Of flat buttocks, balloons and Botox buffs

Nothing surprises me anymore, particularly if it concerns fashionable ladies-who-lunch
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The Independent Culture
"NINETY PER cent of the women in this room," observed my model- agent friend Melissa knowingly, surveying the bevy of fortysomething women lunching in one of the smarter London tennis clubs, "have had buttocks. You can tell by their frozen expressions."

Nothing surprises me any more, particularly if it concerns fashionable ladies-who-lunch. I looked vainly round the tables for the animated faces of the 10 per cent who still had buttocks but they all looked pretty rigid to me. The real surprise was that they could sit down for so long without discomfort - buttocks serve as cushions after all - but then again that may have accounted for their frozen expressions. They were all in terrible pain.

"Is it the new slimming thing then, having your buttocks removed?" I asked Melissa with interest. "Surely it must affect your tennis? What about all those muscles in your backside attached to your hamstrings? If they're removed, can you still run about?"

"On the other hand," I added looking enviously at the two women who had finished their lunch and were now heading towards the courts, "I do see why they want to be flat-bottomed." Both women looked immaculate in designer tennis dresses with pleated miniskirts whose folds hung razor- sharp, straight and true from their fleshless buttocks-free hips.

It was Melissa's expression that froze now. "What on earth are you talking about? I didn't say buttocks, I said Botox. You know, that new treatment that gets rid of wrinkles and crow's feet. Everyone's having it done. You must have heard of it."

I've heard of something called Acid Peel, a cream which you smear on your face and leave for as many minutes as you want layers of skin removed. Five is the recommended number; more than seven and you're literally dead meat. When you remove it, your skin is as taut, smooth and shiny as a balloon. Was Botox a version of that? Apparently not. It's far stronger than acid, for a start. It stands for botulinum toxin, a lethal poison normally associated with serious forms of food-poisoning. That's why you have to have it done by a qualified dermatologist in a hospital, not by your run-of-the-mill beautician in between eyebrow-tinting and pedicures. Injected into your muscles, Botox paralyses them, thus preventing the formation of wrinkles and crow's feet. Hence the frozen smiles. Injected into your blood it will kill you.

Personally, I like wrinkles. I go along with whoever said that you read the lines on a person's face as you read a map. If they haven't got any it means they haven't been anywhere. The only place those immaculate tennis-players had been, to judge from their faces, was in a taxi to the Botox clinic. The usual practice, said Melissa, who knows all about this sort of thing because even her 16-year-old models are paranoid about getting wrinkles, is to book a double session comprising Botox for your face while simultaneously the excess cellulite is being sucked from your backside. There, I knew buttocks came into it.

I called a couple of dermatology clinics to get more information, but all their Botox buffs were too busy to talk. What do you make of all this, I asked Tracey, the new apprentice beautician at the hairdresser's round the corner. So far she can only do leg-waxing and false nails. Well, said Tracey thoughtfully, her best friend Hayley, who had just qualified, swore by collagen implants for wrinkles. And it was much safer; collagen is fat, not poison. It doesn't freeze any muscles; it just plumps out the creases.

Here's a green thought. You could kill two birds with one stone by recycling your excess cellulite directly into your wrinkles. OK, it doesn't sound very attractive, and I'm not sure the ladies-who-lunch would buy the idea at this early drawing-board stage, but given the proper marketing and advertising, they'd soon see the sense in it. It might even make them smile.

Crow's feet apart, if you're wondering what a slouch like me was doing at a fashionable London tennis club, the answer is very little. It was a charity lunch and Melissa had persuaded me to come. Women who play tennis socially are a daunting breed. They all appear to be called Penny and have huge feet. "Oh I say Penny - good shot." "No, honestly Penny, cerise is your colour, you look gorgeous."

A coach at an even smarter club told me he was once playing with a formidable woman just before Wimbledon. Ivan Lendl was knocking-up on the court next to theirs. The formidable woman looked briefly at Lendl practise- serving - balls flying like bullets, each one sending up a tiny cloud of chalk-dust as it hit the line - and remarked: "Mmm, quite a good player. Is he a member?"