Enhancement for Teens: Gift or Burden

Episode: 
9

“Christmas is all about the children.”  We’ve all heard that saying.  As a mom, I got more excited about buying gifts for our children than for the adults in our family.  As our children grew up, finding the right gift became more of a challenge….in part because their tastes grew more expensive!

Yes, gifts are a wonderful part of Christmas.  But how much thought do we put into the long-term value of these gifts? Aren’t gifts just an expression of our love for our kids, you may ask?  Sometime they are; and yet, they may communicate something we didn’t intend. Let me explain.


My husband’s client gave his daughter—let’s call her Megan—an uncommon gift: breast implants.  Expensive?  Yes. With a long-term impact?  Also “yes.”

At least two key questions come to mind: 1) What message is Megan’s dad telegraphing to her?  And 2) What is Megan’s response to his gift?

But first, let’s talk about the purpose of implants.  Originally, these were developed for use in reconstructive surgery, for women who had a mastectomy.  They were designed to restore the woman’s body, as much as possible, to its pre-surgical, pre-cancerous state. 

But, we don’t set limits on the uses of plastic surgery. The same techniques are used for elective cosmetic surgery.  The purpose is not to restore something that has been injured, like a broken nose, or to repair a birth defect like a cleft palate.  Instead, the consumer wants surgery to correct a perceived defect.

But it doesn’t stop with just one procedure.  The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery suggests Botox injections and a tummy tuck in the 30s; injections for spider veins in the 40s; lip augmentation in the 50s; and an upper body remake in the 60s. [1]


So, what does this gift of plastic surgery mean for Megan with her new implants? What message does she hear from her father?  Is it unconditional love and acceptance of her just as she is?  Or is he communicating his view of her as a potential object of desire to be made and remade? Incisions and insertions into her normal human body are not about health, but about dissatisfaction, and the pursuit of an unattainable physical ideal.

What happened to Megan?  Was she grateful, happier, more confident?  Did she enjoy increased wholeness because something broken was fixed?

No, her father’s “gift” did not make her thankful.  Megan’s path led to dissatisfaction and alienation.  Now she is truly broken, in and out of drug rehab, struggling for a return to normalcy.

Folks, we know most Christmas gifts are positive and temporary.  As Christians, we know that there is only one perfect eternal Gift. So, let’s make sure we don’t give one that will send an indelible message to our children that they don’t measure up.

 


[1] As cited in C. Ben Mitchell, Edmund D. Pellegrino, Jean Bethke Elshtain, John F. Kilner, and Scott B. Rae, Biotechnology and the Human Good (Georgetown University Press, 2007) 143.

 

Everyday Bioethics Audio Commentary Album Art