Sydney is a blur of yachts, perfect boobs and wealthy dentists all having a whale of a time. But ageing is definitely not kosher. As I discovered last time I was in Sydney when women at parties investigated my lips, jawline, forehead and behind my ears at the speed of a dragonfly.
Now, years later, I consider my crow’s feet, worry lines and softening jawline and wonder whether I dare attend my high school reunion. Ruminating on this, I demolish a packet of Revels, railing at the senseless exclusion of coffee crème flavour (were we consulted? NO!). Then I Facebook the event, noticing that my old boyfriend has a Fu Manchu moustache and my one-time sex pot nemesis now wears a muumuu.
Then I pick up the phone.
“Dr Ashworth’s Face And Body Enhancement, how may I help you?” says a voice with the silken texture of Moneypenny. Dr Ashworth has been recommended by a friend who’s had a lot of work done but you’d never know unless you showed her a photo of your kitten that died of a heart attack on the operating table during a routine spay. Whilst her words would fit the poignancy of the scene, her expression would remain impassive.
I ask Dr Ashworth if I will still be able to express myself ‘post procedure’, and she reassures me that under her care every expression is possible.” “How about throwing the Javelin to Olympic standard?” I want to ask, but manage not to.
The day before my flight I show up at her clinic in Marlowe. Her assistant photographs my face and makes me sign a long disclaimer that I am too nervous to read. “Don’t be frightened, I’m not going to eat you,” says Dr Ashworth who has the facial symmetry of Snow White. I want to bite her nose to see if it’s made of marzipan but instead, I pop myself onto her couch, close my eyes and surrender to a soundscape of larks, bees and goat bells.
Snow White closes the curtains, shines an anglepoise lamp into my eyes and coos the words “You. are. beautiful,” as she pierces my worry line with a needle. I hear a crunching sound like a teeny glass vial breaking and feel a freezing yet strangely pleasant sensation in the scarred space where my sister once tried to knock me out with a wooden jigsaw. Then she does the same to my crows feet and my eye bags.
As the needle moves to my lips I think of Donatella Versace and flinch. “Please be careful. NO ONE can know. You see, I’m a…a…yoga person.” “Ssssssshhh,” says Dr Ashworth. “It’ll be our secret.” Afterwards, she tells me to exercise my facial musculature as it will help the absorption process so I gurn all the way home.
“Do I look any different?” I ask Jonji who is, as usual, mending something I have broken.
“Mmm?” he says with screws in his mouth.
“My face. Do you see any difference?”
“Lovely darling,” he says, hammering.
Now Jonji is the sort of husband who, were I to have five anchovy fillets hanging from each eyelid and half my face eaten by a bear would still maintain that I looked lovely. This is comforting but unhelpful on this occasion.
The next morning I rush to the mirror to find not even a whisper of change. The worry line, crows feet and jigsaw scar remain and my lips are as un-Jolie as they were 17 hours ago. ‘Well, that was a fat load of nothing,’ I fume as we drive to Gatwick. Jonji, diplomatic as ever, finishes his hoisin duck wrap in silence.
On the plane, I mournfully drink 2 vodka tonics and sleep from Paris to Tehran. Then I wake up, pat my face, feel nothing again and drift grumpily back to sleep.
And then…something WEIRD starts to happen.
We are flying over Java (I know exactly where we are because I’m scared of flying and the only thing that reassures me is glaring at the flight tracker screen as if this will somehow encourage the plane to stay up) and suddenly… VOOMF! I feel a hot, pulsing sensation in my forehead accompanied by a tightening of the skin from the bridge of my nose all the way up to my hairline.
“OMG. OMG. OMG!” I intone as I run to the loo, turn on the light and… O M FUCKING G!!!!
For there in the moulded cubicle of a United Emirates jumbo jet, stands the child of Bride of Frankenstein and Neanderthal Man.
“Are you alright madam?” says the stewardess.
“Oh, yes. Sorry. I’m. Sorry.”
I open the door, shielding with my hand the tectonic plate that juts from where my benign Plantagenet forehead used to be.
I spend the rest of the flight weeping into my cupped hands as I try and fail to formulate some kind of plan, whilst the blind Thai man to my left holds my hand.
Once I’ve cleared Sydney customs (which takes months since the security officials automatically assume that every traveller is planning to sabotage Australia’s eco system with a secret stash of contaminated potpourri), I walk into the arrivals hall where my best friend awaits me. “Oh my GOD!” she shouts. “What has happened to your FACE?”
Later, from a darkened room, I Google the Botox® Cosmetic OnabotulinumtoxinA official website.
“There are sometimes concerns that with the change in atmosphere, botox could spread into the wrong muscles and cause a strange appearance. To be on the safe side doctors recommend avoiding any flying for at least 48 hours after any botox procedure.”
I panic, and speed type: ‘How do I reduce swelling from botox gone desperately wrong at high altitude?’ All the comments recommend a further doctor’s appointment and a chemical antidote, so I add: “On a budget.”
Some compassionate pilgrim recommends rubbing peppermint toothpaste into the affected area. I have nothing to lose so I coat my face with Marvis Classic Strong Mint Travel Toothpaste. Then I lie down on the bed and pray.
The next morning I awake, pray again, and then dare to explore my face with my fingers. O M FUCKING G. I fly out of bed, rush to the mirror… and… wonder of wonder …IT HAS WORKED! Monster Munch has left the building and my face is almost exactly as it was before – there’s the jigsaw scar, there’s the worry line, and there are the thin lips that saw my ancestors through Agincourt. Never before or since have I been so grateful to Tim Berners Lee.
The reunion turns out to be boring as these things always are. Fu Manchu, who once dreamt of being the next Jim Morrison, now mows lawns for a living. My nemesis, whilst indeed sporting a muumuu, has grown kind. We spend much of the evening giggling about the freaky noises Fu, who we both happened to bed at different stages of our high school career, made at the point of orgasm.