Private Lives: The regeneration game

A Family Affair; Maureen Ingram, 51, a beauty therapist, and her husband Neil, 52, a photographe r, live near Lincoln and they have a son Nick, aged 29. Between them the couple have so far spent around pounds 20,000 on plastic surgery, and both feel that looking young is extremely important to them.
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Maureen's story

From the age of around 20 I always said to friends that I'd have a facelift when I got older. I don't like the look of old age; I just don't find it in the slightest bit appealing. If you can put it off for a little while, why not? I've never had much confidence in my looks and when I turned 40 my self-esteem dwindled even more.

I'd always talked to Neil about having a facelift and he suggested it when I hit 47. I think he was aware how I was feeling about myself and said something like, "OK, I think you ought to look into it this year." It wouldn't matter to him if I had it done or not: it was for my benefit he suggested it.

If Neil hadn't liked the idea, I'd still have gone ahead. We don't have the sort of relationship where I need his approval. I didn't do it to be more attractive to Neil - we've been together far too long for me to do something like that. It didn't change my relationship with him at all. This was all about how I viewed myself. I think a lot of wives are bullied into not having plastic surgery by their husbands. British men have a very blinkered attitude.

Neil was very encouraging, though, and so was my son Nick. His view was: "Go for it". So I took out a loan for around pounds 10,000 and went to New York. From the moment I had the consultation I was absolutely thrilled. I found a surgeon I was very happy with who only did face and neck surgery.

I had a facelift, lip augmentation and my upper and lower eyes done. Neil saw me on the 11th day after surgery and he was surprised how little bruising there was. I looked pretty normal and he could see it was going to look good. Within weeks I began to feel wonderful.

The surgery made me more confident. Until then, I would never sit directly in the light in case people saw my lines. After the facelift I suddenly didn't mind being under scrutiny. Six months later I went back for the finishing touches - laser resurfacing to get rid of the fine lines. It was like turning the clocks back 10 years and just putting the brakes on.

About a year later, Neil and I discussed the possibility of him having a facelift too. I think he began to feel like my father when people saw us together. When my son saw us the first thing he said to me was, "What are you doing with that old man?" When I first met Neil he'd always looked older than his years and from 45 onwards he began to age dramatically. I suppose I was far more aware of him looking older than me after my surgery. I think he saw that it had done me the world of good and thought "Why can't I look younger as well?"

I do find Neil more attractive now. He looks so much better. Maybe I seem superficial but it's nicer to be with someone who looks younger; someone who's not so saggy and tired-looking.

Neil's story

Maureen's views on surgery came up very early on in our relationship. Old age was never something I found attractive either. She told me that one day she'd definitely want a facelift and felt she wasn't going to allow time to wear me down. Maureen was always a bit of a head turner; I think the better you look, the harder it hits you when you start to lose it. When you get to 40 you seem to go downhill. I could see Maureen wasn't as young looking as she used to be.

My view was, "Go ahead. When you need to do it, do it." So, 20 years later, when she suggested it, my views hadn't changed. My only thoughts were about finding the best doctor to do it. She found someone in New York and I trusted her choice. I got a phone call from her soon after she'd gone over there and that's the only time I was worried about her. She'd just had the operation and she couldn't talk properly because of the pressure bandage. I felt a bit emotional because she was 3,000 miles away. I thought, "Is she suffering?" and if she was I couldn't do anything for her.

But when she came back she began to look good so quickly. As a former engineer, I thought the structural work they'd done was amazing. I couldn't believe how they'd done it. I was so pleased for her. I look at her through rose-tinted glasses anyway but this wasn't just about looks. I don't find her more attractive physically. It's the whole package; her whole being. She's become her old self again; laughing and full of beans. She doesn't spend time worrying about her looks fading. It was a psychological boost for her.

About six months after the facelift, her surgeon came to London and we had dinner - she knew him quite well by then. He turned to me at one point and said, "I'm seeing you in November." Maureen agreed and said "You're going over there for a facelift."

As soon as Maureen said, "You're going", I couldn't wait. I'd never spent money on myself before then; my wardrobe is pitiful. Also I was beginning to lose my hair rapidly and I began to seem like Maureen's sugar daddy... I was aware that there seemed like a huge age difference between us. It did get me down that I was beginning to show a lot of wear and tear. I had a double chin. My eyes were closing and my nose was hooking. Women say men get more attractive as they get older but that only works for men with power and money.

So I had my nose straightened, my eyes and chin done and a hair transplant. It cost about pounds 9,000. I came back looking totally different and felt great. Maureen does think I'm more attractive but I know she doesn't love me any more than she ever has done. I think Nick's as supportive as he can be. It must be difficult for him because he's the one who should be the youngest - it's almost as if we're overshadowing him. I think Nick would be very upset if he thought we were going to carry on with the surgery and become obsessed with ageing, which we're not.

Saying that, I don't think Maureen and I will grow old gracefully; we'll always act younger than our years. All we've done is make the outside look a little more like the inside feels.

Maureen and Neil are featured in a BBC2 documentary `Naked: Eighteen 'til I Die' on Wednesday 25 November at 9.50pm