Bad parenting blamed for cosmetic surgery obsession
Published: Apr 07, 2016 05:43 PM

Illustrations: Lu Ting/GT

A program aired on a Jiangsu television station last month about a desperate mother seeking help for her plastic-surgery-obsessed daughter, 29-year-old Yu Bing, who spent 800,000 yuan ($126,984) on 20 plastic surgeries.

The heartbroken 61-year-old mother said that she worries about her daughter's mental and physical health and that comments that her daughter now looks like a monster has her feeling depressed and contemplating disowning her daughter.

The mother claims that she has never financially supported Yu's multiple surgeries but she did express that she was willing to "smash the wok to sell the metal," a Chinese expression meaning to do whatever she can to support her.

The anchorwomen showed great empathy toward the mother, but as I myself am the mother of a teenage daughter who has grown up exposed to modern Asia's mania for altered appearances, I personally feel that there must have been something wrong about Yu Bing's upbringing that has caused her so much insecurity.

Without a doubt, society plays a role in shaping people's personalities, but the deepest influences will always start with the family. Even a child raised in an impoverished third-world slum can grow up to be a good person if their parents are good people. Likewise, a child raised in a wealthy but arrogant or cruel family will also most likely become an arrogant, cruel adult.

As I watched Yu Bing's mother on television, I couldn't help but doubt her sincerity. That woman looked younger and dressed more fashionably than most other women her age, leading me to wonder if she too has had plastic surgery, which may have planted a seed in the impressionable mind of a young Yu Bing; a seed that eventually sprouted into her fanatical fixation on appearances.

When my daughter was in kindergarten, every day we had to directly pass by a "hair salon" on our way to and from school. There were always several young women dressed in mini skirts and high heels sitting in the doorway. One day as we passed the salon my daughter looked up at me from her stroller with burning curiosity and admiration and said, "Mama, those sisters are beautiful! I want to be like them when I grow up."

I'll never forget the murmur in my heart at that moment. I had to take a deep breath while I gathered my thoughts on how to respond. I bent down to look at her at eye level and asked, "Do you love your mama?" "Of course," she answered. "Then listen to me carefully because there is something very serious I must tell you."

"You can never judge a person by their appearance. A good person should make their living by working hard and doing something meaningful." She listened obediently as I continued. "Those sisters do not work hard. They just sit there in that doorway every day to try to make money doing bad things."

I'm sure she was still too young to fully comprehend what I was suggesting, but every day thereafter she definitely had a more cautious attitude toward "hair salons" and this city's scantily clad women.

But around the time my daughter turned eight, she developed a crush on a Chinese actress, as all young girls do. Watching this woman on television every day, my daughter announced to us during dinner that she too wanted to be an actress when she grows up. Once again I had to try to dissuade her from this ambition, explaining that most stars are very skinny and "unnaturally beautiful" as the result of multiple face lifts and body surgeries, which is very painful and unhealthy.

I wanted to but couldn't also tell her about all the sex scandals that aspiring actresses often get themselves into during their ascent to fame, so instead I just said "If you want to be an actress, you have to prepare for the worst. Are you ready?" I could see in her eyes that she was not.

It was important for me to stress my ideology and beliefs on her at such a young age, because had I waited until she was a teen it would have been too late. By the time they get to middle school, teenaged girls innately become rebellious and even a little crazy. Anything I would try to teach her as a teen would have backfired, which is why I started early.

It's obviously too late for Yu Bing's mother, but for all the other Chinese mothers out there raising daughters in our appearance-and-selfie-obsessed society, be the person you want your child to become.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.