When I went to Los Angeles in September, the sign at the newly refurbished airport proudly said ‘in Los Angeles even the airport gets a facelift’.
I thought it was just a joke but now I think it reflects the way that plastic surgery is part of the LA culture.
On Rodeo Drive the plastic surgeons, cafes and shops sit comfortably together. One morning, a woman in full facial bandages passed us in a wheelchair from a surgeon’s office to a waiting car. Not discretely but at mid-day on a busy street, with the nursing staff cheerily waving her goodbye (calling her by name).
Later at lunch, a good-looking woman sat at the table next to ours. A mature man arrived and throughout lunch called her ‘mom’. Step mum maybe, I thought. But I couldn’t be sure; her age was difficult to guess. The same day I saw a woman with a very similar look. I
wondered whether they shared the same
genes or surgeon.
That evening, a local woman shared her views on ageing with us. ‘I’m not ageing; I’m booking my first facelift’.
First? How many facelifts does she expect to have?
On one of the LA morning programmes they introduced a TV veteran’s new show with a montage of her over the last couple of decades. I watched a young women, change but not really get older, like a version of the original. The other presenters complimented her on ‘always looking gorgeous’.
It struck me that in the City of Angels plastic surgery is an open topic, accepted and talked about. Maybe they share tips on who does what best. The statistics show that more people are having procedures, particularly for anti-ageing. It could have something to do with Hollywood and the celebrity industry in LA – the need to look younger to get the next job – and it spreads from there.
I think it’s different in the UK but the stats say that more and more people have plastic surgery.
Last year Britain saw a double digit increase in procedures despite a double dip recession.
Plastic Surgery is very accessible. The procedures improve all the time, with better, faster recovery and fewer telltale signs. There are advertisements, open pricing and even easy payment options.
We can choose whether or not to spend money on it. But will we start to feel more pressure?
My mum talks about celebrities, how it’s OK for them; they look good because they have the time and money to ‘have work done’. But if she had the money I think we’d all have a great holiday and she’d decorate the house (again).
In the media we hear more about horror stories, bad experiences and people getting ‘addicted’ to it. Who doesn’t remember Lesley Ash’s lips? Then again, shock stories make better headlines.
There are also more people talking about celebrating ageing, not fighting it. For example, Anna Ford campaigning to see more older women on TV. Emma Thompson says she’d refuse to have surgery and is happy with her real face.
One of my friends says that it’s vanity; the British don’t want to admit that their looks aren’t natural. Another thinks that it’s the British attitude to playing fair and hating a cheat. In LA you should strive to be your best whatever the means. Men would rather wear wigs than go bald. In the UK, we admire people who are happy with who they are and how they look.
When I said I was writing about the differences in the two cultures, two of my friends said that they could only write about plastic surgery for purely cosmetic reasons in opposition. Strongly.
Am I for or against plastic surgery? For.
It’s very personal and I think that’s how it should be. If it makes a woman feel good about herself I wouldn’t judge. I might not agree she needed it or looked better.
The UK generally follows US trends (think Halloween and Proms) but I think plastic surgery in Los Angeles is an extreme, influenced by the prevalent industry and environment. And I think seeing the ‘work done’ before I saw the real person jarred with me.
Anna Ford would still be my number one news presenter, whatever age she looks. She’s a great role model for natural ageing and I admire her for it. Though if she chose to have work done, I wouldn’t like her any less.
I value personal freedom and the right to choose. But I’m against peer pressure (or industry pressure). And if my husband ever suggested I needed something doing, that would be grounds for divorce.
I do respect the openness in LA though, particularly if it results in greater awareness, understanding and people making better choices.