Cosmetic surgery – is it right?


This is a controversial issue and one over which I remain divided. Most of us take pride in our appearance – but would we resort to cosmetic surgery?

The latest figures show that one in three women under the age of 40 in the UK has considered some form of plastic surgery. Those in the public eye openly admit that they have gone underneath the surgeon’s knife to improve upon nature and in doing so take a short (sharp) cut to the top. Singers such as Tom Jones and Rod Stewart both famously submitted to the surgeon’s scalpel for nose jobs, while a host of other male celebrities (Elton John and snooker star Jimmy White among them) have undergone painful hair replacement treatments to present an acceptable public face.

The list is endless. Michael Caine has admitted to liposuction, Peter Stringfellow has had a face lift and Ian McShane, an eye lift! Jordan,  Dannii Minogue, Pamela Anderson et al have had breast enlargement while Cher has had an eyebrow lift, eyelid surgery, face and neck lifts, chemical face peels, lip injections and wrinkle treatments. And of course, the late Michael Jackson, had a confirmed nose job and suspected cheek implants, contouring eyelid surgery, lip reduction and skin bleaching – though he always denied this.

Cosmetic surgery – it would seem that you cannot escape it. In today’s society, everyone seems to know of someone who has succumbed to the surgeon’s knife.

In many ways, I am passionately in favour of cosmetic surgery. If it doesn’t do any harm, then why not? We all like watching beautiful, young, attractive people on the television and it is only natural that we should want to emulate their appearances. Providing we retain a sense of proportion, what is wrong with cosmetic surgery? My motto is if you don’t like something, change it! We think nothing of changing the colour and cut of our hair. Similarly we think nothing of those who wear braces to correct and straighten their teeth. In this respect, why should we think differently of those who opt to correct a flaw through cosmetic surgery?

I knew a boy who, by his own admission, had huge flapping ‘Dumbo’ ears. For years, he could not face up to this fact and he grew his hair long to disguise his little problem. His hair used constantly to hang in front of his face as he attempted to cover up his ears. Frequently he wore ‘beanie’ hats, even in summer. This boy was so self conscious of his ears that he would barely look you in the eye when he spoke, so convinced was he that you would be staring at his earlobes. After carrying on in such a fashion for a few years, he finally resorted to cosmetic surgery to correct his flaw. The difference has been remarkable. He has cut his hair, can hold eye contact… Cosmetic surgery has done wonders for him, improving his confidence and whole life.

Like anything, cosmetic surgery is fine in moderation. We have to accept it because to deny people cosmetic surgery is to deny people the right to chose and freedom of choice.

This said, I do have mixed feelings about cosmetic surgery. Theoretically, I approve of it but I can’t shake a feeling of discomfort. Someone, somewhere has incalculated the belief that it is wrong and a trace of this belief remains. Yet how wrong can it be? Do I believe that beauty is divinely ordained, or that there should be only so much of it around? My misgivings are elusive, but persistent.

It strikes me that my misgivings about cosmetic surgery might simply be a fear of blood and unnecessary violence. Also, the more people who do it, the more chance there is that one day, it will be my turn to feel the pressure! People talk of the influence of older film stars who looked good because they had facelifts. We all know about Julie Christie, Joan Collins and Burt Reynolds: they have been nipped and tucked – and their nips and ticks have crept into the culture.

One of the reasons often citied by opponents of cosmetic surgery is that it is a simple, painless procedure. You go into the operating theatre unbeautiful and hours later emerge beautiful. All you have done is paid; somebody else has done the work. We are who we are, with our own talents. Our creator gave us what we have for a reason, for a purpose. Ageing is a process that all human beings go through. Perhaps we should resist cosmetic surgery and grow old gracefully?

One of my qualms about cosmetic surgery is that, like so many things today, cash is the determining factor. With few exceptions, cosmetic surgery costs and is therefore not accessible to all.

I happen to know a middle aged woman who has had a facelift. To me her ‘old’ face looked fine. Certainly there were some facial lines but, in my mind, her facial lines were part of why her face looked fine. However this woman did not want to look like a woman in her fifties. She wanted to look like something which, to her, was and is significantly different: a woman in her forties. Superficially, she wanted to have the appearance of a younger version of herself. Her ‘facelift’ was a success. She no longer has a double chin. She has a single chin, like a younger woman. She has a more defined bone structure – although one of her eyelids looks slightly tighter than the other. Her skin is also not the skin of a younger woman. Her skin is 53. This lady had to pay the price for her younger image. For six months after the op, she experienced discomfort, swelling and bruising. Looking at this woman now, I can see that her facelift both has and hasn’t worked. She has dispensed with her double chin, which she hated, and various wrinkles. Yet it has not been perfect: she has the air of a woman who has had her wrinkles removed, rather than one who is too young to have wrinkles…

Cosmetic surgery: it is not wrong but it is not right either. Perhaps we would do well to listen to the words of former politician and Strictly Come Dancing contestant Anne Widecombe who once said: “We would be a better country when we chucked image in the dustbin, and got on with being genuine.”