Botox Babes – would you go plastic?

I had dinner the other night with three feisty, successful, attractive women in their early forties.   Think Surrey Sex in the City.  Two of them (let’s say Samantha and Miranda) were discussing which fillers they will have as they get nearer 50 – both laughingly certain they will fill in the lines demarcating their cheeks from nose/mouth area and probably some kind of double chin eliminator too (assuming they get one). (Picture courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

Not if, not why, just what and when.

Really?  Two of the most intelligent, attractive, independent, articulate and confident women I know and respect want to have cosmetic work done?  For themselves too, I might add, not for a man.  And there was I with a (relatively uninformed) world view that women who indulged in it were bonkers publicity-junkies, women with very low self-esteem, and those in the public eye unable to resist our society’s gender and ageing stereotypes. Oh, and the women who have it for very understandable reasons, where medical issues or accidents mean it can genuinely change their lives through their own and other’s perceptions of them.

I was shocked, naively, perhaps. These women’s, this type of woman’s, choice left me wondering whether I’ve come to a considered enough opinion.

Why does cosmetic surgery feel an order of magnitude different to wearing make-up, dying grey hair or using skin pigmentation-reduction face creams?  Particularly now we have short-term, less invasive treatments like Botox – the so-called ‘lunchtime’ treatments.  Yet it still feels like a big line to cross.

Analysing my feelings, I struggle to justify why it seems so different to these accepted age-defying measures that virtually every woman engages in, in some way, as they get older.  It is more expensive, yes.  It is going under the skin, so feels a more serious decision, yes.  Infection or other problems might be more likely, yes.  But is it any more vain or less acceptable?

Personally, I do believe it is still less socially acceptable, a bit of a taboo.

Although cosmetic surgery is often in the media, I think it is mostly as an object of ridicule, or indulging our fascination with celebrity appearance.

That is counterbalanced somewhat by ageism debate and commentary such as that about the pressures on female TV presenters to look younger than their male counterparts (see here, here or here), or indeed this article about increasing numbers of professional men getting Botox to get ahead.

Whatever the media profile, ageing is a difficult concept to embrace given it is a constant reminder of the diminishing time to do the things with your life your youthful self so animatedly set out to do.  And our society’s obsession with youth makes us feel further and further from that ideal once grey hair and wrinkles force themselves on us.

I do also wonder what message cosmetic treatment sends to our children.  A woman’s body is not ok unless it looks youthful.  Feeling under-confident? Not getting ahead in the workplace? Get a shot of Botox and all will be better. 

If an idea or image is presented often enough, in enough guises, it starts to feel like a truth, an accepted belief or norm.  I think that’s a bit scary for my daughter’s generation.  Or indeed, my son’s.

One of the commenters on my last post said if you teach your kids discernment they can work it out themselves”.  I think that applies here, too.  All we can do as parents is help our children build a strong base of belief in themselves and who they are, and teach them to think for themselves.  Even with my kids so young, they often ask questions for which the honest answers are uncomfortable - “Mummy, why do you wear make-up?”  for example.  I can choose whether I answer or not, or how truthfully, but, as is the case so often, children hold the mirror up to our / our world’s uncomfortable truths in all their glory.

I can’t think of an answer I would be happy with myself giving to my daughter if I had cosmetic work done. Either I’m too vain or too weak to resist societal norms of appearance.  But, to be honest, the same could be said for most of the appearance-changing things I do to myself.  So I’m not judging my friends for their choice – who’s to say I won’t feel the same way as my own lines deepen – I’ve certainly found greying hair enough of a trauma, and there’s nothing like an absolute statement of principle to make you look silly a few years later.

It’s more that I’m interested to understand whether there is a growing cohort of intelligent, thinking, confident women in their prime thinking like this.

What’s your view?

PS As a slightly silly footnote, while discovering that breast augmentation is the top British plastic surgery procedure, I also discovered that one of the industry bodies is called baaps.  He he he.

7 thoughts on “Botox Babes – would you go plastic?

  1. I must admit I’m probably not the age you were thinking of when you wrote this post. However, I do know now, even allowing for future hindsight, that I will not much care for my looks later in life – if I don’t in my 20′s, I don’t think I’ll experience an epiphany in my 40′s. I have severe eczema, and as a result I’m pretty sure my looks have already been altered to the same degree aging will do, or at least enough so as to send any cosmetic surgery fans running for a referral :) . I do occasionally get the odd little one whispering not-so-secretly to Mum about ‘The lady with chickenpox’ and my hands often cause a few stares from the younger generation. I like to call them my witchy hands. I’ll let you imagine why :)

    As a result, I’m probably one of the least understanding people when it comes to cosmetic surgery. If you really need it, as in it’s reconstructive or can can help you get your life back or turn it around, I get it, fair do’s, no condemnation here. You’re absolutely right when it comes to that Mrs H. I don’t think anyone can judge people for that one. But because you just aren’t satisfied with not looking young still? Seems rather daft to me. I wouldn’t mind not looking like a witchy dalmation occasionally, but I can’t do anything about it so meh, find the positives in it or find different things to like about your looks.

    I quite like not looking like the perfecly blemish-free ideal though, mainly because I am far more interesting for children that way. I work with them regularly, and sometimes my hands and face are a downright boon. I’ve had children hanging on my every word because I was different and therefore a bit more interesting to pay attention to. One kid liked to casually stroke my hands to feel the texture as I explained a task to them, and their enthusiasm for it did seem a bit more than it had been for other tasks I’d set when I’d just been a figure at the front of the classroom. Children semi-regularly ask questions about my appearance and depending on the child’s age (and the parent’s mortification, I freely admit *evil grin*) I don’t mind explaining, matter of factly, why I look the way I do. It’s just like you said about teaching children discernment – if you answer the question ‘why do you wear make-up?’ or ‘why are your hands bad?’ honestly, and let them draw their own conclusions, I think that’s far fairer to them than trying to flub over the issue and perhaps make more of it that it needs to be. The usual result I’ve found is they get their curiosity satisfied and then it’s a case of ‘knowledge acquired, next question!’ and they become less hesitant about asking me questions later. Dandy!

    I admit, if the damage was significantly worse, I’d probably feel differently, especially if it would involve significant cosmetic surgery to fix. I’ve only had a tiny taste of what it’s like to get stared at, so anyone who really does need cosmetic surgery, fair do’s. But as it stands, I really don’t mind looking too different so much at the moment and I can only assume I’ll still stick out and feel the same way as I get older (absolute statements of principle aside). It’s an advantage for me to look less than polished (not to mention I’m a natural scruff anyway), so I can’t understand women who want to look like everyone else. Although I already know that whenever I do get grey hairs, I’m dying them green :) I plan to grow old colourfully :)

    As for whether women really do go in for the perfect wrinkle-free image? I only have to look at the ads on tv to figure there must be something to it – why advertise something you’re not going to sell? And there’s so many adverts for concealer this and rejuvenate that that I presume there must be demand for it. That and the make-up counters at my local Boots haven’t decreased in size, even through a recession.

  2. I don’t wear makeup & I wouldn’t have surgery to enhance any part of my body…I’m at an age where I’m learning to grow old gracefully & accept that my body is showing the signs of having had children. Great post :)

  3. I don’t wear make-up, never have, so perhaps my opinion means nothing but… surely the difference between the two is that make-up is easily removed where as cosmetic surgery is more permanent? You don’t get the option to change your mind (easily) with surgery, so it’s seen as more drastic/desperate even?

    Don’t think I could voluntarily opt for surgery myself, but I suppose that might change if I were involved in a disfiguring accident or something.

  4. Adding comments on my Facebook page…

    FROM VC: On one hand is it any different from getting your hair done, wearing beautiful clothes and piercing your ears to wear jewels? Do we not (most better than me) attempt to keep our houses beautiful or drive lovely cars and aren’t all these things saying the same thing? ‘Look at me, I’m fabulous, successful, beautiful and wealthy’. For whatever reason the vast majority of people seem to strive towards giving that impression. Do tattoo’s say the same thing or are they done for similar reasons? On a personal level I’m just too squeamish and not that into pain for anyone to take a knife or syringe to me in any but a life threatening situation, although to be able to wear a strapless dress would be lovely!

    REPLY FROM MRS H: I’m so with you on the squeamish front – same for tattoos for me too! Interesting point re doing to send message to others, compared to doing in response to societal pressure to look a certain way (inside out vs outside in). You’re right of course re impression we want to create of ourselves for others. When we bought our car I hated myself for having a thing about some car brands – both good and bad, as when pushed I had no good reason but snob value. Ridiculous really isn’t it. Hey ho, back to the glass of wine, then 10 lashes for me for being ridiculous..!

    FROM MR B: Interesting post Mrs H – not quite sure what you’re saying/asking – the picture of Wildenstein is a bit extreme/Daily Mail, most fillers/botox, or even cosmetic surgery, is so subtle some husbands fail to even notice their wives have had work done. If the women (and men) doing it feel better about themselves afterwards, what’s the harm? Sure there are some deeply damaged individuals who can’t stop and end up disfiguring themselves but then, that’s like the difference between drinkers and alcoholics. I was left feeling some of the comments were a bit judgmental… but I’m not sure that’s entirely reasonable either! Thought provoking for sure.

    REPLY FROM MRS H: Hi MR B. Might be my formatting re Wildenstein – supposed to be next to paragraph about media profile of cosmetic surgery being about extremes! I guess the post was about observing and analysing my shock at a challenge to my view of who would get cosmetic work done and why, and wondering how widespread that alternative view of it is, and exploring why I felt like I did – I’ve loved how my blog helps me structure my thoughts and hear other’s opinions that challenge me to have robust ones of my own. Interesting point re harm. You’re right – but I guess like drinking, we have to be aware of the challenge of helping the next generation understand the risk of excess before they’ve done too much damage. Do we know enough to understand risks of botox if used in the future to manage hangover bags in your twenties for e.g.? I’m not surprised some comments judgemental – as with many controversial topics, lots of strong feelings around…

  5. I’ve tried it to see if it would assist my career development. Unfortunately I had an allergic reaction to the Botox which has left me looking overweight and underexercised. I’m hoping I will return to my more svelte former self. I fear it may be some time.

    • Oh dear that’s a shame Mr D. Who’d have thought svelte would help policemen up the greasy pole, my how the world is changing :). Maybe returning to the mountain bike policing would have a better effect??!!

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