Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Big Deal About Breast Implants

I don’t get the appeal of breast implants for women of any age. But what’s really troubling is the increasing number of very young women going under the knife for the sake of a bigger chest.

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, between 1992 and 2002, the number of girls under age 18 who got breast implants nearly tripled.

In the early ‘80s, when I was a TV medical reporter, I received a call from Betty. She told me that her 18-year-old daughter Joleen wanted implants, and wanted my opinion on how to handle the situation. I suggested she make a deal: Tell Joleen that they’d wait till her twenty-first birthday. Then, if she still wanted implants, they’d revisit the possibility.

A few years later, the FDA found that silicone implants leaked. The Feds put a moratorium on silicone implants. Waiting to interview a plastic surgeon about this story, I tossed an implant hand to hand, as if it were a Beanie Baby. Around the 15th toss, in midair, the implant burst. The gel splattered in my lap and ruined my favorite black skirt.

Betty called that night, after my report had aired. She thanked me for our conversation four years earlier. She’d taken my advice. Sure enough, when Joleen turned 21, she no longer wanted larger breasts. Her mother, especially since the silicone gel scare, was relieved.

This morning my friend, Bruce, told me his daughter Leslie asked if he would buy her a “boob job” for graduation. Bruce and his daughter have a close relationship. They’ve always talked openly about everything.

Without pausing, and in no uncertain terms, Bruce said no. He told her she was beautiful, just the way she was. Then he joked that, in the spirit of compromise, he’d meet her halfway: he’d buy her one. They laughed. Leslie got the message.

My guess is that, sooner or later, she’ll thank him.

Resources
The Power of Girls: Inside and Out

Related columns for young people

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

AIDS: Denial and Myths

Over the past few months, I’ve been meeting with and interviewing young people with HIV. Since the 80's I've been reporting on and writing about HIV/AIDS. I’m sad to hear that not a lot has changed.

Yes, condom use has increased among teens. More young people are waiting longer to have sex. But denial and myths persist.

These words from young people living with HIV can encourage young people to talk with their friends and parents to talk with their kids.

Denial: A 20-year-old man tells me why he thinks young people don’t take the risk of HIV seriously. “A lot of people think HIV is like the monster in the closet. If you put your blanket over your head it will go away. But it’s not. HIV is there and it affects everybody.”

“Not me” syndrome: A 15-year-old girl tells me about being infected by her second sex partner. “We all live in a world of it’s not going happen to me. I certainly did and look what happened?”

Ignorance: A 20-year-old woman told me, “Some kids think that if they get HIV they can take a pill. It won’t happen like that. Once you got HIV, you got HIV. [There’s] no cure. Not yet. You can take medication to control it. But it’s not going to go away.”

Fear: A 21-year-old woman told me that when she told a best friend over the telephone that she was HIV positive, her friend instantly hung up. They’ve not spoken since. “I’ve heard of computer viruses, but never one you could get over the telephone.”

As one young person told me. “Parents need to teach their kids about HIV so 1) they can protect themselves; and 2) so they won’t discriminate on others who have HIV and AIDS.

And there is this reminder from the 15-year-old girl. By the way, she died at age 22 from complications of AIDS. “I hope that young people today realize that they can do absolutely anything that they want to do, and they can be anything that they want to be, and that they have a future ahead of them. What they do now … will affect their tomorrow; will affect their lives years from now.”

Resources
In Our Own Words: Teens and AIDS
Raising Healthy Kids: Families Talk About Sexual Health
Words Can Work: When Talking With Kids About Sexual Health

Related Issues and Answers columns
HIV: Getting tested
Communication: Connect with kids
Sexual health: Talking with kids
Sexual health: Parents as educators

Related columns for young people

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