Vicki Woods: Are you seeing the right plastic surgeon? You can't just boast about any old nose-job or lip-plumping, you know

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The Independent Online

I read a lot of female-friendly printed matter (the shiny sheets every Tuesday and the Daily Mail, which annoyingly comes out every damn day). I feel it's my duty to keep up with the current wisdom about What Every Woman Needs to Know, but can be rather depressing reading, especially in the Mail (which is more female-fearful than -friendly). Over my lifetime, they must have given me around 15 million bossy tips already, all beginning with Don't: a) get fat, b) get cancer, c) let the romance die and d) selfishly work for a living while leaving my feral children to the feckless care of childminders. Their latest advice is for me to make a "valid investment in self-confidence" by commissioning one or more of the tip-top, must-have, sought-after cosmetic surgeons to shave, file and pad out my body parts. Not only would this make me "more beautiful, more persuasive and better able to lead an active, satisfying life," it would mean I could show off about how savvy I was to have secured a star surgeon.

Cosmetic surgery is nothing new, of course. It's been as easily purchasable as handbags or bedlinen for yonks now. What's new is the status quotient. Tara Palmer-Tomkinson's badly deteriorated septum was repaired and her new nose sculpted by Martin Kelly, "the king of rhinoplasty". Displaying your new Martin Kelly nose-job indicates that you are a person of wealth and taste, just as much as displaying your Frette sheets or your python Stam bag. What's also new – or newish – is the cheerleading aspect to status-surgery, whipped up by all those telly programmes and competitions in men's mags where the top prize is not (as it might be) something red and shiny with nippy acceleration, but a pair of big bazooms for the woman in your life.

Martin Kelly himself declares that nipping and tucking is now "a celebratory experience" rather than one shrouded in the guilt of vanity and self-indulgence, as formerly. Indeed, he says, friends and family often come along to lend support on the initial consultation. "Husbands accompany wives, and fathers as well as mothers now come with their daughters." (Fathers? Isn't that slightly wacky? I'm not sure Daddy is best placed to judge which of his daughter's bits need augmentation.)

As a glance at my headshot will prove, (don't linger, folks, nothing to see, move along), I am well behind the curve on status-surgery. No Botox or lip-plumping (by Dr Michael Prager, "the king of injectibles"). No eye-lifts (from Naresh Joshi) or thread-lift (from Dr Lucy Glancey). No nothing, from any of these masters of their trade. The camera never lies (not for me, unlike for Kelly Osborne). If you feel that the displayed face is somewhat mumsy, I can only plead that I was standing next to my daughter when the picture was taken. You'll notice that the (unplumped) mouth is tightly closed, even while smiling, and you may rightly assume that that's because I haven't had any BriteSmile work done, nor any little porcelain caps fitted on to the fangs to make them shapelier. (Why not? Oh God, I don't know. Who has the time?) Maybe I oughtta, though.

Last time I was in LA, I was having a manicure at Jessica's nail salon on Sunset and kept being distracted by the woman next to me. She had something in her mouth, flashing, like a – what? A miniature torch? A diamond tongue-stud? I couldn't tell and tried not to peer. Only as she was leaving, did I see that it was her teeth, big, bold and bright blue-white, the kind of white that men's shirts turn under disco lighting. She crossed the salon to come back to me: "I saw you looking at my teeth." "No, no", I said, pink with embarrassment. She must have been 60, and though the preservation was pretty expert, a 60 year-old with shimmery blue-white teeth looks crazily odd. She said: "I'm going to do you a real favour. I discovered THE best guy in the whole of California and he's right on the doorstep in Bel Air. You're British, right?" Hiding the obviously British teeth behind my LA-manicured hand, I whispered "Yes, um, er". "Here's his cellphone number. I don't give it out to too many people because I like to keep him for myself. He is ex-PEN-sive, OK? But you're worth it." That was five years ago. I lost the number, or I might have been grinning sassily down at you right now. Shoulda, coulda, woulda, huh?

My daughter's Facebook picture has her pulling a face to a friend's camera. She's well under the age for niptucking, and looks like my mother (a raving beauty), not like me, lucky her. So why the "funny" picture? She said: "You don't want to look as if you're putting out a 'good' picture of you on Facebook." There's a bit of a culture about having a goofy picture. You don't want to look like you're trawling for a date. Like there's a bit of a culture about the amount of friends you put in. I got a message from a guy who had 335 friends and asked me to be one, but I thought, No, I don't want to be 336th friend, thank you. I logged on to Facebook and typed in a dozen friends but none of their names were on the damn thing.

Before logging off, I idly typed in my son's name and lo – there he was. I barely recognised him. Since he's based in the Middle East, I see him only three or four times a year and always with varying amounts of facial hair. It depends on whether his most recent assignment was to a more liberal Islamic country (longer hair, clean-shaven) or a more conservative one (cropped head, raggy beard and moustache). His Facebook picture displayed a brooding, very clean-shaven and Western-looking bloke, full-length in a tight black vest and low-slung combats. Blimey. Very decadent. Not something you'd want the Minister for the Suppression of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue to see on your arrival at Riyadh. When did he get that pop-starry picture taken? I asked my daughter. She fell about laughing. "That's not him!" she said. "He's used Enrique Iglesias for his picture. Like an avatar. You're supposed to know that. All your Facebook friends would know that."

Oh, right. Now I'm dithering between headshots of Amy Winehouse, Andrea Dworkin and Anna Wintour for my Facebook ID. (And that's just the As.) And maybe Anna is a bad idea, actually. I was in New York when she had her first surgery done, and a mutual friend was praising the "great work on that face" over dinner. He put his fork down, stared at me and said: " Honey, you know what? You should use her guy."

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