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: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
RIP Voicemail?  

Voicemail has got me out of some tight corners, so let's not abandon it

Simon Kelner
A sculpture illustrating the WW1 Christmas Truce football match in Liverpool  

It's been 100 years since the Christmas Truce, but football is still changing the world

Jim Murphy and Dan Jarvis
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there