/daughter plastic surgeries in popularity.  It’s easy to heap scorn on the privileged families who hand out boob jobs as high school graduation presents.

But I’d like to suggest that not all cases of kids and families choosing plastic surgery over bullying are quite that simple.  If I could have had a surgery to make the bullying stop, might I have done that?  I honestly don’t know.  And if I had done it, how would my life have turned out differently?  Would I be as strong?  Maybe not?  Would I be less fearful now?  Would I take greater emotional risks at this point because I spent less time as a target–less time being wounded?  And if my parents had chosen that route would they be wrong for perpetuating the need for perfection just because they wanted me to live my best life, be less in pain?

I don’t really know all the answers here, and I think that’s a good thing.  In my mind this is not a simple or black and white thing.  I sincerely believe that we need to change the culture of perfectionism, social media shallowness and cruel bullying among young people.  And I think that erasing differences by changing whatever faults the bullies choose to target in their victims ultimately make things worse for all of us.  But I think it’s important to view this subject through the lens of compassion.  Because if back then, when I was a kid, I would have been able to undergo a brief medical procedure that would make the bullying stop, even for a minute, I don’t know that I wouldn’t have done just that.

Love,  Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want me to come to your school and talk about bullying?  BOOK ME!

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Talking about Bullying

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This past Saturday, I  had the great privilege to speak on behalf of the Size Diversity Task Force at the Stop The Pain Anti Bullying Conference in Riverside.  I spoke about all bodies being good bodies and I talked with them about the fact that weight-related bullying can come from many sources including parents, teachers, doctors and coaches.  It seemed like many of them were interested in the topic and I had a great time.  But one of the moments that really touched me, came from a Dad in the back of the room.

The room was overfilled and he had stood against the wall for the entire presentation.  At the end I asked for questions and he raised his hand.  He said that he had come to the presentation on behalf of his sixteen year old daughter.  He said that he came with his beautiful wife (and he gestured towards her) because he wanted to know how to help his daughter.  He said that his daughter had always been somewhat heavier, and that she was having a hard time accepting herself.  He said that he and his wife told her that she was beautiful every day, but that she was having a hard time believing it.  He wanted to know what he should do.

I told him first of all, that he should keep telling her that she is beautiful.  That maybe it doesn’t seem like it’s sinking in, but that she’s hearing it.  I told her that sometimes we aren’t ready for that message at that moment in our lives, but that there will come a moment at some time in our lives when we are ready, and we will gather those words and those memories to us at that time and we will treasure them always.  I told him that he could offer help, but that he has to be patient.  She will only accept help when she’s ready.  I suggested that he could direct her towards support groups like the Size Diversity Task Force that could some day help her find her way through the prejudice out there and help her emerge triumphant as a size positive freedom fighter.  And I thanked him for asking the question.

Honestly, I was blown away by this guy and his wife.  They cared enough about their daughter to stand in a hot classroom for an hour and listen to me talk about my journey, size diversity, size prejudice, the near impossibility of permanent weight loss, Health At Every Size and more.  They were able to keep their minds open and see if they could learn something new.  And they were humble enough to ask for help.  Now I have no idea what it is really like for them in their house and in their family.  But I was deeply moved by the idea that there are parents out there willing to buck the status quo to really help their kids and there is hope in this world of size oppression within strong families willing to care for their kids in a way that may not be “socially acceptable” but in a way that works.

I am deeply grateful to Kandee Lewis and the Size Diversity Task Force for this opportunity to speak, but more importantly to listen and learn from other folks who are working to end bullying in their own lives and the lives of others.

Love,

The Fat Chick

Bullying is Also Bad for the Bullies

Last week, while wiling away minutes and hours on facebook, I came across this study about the negative effects of bullying on the bullies.  Now lest I be accused of victim blaming (on today of all days) I want to make it clear that nobody deserves to be bullied and there is nothing in this world that makes being a bully okay.  But I do find this study compelling.  The negative effects of bullying on those who are ostracized have been pretty well documented.  Those who are bullied face increased incidence of depression, a compromised immune system, increased stress hormones, poorer blood glucose levels and a whole host of other stress related problems.  But I hadn’t really thought before about the negative repercussions for those doing the actual bullying.  The study represented in the graph above seems to indicate that those who engage in mean behavior experience a higher level of emotional difficulties than those who don’t.

Now this is just one small study (152 subjects).  I don’t think we can establish a clear causal relationship here or in fact any definitive conclusions about bullies based on 152 subjects tested in one very specific scenario.  But it does get me thinking.  I mean being a bully clearly isn’t the best or most productive way to relate to the world.  Learning to cope with ones peers by bullying doesn’t seem likely to promise a future of many happy and rich relationships or fulfillment or happiness.  And what about those “innocent bystanders” in the “neutral” category on that chart?  What are they learning?  Are they learning to keep their head down, stay quiet, and keep off the radar?  Are they learning not to stand up and defend those weaker than themselves?  Are they learning to keep a low profile and just stay out of it?

I don’t know the answer to these questions.  I’m unlikely to know anytime soon.  But on an instinctual level, it seems clear to me that when there is bullying, nobody and I mean NOBODY wins.  When we allow bullying to continue unabated in our homes and schools and churches and public places, we fail.  We manifest a world based on fear.  Bullies learn a way of relating to the world that is mean and empty and unproductive.  Many among those who don’t experience any punishment or negative feedback for their actions learn to bully in ever more terrifying ways–tormenting, assulting, raping and abusing.  For some, the first punishment they ever receive as a bully is a life altering one (like a prison sentence and a lifelong criminal record).  Neutral parties learn that the only way to stay safe is to remain neutral.  And those who are bullied, just try to learn to survive.  Sometimes they do, and go on to thrive.  Sometimes they don’t and a life is ended far, far too soon.

As a society we have to make a choice.  Will we cope with bullying and cruelty when kids are young and the crimes potentially smaller?  Will we write off the behavior saying things like “boys will be boys” or “kids have to learn to work these things out for themselves?”  Will we wait until both the crime and the punishment will leave irrevocable, lifelong scars?  We must chose and chose well.  Because when bullying continues unchecked, everybody loses.

Love,

The Fat Chick