Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

A view of Beechwood Private Clinic, Norton Hall, Sheffield, 1980A view of Beechwood Private Clinic, Norton Hall, Sheffield, 1980
A view of Beechwood Private Clinic, Norton Hall, Sheffield, 1980
A popular place in Sheffield in the 1970s was Beechwood Clinic at Norton. It was formally Norton Hall which was said to be one of the finest mansions in Sheffield. The hall which dated back to Anglo Saxon days had many owners to include Charles Cammell who owned Cyclops Steel Works, and Bernard, son of Mark Firth, one of the city’s greatest benefactors.

It became an annexe to Sheffield Hospitals in 1927, called Norton Annexe, before opening as the private Beechwood Clinic in 1972, enabling people to avoid lengthy NHS waiting lists for operations. One of its unofficial titles was as the ‘abortion centre of Yorkshire’. Many a local taxi driver who was asked for ‘Beechwood Clinic’ by a mother with teenage daughter in tow knew what they were going for, but it also specialised in plastic surgery procedures and vasectomies.

I had a friend who had worked there for a while. Staff members could get cut price plastic surgery. She decide to have her nose re-modelled which was fine, but a tummy tuck left her belly button around her waist.

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The clinic closed in 1989 and became luxury apartments which was surprising given the increased popularity of plastic surgery. In today’s society it’s quite normal for people to have a few things they don’t like about their bodies, but believe me, the older you get, the less you worry about such imperfections. You have enough on with aches and pains, decrease in mobility and trying to remember what you had for breakfast.

Younger people do seem to have lost the ability to be ‘all right with being all right looking’. I blame today’s ’selfie’ society’ where they feel that they are under constant scrutiny seeking reassurance at all times.

And some of these reality shows like ‘Love Island’ don’t help when young people are led to believe that the secret to lasting happiness is all about looks and body beautiful. The reality of this ‘reality show’ is that many of the contestants have found it difficult to cope with the unrealistic expectations of them, even to the extent of committing suicide in two cases. The producers of the show have defended it, saying that it is important that contestants feel body confident as they wear skinny clothes when hanging out by the pool, and in any case they are now offering enhanced psychological support. So that’s ok then! But why can’t there be more body diversity? Don’t overweight people want to find romance? Or use swimming pools? Can’t the show be more representative of the majority of us?

Plastic surgery addiction is a behavioural addiction characterised by psychological compulsions to continuously alter one’s appearance with cosmetic surgery. These are people who suffer severe insecurity, and like mental illness it seems to be on the increase. They really do believe that surgically altering their appearance will remedy their negative perceptions of themselves. However surgery rarely resolves this disorder as it doesn’t address the underlying psychological issues.

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It seems that we as a society, are feeling uglier than ever with the demand for plastic surgery procedures growing at an alarming rate. Women want their boobs either made smaller or made larger, their faces filled with chemical substances, Botox, fillers or lip enhancements. They have no facial expressions with their lack of wrinkles.

There are many celebrities who constantly seek the Holy Grail of perfection, and end up looking a mere caricature of the unspoilt person they once were. Katie Price who has recently travelled to Turkey to have a Brazilian bum lift, facial surgery and liposuction has been warned that she is dicing with death with addictions that could lead to a heart attack or stroke. Her quest for perfection has so far cost in excess of £500,000, and with eight boob and nose jobs, it’s a wonder her body isn’t falling to pieces.

Other noted plastic surgery addicts are Cindy Jackson, a former bunny girl and known as ‘the bionic woman’ who was in the Guinness Book of Records for 17 years having had fourteen operations, more procedures than anyone else in the UK. She was ousted by Sarah Burge who spent over £100,000 over 21 years, having over 30 operations and famously bought her daughter Poppy eight thousand pounds worth of plastic surgery vouchers for her eighth birthday.

Men can be as bad. The most famous male plastic surgery addict is the human Ken doll, Rodrigo Alves of British / Brazilian ethnicity, who has spent over £500,000 on 100 operations and whose face looks frozen in time. But perhaps unsurprisingly, many people who spend so much time and money on altering their appearance rarely find true happiness. Their insecurities and self-absorption seem to be prohibitive to relationships.

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Who remembers ‘Ivy Tilsley’ from Coronation Street? Lynne Perrie, the actress, was one of the first people I ever saw to have lip fillers. She didn’t consult the show’s producers, the operation wasn’t a success, was very unflattering and so she was sacked from the show after 23 years.

Also very much in the public eye was actress Leslie Ash. For some strange reason she had collagen lip implants which went horribly wrong after industrial fillers were used, and left her with a ‘trout pout’. Leslie was an example of a very beautiful lady who obviously had very low self-esteem.

Despite many horrific tales of botched surgery and ruined lives there are more people than ever believing that the answer to all their problems lies with cosmetic procedures. If only it were so simple!

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