A few years ago, with all the audacity of someone who had yet to watch the wrinkles on her forehead transform into deeply entrenched gorges, I wrote a column vowing to try to age gracefully. Armed with the arrogance of relative youth, I espoused the virtues of investing one’s energy in accepting (perhaps even embracing) the inevitable ageing process, rather than investing money in injecting poisonous substances into one's face.
As I approach my 41st birthday, I wonder at the wisdom of so publicly declaring these naive intentions. I proposed then, and continue to believe now, that ageing in Dubai is a particularly difficult process. Access to age-defying treatments, pressure to look a certain way in an age of Instagram-fuelled beauty standards and, for many, a higher-than-average disposable income, means people are more likely to tinker with their appearance here than in many other places globally. Dubai has one of the highest numbers of plastic surgeons per capita in the world, and facelifts, nose jobs, liposuction, body contouring and other such treatments are routinely performed at the countless surgeries across the city.
When it is as easy to get lip fillers as it is a hair cut, it's little wonder so many women are walking about flouting duck-worthy pouts. Even if you like to believe that you do not naturally tend towards vanity, it’s a difficult web from which to disentangle yourself, especially when the 40-year mark is fast fading in the rear-view mirror.
In the past week, three of my friends, all at least a decade younger than I am, have revealed that they’ve been dabbling with a bit of Botox, or the odd filler here or there. Those in my age bracket are now graduating to more invasive procedures. In recent months, three other friends have gone under the knife – for a little nip, tuck, lift or “enhancement”. All, it is worth noting, are beautiful, smart, successful women.
I was shocked. Not because I am judging them – the central tenet of the feminism I so faithfully subscribe to is that that every woman should be free to do whatever she wants with her own body. I was shocked because, in response, I started to wonder if it was finally time for me to jump on the bandwagon. The alternative is to accept that very soon I’ll be going out with my girlfriends and looking like their slightly weathered aunt.
Once something has become completely normalised, what felt like madness starts to seem perfectly acceptable. Oh, how quickly one’s principles disintegrate in the face of a disappearing jawline.
I’m amazed that being a 40-something does not, in fact, make you immune to peer pressure. In a place where cosmetic surgery is so easily accessible, and the promise of younger, firmer, tauter skin is ever present, you need to be made of pretty stern stuff to go against the grain.
But I can see, with some of those aforementioned friends, that once you open up this can of worms, it's a slippery slope. Experimental treatments turn into regular maintenance and then surgical procedures and, before you know it, you look in the mirror and find a slightly distorted, not-necessarily-younger-looking version of yourself staring back. I'm just not sure I'm ready to board that train. Yet.