A friend went to the wedding of a British man and his Texan girlfriend. She looked across the aisle and saw a whole row of identical-looking women.
“I didn’t know Diane had so many sisters,” she said to her neighbour. “Oh, they’re not family,” came the reply. “They’ve just all gone to the same plastic surgeon.”
Scroll forward 10 years and that’s what we might be seeing here: the normalisation of cosmetic surgery.
The increasing number of us going under the knife has been scarily unaffected by recession. Borrowing for cosmetic surgery is now the third most common reason for getting into debt.
For a medical process that can cause disfigurement and even death, the rules are astonishingly lax.
Any doctor can work as a cosmetic surgeon. When patients go for a consultation, it’s as often with a sales rep as a surgeon.
If that weren’t shocking enough, turn to the back pages of any women’s glossy magazine. You’ll be promised happiness, confidence, self-esteem and a better you.
The ads are not, of course, selling psychotherapy, or meditation lessons. Even the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons has called for a ban on this sort of advertising.
But we also need to look deeper and ask why women hate their bodies so much that they are prepared to spend a fortune in going under the knife.
We are constantly being told that the ideal woman is an impossible combination of slender body and big breasts; that she has flawless, unlined skin and freakishly long legs.
Then we see women being chosen, as TV presenters or celebrity WAGs, entirely on the basis of their youth and beauty — not their intelligence, or wisdom, or kindness, or humour.
Men can age and be ugly in public life; women can’t.
It doesn’t have to be like this. For it’s actually in the fashion industry’s business interest to act differently.
Studies have shown that women are more than twice as likely to buy an advertised outfit if the model is their size, or age. They say they can better picture themselves in the clothes and they feel more beautiful and confident when the model reflects them.
If there were more body shapes and ages in ads and magazines, women would feel better about themselves and manufacturers would make more money.
If broadcasters stopped showing programmes that normalised and sanitised plastic surgery, we would feel under less pressure to try it.
And then, perhaps, women could stop looking at themselves through a filter of self-hatred.
Instead of obsessing about how they look on the outside, they could start thinking about who they are on the inside.
The ‘new you’ comes from changing the way you think, not from the surgeon’s knife. It’s cheaper, it’s healthier, it’s safer and it’s longer-lasting.