There’s a conventional belief that it’s horrible to grow old, because old age is ugly. As a result, a woman has her white hairs plucked, or dyes them; she uses makeup to hide her wrinkles, or at least, tries to add some luster to her faded cheeks with the deceptive glitter of bright fabrics. I don’t want to make a long catalogue of cosmetic artifices, so I’ll stop there. But note that instead of banishing the signs of old age, such devices merely make them more lasting and more glaring.
There was a masquerade ball at the Elysée-Montmartre that evening. It was the ‘Mi-Carême,’ and the crowds were pouring into the brightly lighted passage which leads to the dance ball, like water flowing through the open lock of a canal. The loud call of the orchestra, bursting like a storm of sound, shook the rafters, swelled through the whole neighbourhood and awoke, in the streets and in the depths of the houses, an irresistible desire to jump, to get warm, to have fun, which slumbers within each human animal.
The stereotype of the self-loathing cosmetic surgery patient can be found in the annals of psychiatry. Lacking much in the way of critique of gender norms, the mid-twentieth century psychiatric discourse addressed women who underwent cosmetic surgery as neurotics, disordered personalities or otherwise pathological subjects.
The classic model is a known prototype in the modeling industry, underpinned by a discourse of enduring youthfulness, a woman whose image embodies an ageless beauty, rather than an ageing reality. These classic models appear in high fashion representing an aspirational agelessness; they are called upon to fill stereotypical roles for older women. This creates an impossible standard, one out of reach without external interventions, such as cosmetic surgery, which plays on insecurities of looking old to sell to the older market.