Face not in fashion? Take it on the chin
Illustration: Simon Letch
In news this week, the ''chinplant'' has become the latest must-have piece of plastic surgery, with more than 20,000 procedures last year in the US, many of them in the period before high-school prom night. As someone whose chin juts out so far it almost touches my nose, I don't understand the enthusiasm.
All that's stopping my chin and nose meeting up is my teeth, which are like the haphazard poles you might install at the opening to a mine shaft. Once the props rot away, the whole structure will collapse, my chin will join up with my nose and I won't have access to my mouth. I'll die, unable to manoeuvre the food in past the barrier.
Do the young women of the US really wish to set themselves on this trajectory? I already look like Punch; do they want to look like Judy?
The trouble with fashion trends is they last only a few years. That's fine with clothing; you can chuck the stuff out once the trend passes. You can make a hideous error of judgment - the purple body shirt, the white pedal-pusher pant - then move on. Just as Stalin destroyed all evidence of Trotsky's presence during the Russian Revolution, so you can purge the very existence of your Hawaiian muumuu period.
That's harder once you've brought in the surgeon. As soon as a scalpel is involved, you're counting on the trend to have a little longevity. Well, good luck with that. Despite the short history of plastic surgery, trends in plastic surgery seem even shorter-lived than the rest of fashion.
Only a few years ago, bottom augmentation was the fastest-growing procedure. At the time, Jennifer Lopez's bottom was very big, in both senses of the word. Customers were queueing to have fat removed from other parts of their body and injected into their bottoms so they, too, could walk around showing off their ''Lopez''.
This was itself a reversal of an earlier trend in which people wanted big, puffy lips. At that point, surgeons were sucking fat from people's bottoms and pumping it into their lips. As I observed at the time, when people kissed each other at Hollywood parties they were literally kissing each other's arses.
Maybe that's why the trend didn't last: in Hollywood, that was too much like another business meeting. Within a couple of years the trend was dead. Puffy lips were regarded as vulgar and customers were queueing to have the fat sucked out of their lips and returned to their bottoms. If anyone accused them of having an unfashionably small bottom, they could now simply turn the other cheek.
But here's the problem. The trends come and go so fast, it's hard to know how to keep up. The big bottoms of 2004 were considered ungainly by 2007, but then, courtesy of Mad Men's Christina Hendricks, became fashionable once more last year. Who can keep up? The only solution seems to be a valve inserted in the bottom, connected to a bicycle pump concealed in one's clothing.
Entering a party, you could assess the crowd and inflate or deflate your bottom at will. Attending some sort of eastern suburbs do with a lot of stick-thin socialites? Simply deflate the arse. Heading off with a more robust crowd to the polo? Insert the bicycle pump and go hell for leather before the first chukka is even under way.
The only issue: at the socialite party of 2015, it could be hard to know whether the hostess is letting loose a surreptitious fart or simply deflating her bottom.
These declarations about body parts - this size fashionable, that size daggy - have been around for years. In my book In Bed with Jocasta, published more than a decade ago, I record the arrival of the ''waif'' look and the appearance in Vogue magazine of my all-time favourite fashion headline: ''Small breasts are back''.
In truth, the editor wasn't suggesting surgery. Although it seemed offensive at the time, she was merely suggesting women dress themselves to either cover up their large breasts or make the most of their small ones. A decade or so on, that same headline would suggest a visit to the plastic surgeon.
Which brings us back to the ''chinplant''. Apparently, the surge in the procedure has been caused by the popularity of Skype and smartphones. When people chat , the angle of the camera can make their chins look particularly small.
I hate to be picky, but if that's the problem, has anyone considered changing the angle of the camera? It could be quicker than reupholstering your chin.
And what happens in a few years' time, when big chins suddenly become regarded as too forceful? What happens when the new ''chinless wonder'' look becomes all the go? Or the iPhone comes up with a camera angled from below, making everyone's chin look huge?
Do all 20,000 of last year's customers go back under the knife? And what will they do with all the sawn-off chins?
As for me, I'll just enjoy the chance happenstance that has made me trendy after all this time. Dahhlings, I've had a big arse and giant chin for years.