NEW YORK (MainStreet)Plastic surgery. There's an aura around it, for better and for worse: cosmetic surgery can seem like the purview of the rich, the luxurious, the vain, those who don't have better things to do with their money.
Bucking nearly every one of those stereotypes are Laura and her son, Vincent.* Laura is a middle-aged single mother living off of disability payments due to her crippling diabetes; she has vision problems because of hemorrhaging behind her eyes, and her legs are so swollen she has to go to a wound center for ulcers that leave both legs bandaged. Her disability payments are generally just enough to cover her living expenses.
Vincent, meanwhile, is a 25-year-old construction worker down on the Jersey Shore. He aspires to go to college someday and currently makes a relatively small paycheck.
Despite the fact that neither Laura nor Vincent has a great deal of money, they saved up together for two years to fund Vincent's cosmetic surgery. Laura instituted a moratorium on shopping, and Vincent sold the new car he'd purchased. Two years later, after many hard months of sacrifice, they say it's the best money they've ever spent.
When Vincent was a teenager, he developed lumps under his breasts. He was living with his father at the time, who told him not to worry because they'd probably go away as part of puberty. All the same, Vincent was extremely self-conscious, because his chest looked almost like that of a female. His friends teased him, and he started censoring his activities to avoid drawing attention to his chest, from refusing to go to the beach to nixing white tank tops altogether.
At age 23, Vincent moved in with his mother, and she immediately saw something was amiss. By the time he moved back in with Laura, Vincent had almost no self-esteem. "The more they made fun of him, the more down his head went," Laura recalls.