The Third Leader: Skin deep

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The Independent Online

Are you shocked by the revelation that Britons will shortly be spending more on cosmetic surgery than they do on cups of tea? I agree that at first sight it is a startling statistic - more than £610m a year - but, as so often, a little reflection brings perspective, proportion and explanation. For a start, and for instance, in most cases it's much easier after having the treatment to drink something with a straw.

There again, you might be disturbed to discover further proof that many of your fellow citizens - not you, obviously - are insecure self-obsessives betrayed by a compulsion to external rather than internal improvement. In mitigation, I would ask you to contemplate the available role models. Who is there, today, in the public eye, who conveys a noble, sensible, uncomplaining way with life's lot? No one, I would submit, since the sad loss of George, the Blue Peter tortoise.

I should also add that there is nothing wrong with taking pride in your appearance, even if it, and they, are not the ones you were born with. And would you really begrudge these people the chance of happiness? (Well, yes, I know it can be hard to tell if they're happy, but the fault there lies with the Botox, not them. Joan Rivers remembers a birthday party where nobody could blow the candles out.)

Think, too, of the easy superiority and permission to decay afforded by the latest picture of eerily fixed eyebrow and permanent startle, and ponder on how you would be if every time you looked left your right knee rose. Nice cup of tea, anyone?

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