22 June 2007

Wrinkle Free Future

I was talking with a friend at the weekend. We were pondering the look of the future. Not clothes, or buildings or cars or anything. People – what people (westerners) might look like in, let’s say, 40 or 50 years time. Once the preserve of the very rich and famous, cosmetic surgery is now commonplace, even amongst mere mortals. We all know someone who’s been done – even if it’s a so-called non-surgical procedure like botox or a chemical peel.
My mate and I are rather old fashioned and like to think that we can hold out against the surgery tidal wave and grow old, if not gracefully, at least reasonably naturally. But we are of an age when we are starting to talk more and more (no, not quite incessantly) about the relentlessness of the march of time and the often devastating effects it can have on one’s appearance, and my motto has always been never say never…
Back to the future and last Saturday lunchtime’s idle chat. We talked products, procedures and surgery. Do any of them really hold back the effects of time? Hardly. I’ve never seen anyone who’s had surgery and genuinely thought they look younger after it (and God knows, I watch enough of those 10 years younger type programmes and read enough glossies). Better, mostly. But not younger. Even now in these medically advanced techno glorious times surgery only touches the surface and a good haircut, flattering, fashionable clothes and decent make up can work wonders. Costs a lot less too. Most people who have had surgery simply look like older people who have been Done. Others look plain weird. The exception for me is in dentistry and a good bleaching can take years off you – but do beware the Osmond’s style veneers. Very spooky, very American and very ‘Done’.
Of course not all cosmetic surgery is bad – breast reduction for the extremely well endowed can improve health, physical and mental, no end. Facial rebuilding following car accidents or disease offers the chance to look normal once again. But the key issue here is that on the whole the work needs to be done only once. Women who undergo breast augmentation in their twenties are looking at surgery every 10 years – when do they stop? At 50? 60? How do their breasts look then, with skin elasticity virtually nil and no silicon? When does one stop the facelifts? At 70? 80? Does your face hit your chest when you do? What are the effects of 60 sessions of botox on the forehead (first shot in your thirties or forties, twice a year)?
My friend and I agreed that one possible future is a society divided into the Dones and the Naturals, the smaller group forming a sub-culture all of its own. Maybe it will be hip to be natural… the toothless, grey and wrinkled will rise up and celebrate old age in all its ghastliness? Or what if those who hold out against surgical enhancement are in the minority? Will they be pushed out of sight, ignored and abused? Given that money will no doubt be a determining factor it could be yet another way of marking out the poor and powerless in our world? And given that we change our scapegoats regularly in 40 years time the bete noire of society won’t be asylum seekers but it could be Naturals…

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