The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The ever-changing face of China.

We live in strange times. Things are not as they were when I was in school.

Recently, I heard from a teacher friend of mine (from America, but working in Singapore) about a young Chinese student in his class (from the People's Republic of China). She is a tall girl of about 15 or 16. A couple of weeks ago, he saw this girl not paying attention in class. Instead, she was attending to a brochure. It was a very strange kind of brochure. In it there were numbered pictures of women's eyes, of all shapes and sizes. That was it...just pictures of eyes.

"What is this?" he enquired, of his distracted student.

She looked up at this giant gentle bear of a man (the only thing that distinguishes him from Santa Claus is the absence of a red jacket) and remarked, ever-so-casually, "I am choosing the eyes I want."

"You mean plastic surgery?", "Santa Claus" was aghast.

"Yes. I want new eyes." She paused momentarily, to find her choice. "I want these ones.", she said, her finger tapping the glossy paper.

My friend studied the selected eyes and was even more appalled. The chosen eyes were just like those of a Japanese anime schoolgirl: unfeasibly big and round. They belonged on a stylized cartoon, not a tall Chinese girl.

"You don't need to change your eyes: the ones you have are beautiful already! Don't do this!", he urged, to an unpersuadable, young girl.

"These ones, wouldn't suit you.", he said, with certainty.

She wasn't in the mood to listen and held onto her brochure for the rest of the class.

I haven't mentioned it, but she is quite a big girl. To have the eyes of a Japanese anime schoolgirl, set against her big form, would just look ridiculous. I think that was my friend's immediate understanding.

This girl thought that she could give herself the appeal of a Japanese anime schoolgirl, simply by paying a plastic surgeon to resculpt her face. No doubt, after she had had her eyes done, she would want her nose done. Then perhaps she would extend the work to other parts of her body. It could even become a lifelong obsession as it does with some women, forever changing their bodies as others might change clothes.

What struck my friend, and strikes me, is how young this girl is. She is just 15 or 16, but already wants to have surgery to "correct" her appearance. She is not fully grown. Her final form is not fixed. Yet, already she wants to go under the knife. She seems to think that it would benefit her in all sorts of ways.

I wonder if there is an age-limit for such operations? There should be. No teenage girl under 18 should be permitted an operation that permanently alters their appearance. They should, at least, have to wait until their final growth is done. (Except in cases of disfigurement from disease, genetic or otherwise - but that is a different matter. This girl is not disfigured - she is just a fairly typical, if tall, Chinese girl.)

When I was this girl's age, I don't think any of my contemporaries were altering themselves through plastic surgery. Now, it seems, whole nations are going under the knife. It is quite bizarre. There is much, I think, to be said for a natural appearance. To my eyes, that usually creates a good, balanced appearance. Nature tends not to put the eyes of a Japanese anime schoolgirl on a tall, big Chinese girl, on whom they would look ridiculous. However, if she gets her way, that is exactly what this young girl will get.

It is all a bit sad. It shows that young people today do not accept themselves as they are. Or, perhaps, other people do not accept them, as they are and so they feel under pressure to change. I feel that those who embark on such a journey of cosmetic surgical alteration may find that they were happiest at the beginning of the journey before anything was done. Once they have had an alteration made, they are really going to have to live with it. I am not sure that this Chinese girl will be any happier with the eyes of a very different kind of girl on her face. It is quite possible that she will look much worse for the change.

Is this an issue in your country? Are young women (and perhaps men) altering their appearance surgically? Is it common? What kinds of procedures are they having done? Do children have such operations? Is it a trend among teenage girls?

Any observations you might have would be interesting to hear. Thanks.

If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 5:51 PM 


Blogger Shannon said...

Plastic surgery is fairly common in certain parts of the US. There are television shows like Dr. 90210 that promote particular surgeons. Many people here go to extreme lengths to look better. Although I don't have any moral objections to plastic surgery, I personally avoid it because I don't know where it would begin or end. A recent study revealed that 1/3 of plastic surgery is done to correct previous surgeries. If the success rate was higher, the demand for cheek implants and chin augmentations might make more sense.

11:49 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

In some parts of Asia (for instance Korea), plastic surgery is almost routine...most women seem to have it. It does sound as if it is not as common in America, even though it is "fairly common".

Personally, I like to see to work of Nature and not the work of a surgeon, when I look at someone.

You point out that many surgeries go wrong...well, even when they go right, the results can be odd. Often, I think, the altered feature can look out of place on the face - for in some way we know it doesn't fit the original plan (or the skin is too tight etc.).

How young do girls start having surgery in the US?

7:40 AM  
Blogger Shannon said...

Some girls begin having cosmetic surgery as early as 13 or 14. I personally don't know of any teens or pre-teens with plastic surgery, so this is just hearsay. It took my mom a long time just to save for my sister's braces, so I find it shocking that parents can actually afford these medical procedures. My guess is that cosmetic surgery, under the age of 18, is uncommon in the US due to high medical costs and age restrictions.

10:16 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I am glad to hear it, Shannon. A teenager is too young to make permanent decisions about their appearance (and the risks involved in such operations) even more their appearance has finalized.

The trend I see, in Asia, for young women to go under the knife is quite appalling. In some countries, it is very common (Korea, for instance, I am told.) From the marketing of plastic surgery, I think it is rather common here, in Singapore, too (one gets the impression that it is accepted).

I wonder what future generations will be like: is this to become an ever more common practice? I hope not.

11:17 PM  

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