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Carolyn Hax: Nose job inquiry offended brother

Washington Post

Dear Carolyn:

My 13-year-old niece is tiny and has a big nose. We live in a community where a lot of teenage girls have cosmetic surgery at 16. I suggested to my brother in private that his daughter may be a candidate for this procedure. (My 19-year-old stepdaughter and my wife have had nose jobs.) My brother was deeply offended and angry over my remark. We are not talking. Was I over the line in making this suggestion in a private setting? – P.

Of course you were, and you know you were. You just called your niece so ugly she needs to be fixed, to her own father – and you presumed he needed you to say so. Insulting and self-important.

And while cosmetic surgery might be so common by now that its bolder recipients laugh about it openly, it’s hardly the simple snip-and-go you make it out to be. There are legitimate matters of safety, body- and self-image, cultural identity and aesthetic value, just for starters, that are far from pat or settled – and that’s just in the collective view of society. Apply these matters to the life, confidence and physique of a barely pubescent girl, and you were into outrageous-overstepping territory pretty much when you opened your mouth.

All of the above makes your excuse – that you know others who have been surgically altered – sound completely disingenuous, so you can add insulted intelligence to your brother’s list of valid grievances against you.

So take the above as a rough estimate of the repairs you’re facing with your brother. I won’t defend his not speaking to you – all this should be coming from him, not me – but I also wouldn’t expect him to bounce right back if you merely toss off an “I’m sorry.”

Your apology has to show your brother that you get it now, that you should have before, and that you don’t expect him to trust you until you prove you’re worthy of that.

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