TEN YEARS AGO, I HAD A NOSE JOB. Seven years ago, I had my jaw done. And four years ago, I decided I was knocking on a bit, and that it was high time my heavily lined forehead got ironed out once and for all. I was on holiday – never a good time to make a decision you have to live with for three months – and ended up at a surgery with, shall we say, rather a heavy-handed approach to Botox. The result was an attractive combination of Neanderthal and boiled egg; shiny and smooth, but with brows that had sloped so far down my face that they looked like they were doing a Brexit. Eyeliner, as you can imagine, was a nightmare.
Still, it wasn’t enough to put me off for good, having another bash a few months later, this time with the immortal words, “Just a sprinkling please, doc!” Thankfully, I’ve now found Dr Jaffer Khan to successfully slay my wrinkles at his place in Al Manara. Well, I say “found.” He’s been in Dubai for 18 years and goes by the name ‘The King of Botox’, so it wasn’t exactly hard. “Wouldn’t trust my face with anyone else, babe,” was the advice I got from one of my most level-headed friends, the clincher being that I had no idea she’d even had it done.
Now that, to me, is the best kind of Botox. The sort that you could easily get confused with a series of 12-hour kips, or a really good yoga holiday. Not the type that makes you look like Jafar from Aladdin caught at a particularly surprised moment. Basically, less is more. And that’s advice for life, kids, not just for the odd injectable.
I know what you’re thinking. Another high-maintenance fashion idiot, spending her working day telling other people how to look, and believing her own trotted-out hype so much that she’s attempted to make it her reality as well as all of ours.
Well, sorry. No, really. Sorry if my people and I – we pariahs of the women’s magazine industry – have ever made you feel that you’re not smooth or unattainably thin enough. Sorry if we’ve perpetuated a beauty myth that consisted of a thigh gap and a permanent Valencia ﬁlter. Sorry if we’ve ever told you that spirulina is the answer to all your problems. In fairness, we believed this too for a while. And sorry if meanwhile, in the other ear, we cheerfully insisted that you are just dandy the way you are. We understand that this was perhaps a wee bit confusing.
Here’s the thing, though. Being a woman is a funny old ﬁsh. It’s multifaceted and it’s contradictory – and I hold my hands up and say that, despite writing about this stuff for a living, I am mostly wandering around in the dark just like you, with the occasional ﬂash brieﬂy illuminating a breakthrough, before disappearing again in time for me to walk into a wall. It’s with this mindset that I try to unpick my love of Botox. It’s a complex relationship – certainly not perfect – that has me embracing the inevitability of sagging on one side – “Hooray for ageing gracefully! Helen Mirren is a ruddy hero!” and the desire to look like me, just better, on the other. Is it vain? Well, yes – but then, arguably, so is brushing your hair in the morning. Can I be a feminist and have Botox? Absolutely. Can I be a good feminist and have Botox? That all depends on your deﬁnition. I’m keen to ﬁght for equality, but I’m not averse to doing it with a smooth forehead. Does that mean I’m not fussed about the gender pay gap, or the imbalance in pressure on men and women to look good? Well, no, but it does mean I can’t look that angry about it on the outside. Inside? Seething, mate.
The question is, how do you unify contrary belief systems, if you have them? If you care about how you look, but are also infuriatingly aware that men don’t have it as bad? If having a hoick here and a needle there makes you feel better, but you worry that by doing so, you’re ruining feminism for everyone? Spoiler: you’re not. You’re just out there, battling, trying to make sense of it, just like the rest of us. And the choice to hide your warrior lines, or wear them proudly, is no one’s business but your own.