29 November 2006

The search for perfection through cosmetic surgery has seduced hundreds of thousands of British women. Now, men are starting to catch up. This week, The Mail reported how soaring numbers are seeking liposuction, nose jobs and Botox. The trend is linked to the rise of the ‘metrosexual', a heterosexual urban man who takes pride in his appearance. One man who has succumbed to cosmetic treatments totalling about £20,000 is Steave Beale, editor-at-large of the men's magazine Arena. Here, Steve, 31, who lives in Hoxton, East London, and is single reveals why...

The Daily Mail'Mr Nip and Tuck'

The search for perfection through cosmetic surgery has seduced hundreds of thousands of British women. Now, men are starting to catch up. This week, The Mail reported how soaring numbers are seeking liposuction, nose jobs and Botox. The trend is linked to the rise of the ‘metrosexual', a heterosexual urban man who takes pride in his appearance. One man who has succumbed to cosmetic treatments totalling about £20,000 is STEVE BEALE, editor-at-large of the men's magazine Arena. Here, Steve, 31, who lives in Hoxton, East London, and is single reveals why... As I perch on a seat in an antechamber to an operating room in Harley Street, my nurse arrives, takes my arm and leads me through to theatre, where the first thing I see is a metal trolley heaving with medical instruments so forbidding they would make a ship's surgeon at Trafalgar blanch. Lying down on the operating table, I breathe deeply and start to feel the seeds of panic as my arms are strapped onto two mini slabs that spring from each side of the bed. Suddenly, I get the overwhelming sensation that I'm going to be castrated rather than undergo life-changing cosmetic surgery. Around me, the theatre staff swop brisk medical comments, their surgical masks - but not their eyes - hiding grins which lead me to suspect they are finding something amusing in the sight of a rather portly man waiting to have chunks of his body cut away in the name of vanity. And perhaps they were right, perhaps it was ridiculous. But two years later, I can tell you that I don't regret this surgery for a second, nor do I regret the long list of other treatments I chose to have in a bid to shed the physical insecurities I'd carried with me since childhood. As editor-at-large of Arena, I'm regularly sent off to investigate all manner of things deemed to be on the cutting edge of male social trends. And when I decided to I wanted to do something about my appearance, I found myself investigating something an astonishing - and rapidly expanding - sub-culture of high-flying men who are, secretly or otherwise, paying to improve their looks. In short, we blokes are starting to cheat just like you girls do. I'd wanted to have a few ‘bits' done for years and my journalistic discount-blagging power proved to be the decision-maker. The truth is that in the early 21st century, medical science can get me more love, more sex, more self-esteem and better service in restaurants. It can even get me more work. In the age of pretty bys like David Beckham and Jude Law, the male form, for better or worse, is as closely scrutinised as the female form. As a result, there is a growing fashion for good-looking men to get the jobs, especially in the media industry that I'm part of, and in the City, where mega-bonuses make surgery readily available for men who want it. It's getting to the stage where we all know of someone who's had cosmetic surgery. I was encouraged to have my procedures by a close friend who'd already undergone similar ones. Of course I'd prefer to live in a world where I, and everyone else, ignored my physical defects. But I don't. And more and more men agree with me. In fact, 35 per cent of the patients at the established Harley Medical Group's network of cosmetic surgeries are male. So, fed up after three decades of being ugly, I decided I needed plastic surgery, too. And as much as possible - in for a penny, in for a pound of flesh was my motto. Why did I do it? Well, at 5ft 10in tall, and weighing over 13 stone at the time, I was not exactly a chiselled hunk. Since adolescence, I had struggled with a condition known as gynecomastia - or in common parlance, ‘man breasts'. This affects about 10 per cent of men, and is thought to be genetic. A dramatic rise in cases is blamed on the oestrogen in the water supply caused by several decades of women taking the pill. ‘Although harmless', says one surgery website, ‘the effects of this condition can be psychologically and socially devastating. Mine appeared in adolescence, about the same time I was hoping for mutant super powers instead. Within the Beale household, it was explained away as a family trait and rarely dwelled upon. In less enlightened environments, such as the rugby team changing rooms of my West Country all -boys' grammar school, outsiders found them utterly fascinating. Their level of inquiry was informed and adroit. You've got t**s, why don't you wear a bra?' was the usual level of advice. I'd laugh it all off, but they were right. My GP saw the problem as a matter of diet. Yet when I crash dieted from 13 stone to 10½ stone, my man breasts stubbornly remained and, if anything, looked even bigger. I bore this burden throughout my 20s, but then with 30 approaching, I decided one day that I simply didn't want ‘man breasts' any more. Nor did I want that British affliction of Dickensian teeth - my mouth has seen a total of 3cm of dental floss in my lifetime, far too much red wine and Coca-Cola, and far too many cigarettes. Having identified The Harley Medical Group as a good place to start, I went to see how much I could transform myself. Men don't really undergo ‘enhancive' plastic surgery - we have ‘corrective' plastic surgery. We don't do pec implants, we get our wingnut ears pinned back. When we had finished, the proposed list of treatments looked like this. Gynaeplasty, £3,800; additional liposuction, £1,450; Botox on my forehead, £450, Intense Pulse Light hair removal for the small tuft of hair on my lower back, from £80 per go, and I'd need only five appointments; microdermabrasion on my face, from £75 per session; and dental veneers, £12,000. When I left I was on a high of expectation that for the first time in my life I would be free of physical imperfection. But soon, fears began to creep in. would it be painful? Would it go hideously wrong? Would it make me look like a Beverly Hills housewife? Would I turn into a conceited Adonis, afraid to leave the house without factor-30 sunblock as the - dermatologists recommend? Would I become so desensitised to overweening vanity that I would start wearing bulge-enhancing underpants? The first operation we agreed on concerned the removal of my ‘man breasts' and a bit of liposuction to remove fat from my belly. My greatest dream, to be taller, had been dashed because that would require a stay in California for six months, costing ‘tens of thousands of pounds'. Liposuction, however, was a different matter. In the UK, you're allowed liposuction only of you fall within a certain body mass index. It's for those of us who just can't lose that last little bit of weight. Fortunately, after teats that showed my BMI was well within the appropriate range, it turned out I was one of these people. So it was that I came to be lying on that Harley Street slab in August 2003. People often ask what the operation was like, but since I wasn't conscious, I can't comment. My surgeon has since told me how the process went. First, a semi-circle was cut around the bottom half of each of my nipples. The surplus flesh burst out like roots from a germinating bulb. This was pulled right out, then 12 different keyhole incisions were made along my torso. A thin instrument was prodded into these one by one, to suck fat cells out. I can certainly recall the convalescence, though, locked up in my flat during the hottest week of the year in a tight-fitting suture waistcoat, below which lay the itchiest healing wounds imaginable. I took more painkillers to take my mind off the itchiness in the latter half of my recovery than I did for the pain itself in the first week (which was negligible anyway). Even when the swelling had gone down, my chest wasn't completely flat. I still had slight ‘puppy dogs' noses' as one friend calls them. Yet I cannot tell you how good it felt, and the effect on my silhouette was staggering. For the first time, I looked less like my mother, and more like a normal human male. Having done a good job on my figure, I set about less invasive treatments. First, the elimination of the ‘rabbit's tail' of fluffy hair at the base of my back using Intense Pulse Light laser hair removal. This involved having a hot light fired at the skin with a terrifying gun resembling a large 1970s stapler. It destroyed every hair. Each blast affects an area 1cm by 5cm. A really hairy back can take eight separate treatments of an hour each, costing up to £500 a go. It's a little painful, but not on the sort of level that a gentleman makes a fuss about. You do need to have it done every couple of years though. Next, I couldn't resist Botox, that ubiquitous new favourite of ladies who lunch and actresses who don't need to move their faces much. I also had it done at The Harley Medical Group clinic, where it was like a drive-in treatment, taking about half an hour. As a youngish man, I wasn't convinced it would do much good, but the results of 36 separate injections, one after the other in the same session, of Botulinum toxin type A into my face, are staggering. It's a tiny needle and not painless - a bit like having three dozen little flu jabs - and I don't mind saying that I was a bit tired of being pushed and prodded around. But pain is only the sensation of weakness leaving your body, as martial artists say. Evidently, thousands of middle-aged women have not been wrong. I looked 23 again. To top it up, I simply needed another injection in the next three to five months, then only one a year. At about £450 a pop, it's also cost-effective. The effects of the Botox are only just starting to visibly wane after eighteen months. I can see myself opting for a refresher. The final flourish was to have serious work done on my teeth, which are one of the first things people will see when they meet me. I was recommended by a friend to go to the London Smile Clinic, where I met Dr Tim Bradstock-Smith, who has pioneered the ‘London Smile', a modest version of the ‘Hollywood smile' that's proved so popular, Californians are flocking here to get it done. Most people only need a bit of ‘smile rejuvenation' involving whitening, minor drilling and reshaping, and maybe a few veneers. Unfortunately, my teeth are a dental disaster area, so I went for the full set, costing £12,000. It was a long process. An image of my mouth was taken and my new teeth were planned on a computer. The veneers were then handmade from porcelain at the studios of one Stefano Maggio in Rome. When the veneers were ready three weeks later, the process of attaching them took two full days in the dentist's chair, during which I watched movies on DVD goggles. Every tooth needed 26 different bonding processes after my original teeth had been drilled down to just the dentyne, their softer lower layer beneath the tough enamel. It might sound like some form of horrific torture, but it is my new teeth which have had the most radical effect on my appearance. They're a huge confidence booster. What about all the rest of the treatments I went through in my quest for perfection? My colleagues and friends all say they make me look markedly younger, more vital, even ‘more imposing and masterful'. In bed, I have more confidence. After months of walking around feeling like a god, I have settled into a state of subtle but constant happiness with my body image. There are still people who say: ‘You shouldn't change what you are. I would never have anything like that done'. But they're almost always conventionally good-looking types with no knowledge whatsoever of what it's like to catch their reflection in a shop window and curse the fates. There are other arguments against plastic surgery for men; that it's unnecessary and undignified, and therefore un-masculine. And yet it is obviously becoming more acceptable. Behind all the Sunday supplement talk of ‘the Beckham effect', which dictates that thanks to David, men are ‘allowed' to be proud of their appearance, there lies a sobering fact. Men are being judged on their looks more than ever before, and we are being found wanting. The result is that many are now opting for the most direct solution - surgery. They might start with a bit of moisturiser, find it helps their looks, and before they know it, it's one step up to serious treatments like microdermabrasion. The only regret I have now is a sense of guilt I carry around that I couldn't simply be happy with myself or just take care of my teeth in the first place. But perhaps that's just the social conditioning of a traditional British bloke - and no, it's probably not enough to stop me having a few more nips and tucks before too much longer.

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