So if you remember, despite being 31 and a mom, I decided to pursue my dream of becoming a doctor. It was impacting all areas of my life. I had to deal with emotional issues, such as facing my old teenage crush, Lucas, who offered me an apprenticeship, because for medical schools, I needed some experience in a healthcare environment…

… there I was on my first day at the surgery clinic, specialised in cosmetic and facial repair. I was not sure what to expect, but I was very pleased to know that Doctor Michael (ie Lucas) did not schedule any operation that day.

“Ready to see our patient?” Doctor Keegan asked me. My sole job as an apprentice comprised of following him around.

“Yes, sir!”

“Let’s welcome her.” He expressed enthusiastically. He left me in his office as he called for the patient. He came back with a sophisticated woman and a shy 17-year-old girl. To my surprise, the patient undergoing surgery was…

The 17-year-old girl.

Her name was Vanessa.

And the sophisticated woman happened to be her mother.

“Vanessa, how are you doing since the last time we met?” Doctor Keegan asked. She fainted a smile.

“She cannot wait for a nose job.” Her mother responded on her behalf.

I closely looked at Vanessa. She had the body of a woman, well proportioned. I wondered whether other surgeries were performed. Her lips were generous and apparently her nose was an issue. Despite a woman shape, she hadn’t finished growing and changing.

My 16 year old self looked a lot different from my 31 year old.

olivia-spot 10 differences

No surgery undertaken, just time, wisdom and weight loss. If only she knew she didn’t need surgery at such a young age, she could just wait and see her body changing.

Doctor Keegan invited her mother to follow him to the reception, while I was in charge of looking after her. I felt compelled to talk to her, but I hadn’t really spoken to a 17-year-old in a very long time. What they like, what they think, what they enjoy belong to a black hole I had no access to. I was actually afraid of being judged by her as “old and out of touch”. But I went for it, she had to know.

So I used this strategy:

  • Start the conversation with a gossip about a popular celebrity

“I heard Justin Bieber is dating a new girl.” I began, smiling.

“I hate Justin Bieber.” She finished, quietly.

So perhaps not the best way to start a normal conversation with a 17-year-old. I would say I had  a pretty good and broad sense of what was happening in the world of celebrities. After all, I was working in an office, so of course a colleague at some point would keep me abreast with gossip news. But my knowledge apparently did not match hers.

  • Ask her who she admires

“OK, so who is your role model?” I resumed the conversation.

“Why do you want know?” she asked on the defensive.

“Just being curious.”

Another dead end!

  • Share a story she can relate to

Third tentative to start off a conversation.

“You know at your age I was a huge fan of Brenda, from Beverly Hills 90210” She smiled at my reference. “She had a fringe, it suited her very well and I wanted to be like her; so one day I took some scissors and added a fringe to my haircut. My mother freaked out.” I revealed, happy to see she couldn’t help laughing.

“What did your mother do about it?” She timidly verbalised, locking her gaze into mine.

“Nothing… what your mother would do?” I retorted, observing her body language.

“She would send me to the hairdresser to fix it.” She was opening up to me.

  • Talk to her like a grown up

I saw an opportunity to warn her and I took it before it was too late.

“Look, you are a beautiful young woman. Are you sure you want to get a nose job? Or is your mother forcing you?” I suggested

“Why are you saying this?” She replied offended.

“Because your body will continue to change and it’s a big commitment to change your nose. Are you aware of the risks?”

She never responded to my questions and walled herself up into silence.


My whole strategy backfired. So do not follow the four bullet points I just listed.
olivia infographic chapter 9

A week later, she and her mom returned to the clinic for the big day. I witnessed her operation. I witnessed my first ever operation. That was brutal! On several occasions, I looked away, overwhelmed by the trauma this young girl’s nose was going through.

When she opened up her eyes from anaesthetics, she glanced around the room at a rapid pace, her eyes filled with fear. I held her hand to reassure her. She stared at me and calmed down. I even perceived a faint smile behind all the tubes surrounded her. I decided that while she waited for her mother, I would stay with her. No judgment, no question, no talk, just my presence. After all, silence is golden. Perhaps the real strategy to talk to a 17-year-old is to stay quiet.

19 thoughts on “Chapter 9 or How to speak to a 17 year-old?”

  1. I discovered your blog day before yesterday and I have read all your entries. Loved it. Wish you the best on your journey ?

  2. Having a 16, almost 17 year old, anything you say will be wrong but very sad that it sounds like the mother was pushing her to alter her body at such a young age. Good for you to try and get her to open up even if you got through to her with silence.

  3. This is definitely heartbreaking in so many ways. I’m sure it is something you will never forget. I’m so dreading the days when my daughter is hard to talk rationally to… She’s only 8 months old now so I know I’ve got a while (thankfully).

  4. LOL! I think sometimes it is best to not say anything. My daughter is 20 now so I kinda remember 17. It’s a very interesting time. Just on the verge of adulthood (legally) but still very much a child!

  5. So sad! Oh my word, it actually made me cry. The world is such a cruel and sad place. If only she knew…

  6. Thanks for the tips on talking to a teen…it’s sometimes so hard and we forget what it was like for ourselves back then. I agree though, I’ve had the best results by just talking to them like an adult…and listening too.

  7. My son is 15, and my daughter 13, and if there is one thing I have learned, it’s just keep quiet until they are ready to talk. If you try to talk first, you get ZILCH.

    It’s sad the girl went through with it – but I’m sure she appreciated you either way.

  8. It is so sad that the girl thought she needed surgery to be beautiful. I am a glad that you tried to help her. I guess the way to talk to a 17 year old is be quiet but be there for them. I was quiet but available to my stepdaughter all through her teen years and we survived it and have a great relationship today.

  9. Oh my goodness! She’s only 17! Well when I was in high school, someone got a boob job. So ridiculous. We are all beautiful!

  10. Well written story. Enjoyed reading it. I think all your strategies were good. You have to gauge the teen you are talking to. And what works one day may not work another time.

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