Male cosmetic surgeons and doctors advising women on how to “age gracefully”?
It’s such an absurd notion that I usually snort with derision and move on.
But there was something so deeply awful, clinical and uncomprehending about this double-page spread in Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph, “Ageing With Grace”, that I read it not once, but twice, to take it all in.
It was one of those times when you pause and ask yourself: Just how did we get here? And how can we make it stop?
“Miranda Wood asks the experts how six well-known faces are fighting time”. That’s what the intro to the article says. The two “experts” who give their opinion – surgeon Dr. Mark Kohout and physician Dr. Jeremy Cumpston – spin a buck by telling women how to stay ageless. They call it “aesthetic medicine”, as if growing old is condition that can be cured.
And they have just the expensive medical treatment for you at one of their fine and reputable clinics.
There in the newspaper were the lovely faces of six of Australia’s most-admired women, dissected as if they were just slabs of meat – the contour of their faces, their bone structure, the “looseness” and “discolouration” of their skin – all was up for appraisal.
One model was congratulated for managing to retain her full baby-faced cheeks, “no doubt her beauty will endure over time”. Another for now having flatter cheeks and gaining a “sophisticated look”. Every feature was relentlessly scrutinised: “her breasts were not as high as they once were”; “her eyelids are still nice and high”.
And in what was a compliment (I’m supposing) on the observation of lines on a forehead was this… “she’s human after all”.
Well how glad I am for that comment, because, until then, one could have been forgiven for thinking that Jennifer Hawkins, Miranda Kerr, Nicole Kidman, Kylie Minogue, Elle McPherson and Asher Keddie were livestock at a cattle-yard sale, or prize hens at a local agricultural show.
No examination here of their remarkable achievements as successful artists, mothers, family members, businesswomen or philanthropists – just faces examined for flaws according to what these two doctors call “the angle of beauty”.
What a crude and ugly way to judge a woman. (The ideal is 81 degrees between the centre of the chin and the outer edge of the cheekbones, for those of you contemplating the knife.)
Here’s my angle on ageing with grace. Fuck off!
I never want to hear your opinions on “jaw-dropping grace and class and beauty”, ever again. Because you wouldn’t know it if it bit you on the balls.
This is the woman I admire most in the world… Of course it’s the incomparable Jo Brand.
Now what would these two aesthetic surgeons have to say about the symmetry of beauty here?
Because what I see is a beauty that is utterly timeless (get your slide rules out, fellas, I dare you). Jo is the woman I’d quite like to be.
She describes herself as “no oil painting” but is sought after to sit next to our Kylie on celebrity TV couches to add to the glamour of the occasion. (Oh, for just a smidge of Jo’s self-confidence. I weep for it sometimes. I truly do.)
She’d been working as a psychiatric nurse and her decision to pursue comedy was paying off. Back then she was all mad hair, red lippy, Doc Marten boots (she still wears ‘em) and had stood her ground when the men in the audience yelled “Get off you fat cow, you lezzer… Or we’ll kill you!”
I was backstage and in awe of a woman who had taken it all in her stride. Not only was Jo funny as all get out, when she laughed it was from her bovver boots up. She was pure loveliness and kindness and… Well… I just loved her to bits.
Jo Brand’s philanthropic causes are both legendary and secret. Tales of her immense generosity are spoken of in awe. No wonder she’s been named one of Britain’s national treasures.
And on hearing that news she said: “I would rather maintain a decent taint of… national disgrace.”
The superb television series “Getting On”, which Jo co-wrote and starred in, is set in the geriatric ward of an NHS hospital. It’s heartbreaking, uplifting, profound and is one of my favourite TV shows of all time.
Jo won a BAFTA for her role as nurse Kim Wilde (pictured above). “We wanted to capture the sheer quiet desperation of it all,” she said.
Faced with death, appearances are worthless. Jo shows us this – without a shred of personal vanity- in her portrayal of a weary nurse caught up in a bastard system that now calls patients “customers”.
How sad that there’s a sheer quiet desperation for so many women when they look into the mirror as they age. I know of it. On my worst days, I’m one.
Then I remember that the “angle” of beauty is never regular or symmetrical. It’s wonky, askew and cannot be measured or quantified with a surgeon’s calipers, a scale or a high-tech skin analysis. Confidence, humour, compassion, empathy… no so-called aesthetic medical “expert” has come up with a way to implant that yet.
Until they do, I’ll keep laughing … in between shouting obscenities.
I’ve a feeling Jo would be cheering me on.
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