Returning to London last week after a refreshing sojourn on the Continent, I felt increasing gloom as I sat in Brussels' Eurostar terminal. "But everyone feels like that in Belgium," you're thinking. Well yes, but there was something else. What prompted my downward spiral was seeing British newspapers again.
New Year! New You! Lose the flab in three and a half hours! Every year the same thing, isn't it? It's a self-defeating paradox. If it's New Year! New You! again, it can't have worked last year, because there must still be a sad old you wanting to be new (again).
So in complete contradiction to last week's advice, I agree with reader Peter. Yes, what we want is results, not effort. Serendipitously (I have a resolution to use more six-syllable words) I have been in contact with a woman who really is seeing in 1999 with a genuinely new her. A new face. She has just had a non-surgical face-lift, or Exoderm Lifting.
For pounds 2,000 and eight days' incapacity and moderate pain, the non-surgical face-lift is excellent for coy British people. Cosmetic surgeon Maurizio Viel, director of the London Centre for Aesthetic Surgery in Harley Street, explains: "Exoderm treatment is excellent to counteract sun damage or the lines caused by smoking, or acne scars. When the skin looks old and tired, this treatment can take 10 years off without the need for surgery."
A chemical peel removes the top layer of the skin. The face is covered in tape which is removed the next day and an antiseptic powder applied. This reacts with the skin fluid and hardens into a protective mask. The mask stays on for eight days to protect the new skin from infection. During this time the face should not move too much. Soups and silence are recommended. Excessive laughter is also not encouraged. (One look in the mirror will dispel any chuckle urges.)
Eight days later, the mask is removed over several hours with the help of Vaseline. The face's redness calms down in about a fortnight. There is an immediate improvement but the skin continues to improve as it heals and the full effect isn't seen until three months later.
"I really looked forward to the eight days," says Diane. "I'm normally so busy. While it was a bit uncomfortable and hard to sleep, there were benefits. Because I had to eat through a straw, I lost half a stone."
And afterwards? Three months later, just in time for 1999, Diane does look different. "The lines round my mouth, from being a smoker, were virtually non-existent. The heavy lines on my forehead had gone. Dark patches, the result of years of being a sun addict, were smoothed out. I was very pleased."
Cheaper still, you can think yourself more beautiful. New Year! New You! New thinking about you! Personal therapist Michael Taylor, who specialises in positive body image, says, "Most people could lose several years by feeling better about themselves. How old you look is a lot to do with how you perceive yourself. Unknotting your eyebrows, smiling like you have something to smile about."
Five steps to the non-non-surgical face-mask. 1. Ask friends what they like about your looks. Take on their view. 2. Look in the mirror and focus on those good things. 3. Dress up more, especially when you can't be bothered. 4. Notice yourself frowning or doing that sad face that you normally carry in repose. Instead fill your face with a small secret smile. 5. Think "I look wonderful" as often as possible; if that seems too preposterous, at least try "I don't look as bad as I think I do".