Editor-At-Large: Why is it such a crime to be saggy?

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The Independent Online

With one in four of our real "yoof" officially classified as criminals, it's time to get tough. But the latest government clampdown deals with the growing army of smooth-talking charming men in white coats who promise the sagging, the stressed out and the sad a temporary extension

With one in four of our real "yoof" officially classified as criminals, it's time to get tough. But the latest government clampdown deals with the growing army of smooth-talking charming men in white coats who promise the sagging, the stressed out and the sad a temporary extension

of youth. Everyone knows someone who's had a bit of a lift, but it took the sight of Jackie Stallone in Celebrity Big Brother to finally get the message across to the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson. Yes, extraordinary though it may seem, plastic surgery, Botox, implants and facelifts can go wrong.

Of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and Jackie is married to a plastic surgeon, but there's no doubt that as a nation we are totally addicted to the needle. The sagging trifle that constituted Jackie's features will have had zero effect on the thousands of people who got up today and decided that the only way to get a new job, get the respect of their friends or have sex with anything that breathes, is to be surgically enhanced.

The biggest sin of the 21st century is to sag. When Michael Jackson's nose sprouted a hole, we laughed. We smirked at Leslie Ash's trout pout. We sneered at Julie Christie's makeover. But far from denigrating Jordan, the woman who really proves being fake can makes you a fortune, we all rushed out and bought her book.

And as we succumbed, the booming cosmetic surgery business has operated under fewer controls than that pig farm in Northumbria which gave the country foot and mouth.

Ironically, one of the reasons for all the new regulations and controls over procedures, such as Botox, is the danger that it might introduce vCJD and hepatitis into the patient's bloodstream. Not to mention the possibility that the collagen used to pump up lips and cheeks might be infected with BSE. I can only imagine the scenario if the Government hadn't bravely waded in with new rules to protect us.

Imagine it's 2009 and vCJD is rampant. Men in sterilised overalls are searching the suburbs for victims, putting them to death by injection and then stacking up and ritually burning the carcasses of tens of thousands of pert-breasted pouting skinny women in pyres all around our major cities.

Like a war zone, the smoke will be seen for miles and every now and then there's a bang as a breast implant or buttock enhancing pad explodes filling the sky with fireworks.

I suppose it's this kind of nightmare that prompted governmental action.

But for me the prospect of ridding the country of an entire generation of perfect fake cosmetically enhanced people (from Geri Halliwell to Kylie to Caprice to Simon Cowell) riddled with plastic bits and pieces was always exciting. Sadly now it will just be one of my favourite daydreams.

Simon Gillespie, head of operations at the Healthcare Commission, tells us that registered cosmetic surgeons "mostly" meet their standards. Hang on a minute. So you can be a registered plastic surgeon, hang a certificate on your wall, and have as much idea of how to conduct a facelife as I have?

Even the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons admits that its members can mislead clients about their qualifications. And, most important of all, when it's youth and pert you want, who cares how they do it? Being plain or suffering a bit of pain? It's a no-brainer.

I am a Botox-free zone, and when I emerged from the jungle people were busy looking behind my ears, under my eyes and in my hairline convinced I'd been enhanced. What I'd done was stop working, lift a load of logs, drink water, eat little, lose six pounds and not wash my hair - as simple as that.

Even Mr Blair's holiday in Egypt was mooted (erroneously) by the Daily Mail as a chance to recover from plastic surgery. But, if he had, he'd only be copying his bosom buddy Berlusconi.

Almost all the women in my business who appear on television or in the public eye are surgery addicts. Some, like Anne Robinson, become evangelists for their new face.

Others, like Princess Michael, make the fatal mistake of trying to pretend they just wear moisturiser and have "good genes".

Some, like Lynne Franks, complain when the Botox goes wrong and they look like they've had a stroke.

One plastic surgeon in Harley Street has a framed private letter on display in his surgery from an ex-member of the Spice Girls thanking him for the brilliant liposuction job he did in removing more than 10 pounds of fat from her stomach and thighs.

This is a woman who told all her young female fans she achieved her lithe shape through a "sensible" diet and exercise.

I hope she gets vCJD. If you lie about your new-found youth, you seem pathetic. If you tell the truth, you still seem pathetic as far as I can see. It's so humiliating. The person who wins is the man who took your cash and then puts your confidential letter on his wall.

We're all hypocrites when it comes to plastic surgery. We eat our TV dinners watching gallons of yellow fat fly around the operating theatre in Nip/tuck on SkyOne, and in the United States Extreme Makeover was a huge hit. Viewers in their millions adored the gore and gristle as members of the public were turned into versions of their idols via major operations.

From 10 February the British version will be aired on the Living Channel and yet more blood and cartilage will be starring in our living rooms.

To promote the series, I've been invited to a Botox party at a fashionable club, promised a red carpet to pose on, a goodie bag (who knows - a phial of Botox or a jab of collagen?) and the chance to "participate", be injected, pampered, made to pout and look perky, by one of the experts present. I doubt there'll be a shortage of takers.

How many women do you know whose foreheads simply can't move? Whose breasts are still where they were at 18 no matter whether they lie down or swing from the ceiling? Their flat stomachs are maintained by colonic irrigation or regular liposuction, leaving horrible scars they seem so proud of?

I find myself talking to comedians, actresses and models and have no idea which emotion they are trying to convey. Then, when they approach 40, it all goes horribly wrong. Their faces morph into masks devoid of any life whatsoever. They suddenly become versions of the Duchess of Windsor.

From Australian singers to catwalk queens, they're all addicts. What will happen when the day comes when they decide to hit rehab and give up?

In 10 years' time clinics like the Priory won't be full of junkies and alcoholics, but women trying to handle looking into the mirror and seeing an inch of droop. They've already put their long-term sanity in someone else's hands, and no amount of legislation can help.

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