Thrifty Living: Sweet reason is lost along with the muffin top

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The Independent Online

suddenly, the sight of Louis Theroux attacking his flabby abs via liposuction is brought climactically into my house by the arrival of Spendthrift Janie, who turns up for a cup of coffee. Note: in an attempt to save money we have given up drinking coffee at Carluccio's, since it invariably extended to a search for extra-virgin olive oil and artichokes at the deli counter, plus a recce in the neighbouring shoe shop and ended up costing, on occasions, about £200 a pop.

As I wrestle with the espresso-maker my friend dramatically pulls up her shirt, revealing a light pink surgical corset, exactly like the one Theroux was sporting. "Me too!" says Janie. "I couldn't bear my muffin top any longer. I've had SmartLipo!" Blimey. "In the lunch-hour! Don't you think I'm terribly brave! It was like when we rushed out once after school and had our ears pierced at Elys in Wimbledon, do you remember?!" Yes, but ear piercing took about two seconds and didn't involve people in surgical masks leaning over your semi-naked frame with nasty suction devices. But still. Janie is the first of my friends to have plastic surgery. I guess it's a rite of middle-aged passage, of sorts.

What does one say first – did it hurt, has it worked, or how much did it cost? "Did it hurt?" I ask. I mean, I haven't entirely discounted leaning on Father Surgery myself, as well as Mother Nature, for help in the midriff area. "It wasn't all that painful," breezes Janie. "Well, a bit uncomfortable, but you have local anaesthetic injected into the fat before it gets lazered out. There was one area right in the middle where the anaesthetic didn't quite reach. That was hellish. Like being poked around with a steel rod. " I nod seriously, as if I know exactly what she is talking about. "How much did it cost, then?"

She pulls her top back over the corset. "Well, because I have a serious tummy problem I needed two areas to be treated, you see. Upper and lower abdominals." One area costs around £1,800. If you have two at once, it's almost double, but you get a slight discount. My dear friend has just blown £3,400 on her midriff.

"Do you realise how much you have spent, Janie? You are insane!"

"Yes, but, think about it, it's probably the same as a year's worth of gym membership, some new jeans, and several sessions with a personal trainer. Plus, as well as getting a new body, having Smart Lipo saves you doing something like a million sit-ups, so think of all the time you are saving."

Well, put it like that, it sounds like a great way to save money. But then, as I well know, you can turn anything around to make it sound as if you are saving money. Money is just one of those slippery things which you can turn into anything you like. A friend of mine spent £3,000 on a honeymoon in Sri Lanka, rather than £6,000 on one in the Maldives. According to her, she therefore "saved" £3,000, although even she admitted the logic was somewhat warped. Warped financial logic, dear thrift-seeker, is what befalls those who want something very much indeed. You twist the arguments to such an extent that they become knotted out of all recognition. Then, once you can't recognise that you are a financial basket case who needs help, you spend the money you wanted to spend in the first place.

"What did the doctor say to you while he was, er, lazering off all your fat?"

"He was quite sweet, really," says Janie. "I was SO nervous, I had to do my deep-breathing ante-natal exercises. At one point, between breaths, I asked him if this was going to have a better effect on my belly than sensible diet and exercise. Do you know, Rosie, he said No! Imagine. I'd just swiped my MasterCard for a total of £3,400 and this character admits that in the long run, doing half marathons and eating radishes all day long is going to be more effective. Still, great corset, no?" she says, looking down at it. "I might try it out with those Westwood knickerbockers from my Adam Ant days."

"Well," I say brightly to her, "surely its going to be bikinis on Christmas Day, is it not?" She looks down at her belly. "I hope so. Apparently 10 per cent of these operations don't really work very well. However, if my stomach hasn't gone down by Christmas, the doctor says I can come back and he'll do me again. For free. Plus," she said, grimacing, "he'll throw in a Valium this time for good measure." What a bargain.

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