Forget the facelift, get a divorce

Share
Related Topics
In 1996, nearly two million people in the United States underwent cosmetic surgery. When I say people, what I really mean is women, given that almost 90 per cent of the patients are female. So it is not entirely surprising that Hillary Clinton is reported to be considering a facelift as she prepares to run for the US Senate, apparently thinking that a new, younger appearance may make her more attractive to voters. We are forever being told that men prefer youthful-looking women, certainly as sexual partners, so why should the same theory not hold true at the ballot box?

From Britain, where cosmetic surgery has yet to reach the epidemic proportions of the United States - the equivalent of one operation per year for every 150 people - things look rather different. Hillary Clinton's appearance seems to me the least of her problems, which have more to do with her loyalty to her ghastly husband and her readiness to make excuses for his shortcomings - both political and personal. Indeed a willingess to submit to what is in effect a form of self-mutilation suggests an underlying malaise which is emotional rather than physical, especially in the instance of a woman who has so many reasons to feel furious about the way her husband has treated her - and so little outlet for her rage other than her own face and body.

In any case, facelifts and all the other costly procedures of cosmetic surgery create as many problems as they claim to solve. Four or five years ago, I began to notice attractive women of a certain age with curiously immobile faces, and it was a while before I realised why their range of expressions was so limited. They reminded me of the characters in L P Hartley's forgotten but chilling novel Facial Justice, about a dystopian society in which everyone has an operation to look the same. The American novelist Erica Jong, writing about her own surgery, captured this unsettling absence of individuality when she described her new face as "a moon into which no craters have been carved". She also admitted to feelings of loss: "My face looks blameless. My soul is all stitched up".

Why, then, are so many women doing it? Because we are routinely bombarded with messages that tell us we have to look young - and act young - to please a man. At one end of the scale there is The Rules, the bestselling book which advises women to retreat into a parody of 1950s femininity to get a husband; at the other, we have the new pseudo-science of evolutionary psychology informing us that men are genetically programmed to chase younger women. Men "universally prefer younger mates", announces an idiot's guide which landed on my desk this week, while "all over the world, women prefer mates older than they are".

This is comically untrue, as has been proved by the horrified reaction of most women of my acquaintance to the sight of wrinkly old Michael Douglas groping Catherine Zeta-Jones. Nor do I know any woman who has exclaimed, over pictures of Rupert Murdoch and his bride Wendi Deng: "Wow, what a hunk! Lucky Wendi! How did she do it?"

The truth is we are all attracted to youth and beauty, though neither is a determining factor on its own. Rich, successful women tend to go out with men their own age or younger, for the simple reason that they can; the power relation has shifted in their favour. In this context, cosmetic surgery is a throwback to a time when a woman's sole asset was her appearance, which had to be preserved at all costs. Hillary Clinton is hardly in this position: if she wants to be taken seriously, a divorce would be considerably more effective, and physically less traumatic, than going under the knife.

ANOTHER DAY, another massacre in an American city, this time killing seven people (not including the gunman) in a church in a suburb of Fort Worth. Photos of shocked survivors dominate the front pages, murdered teenagers smile from college yearbooks, but what else is there to say? Everyone knows the problem is guns, and the lack of political will to ban them. So let's just reflect on a couple of paradoxes about contemporary American culture, starting with the fact that the end of the Cold War and the consequent absence of external enemies has created a vacuum which is rapidly being filled by right-wing militias and lone gunmen. The second is that the American government, which is so intent on not spilling a drop of its soldiers' blood in Kosovo or East Timor, allows the carnage at home to continue unchecked. Double standards have seldom been so obvious, or so lethal.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Solution Architect - Contract

£500 - £600 per day: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Solution Architect is requir...

360 Resourcing Solutions: Export Sales Coordinator

£18k - 20k per year: 360 Resourcing Solutions: ROLE: Export Sales Coordinato...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest developer of mobile...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The old 1,000 Greek drachma notes and current 20 euros  

Greece debt crisis: History shows 'new drachma' is nothing to fear

Ben Chu
David Cameron leaves Number 10 to speak at Parliament  

Tunisia attack: To prevent more bloodshed we must accept that containment has not worked

Patrick Cockburn
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue