“I’ll never forget how shocked I was when I discovered the age of a certain patient of mine. She was nine,” a plastic surgeon tells Shukan Shincho (Nov 20).
That was eight years ago. Since then, the weekly finds, cosmetic surgery for elementary school children has become commonplace. Sometimes the kids themselves don’t like their appearance. Sometimes it’s the parents who see room for improvement. We’re given no indication of how many patients are involved nationwide, but we are told what 90% of them are after: folded eyelids, to make their eyes look bigger and their faces more Western.
Cosmetic surgery is not by definition trivial. We’re told the story of one small girl with a large mole under her nose. Classmates teased her mercilessly about having snot on her face. Mother and daughter were at the clinic, both sobbing. It is good that procedures are available to remove the cause of such misery.
Ingrown eyelashes are another serious problem plastic surgeons see in young children. Exceptions duly allowed for, however, “the overwhelming majority,” Shukan Shincho hears from a surgeon, “are out to look like some celebrity or other. Sometimes they show up with a photograph cut out of a magazine. Sometimes it’s the mother who’s the enthusiastic one, and when I get the child alone she’ll burst into tears and say, ‘I don’t want folded eyelids; my mom made me come.”
Unfortunately, we’re not told what the surgeon does in such cases. Presumably he acts in the spirit of a law which, says Shukan Shincho, classifies forcing children into unwanted plastic surgery as a form of child abuse—an offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Most often, though, mother and child seem of one mind on the subject. “The ‘junior idol’ boom started in 1995,” the magazine hears from an “idol watcher.” “Since then, the competition among would-be child stars has grown intense, and plastic surgery among them is routine. Over the past few years, that has trickled down into the ranks of ordinary elementary school kids.”
“I got a phone call from the mother of a child whose eyelids I’d folded,” relates a surgeon. “‘What kind of monster face have you given her!’ she cries. ‘Listen,’ I tell her, ‘you can’t make a child look like [singer] Ayumi Hamasaki by tinkering with this or that part of her face!’ But the mother insisted on having the work redone for free, according to the terms of the guarantee. Over the next two years, I did it over and over, but it was no use—the girl simply did not turn into Hamasaki.”
Then there’s the case of the fourth-grade boy whose mother ordered the doctor to remove all body hair so that it wouldn’t grow back. Why? “He has such white skin—I’m going to make a unisex celebrity out of him,” the mother said. “The boy himself was determined to proceed, so we went ahead,” the doctor tells the magazine. “Then the boy went berserk: ‘It hurts! Stop!’ Two of the office staffers had to hold him down.”
We hear of one woman who, in tears, begged a surgeon to fold her daughter’s eyelids. For some reason, she didn’t want her husband to know that she’d had her own eyelids surgically folded as a child. If the daughter’s eyelids also displayed the fold, the husband would assume the trait was hereditary.