I recently came under fire from some male friends of a “certain age”, complaining that I needed to write more about the problems that men face in their careers. So I was delighted when news this week featured the latest figures relating to male cosmetic surgery and could oblige.
Exactly a year ago while examining the value of make-up for professional women in the workplace, one of my contacts, a senior lawyer, William, mentioned that a growing number of his peers were resorting to cosmetic surgery to support their careers. “An increasingly number of men in my circle have had cosmetic surgery to maintain a more youthful appearance, because they see it as a professional advantage.”
Remember, you heard it here first!
It wasn’t that I didn’t believe him, I simply didn’t take it too seriously. I couldn’t understand how sporting a “6 pack” could make a difference. Presumably it’s not on display in the workplace, or at least not the offices I go to, so more appropriate for the beach or bedroom than the boardroom. So I was surprised to hear in the media, suggestions that the number of nip/tucks for men showed a higher increase in 2011, than in any other demographic. Only cursory research showed similar trends in Australia and the United States. One of the reasons cited was to gain, or maintain, professional credibility and advancement.
Male surgery now accounts for 10% of all cosmetic procedures in the UK, with a tummy tuck seeing a 15% rise in popularity, as men turn to the knife to eliminate or reduce their middles. The second most popular procedure for men, rising by 7% was the removal of ” moobs” – man boobs (gynaecomastia). This surgery was followed by liposuction with an 8% rise, along with rhinoplasty (nose job), blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery), otoplasty (ear correction) and face and brow lifts.
Appearance of control
I immediately picked up the phone to William. We went through some lawyer-speak for ” I told you so” and then got down to business.
He elaborated ” A forgotten demographic is the 50 something executive, by anyone’s standards probably successful, but feeling the pressure from younger professionals, both male and female, coming hard on his heels, through the ranks. Many will have to work longer than they anticipated. Some have re-married and have young children even at this age. Our culture places great emphasis on physical appearance as an outward sign of what is basically power, control, high energy, seeming competent, capable and in charge. Old-looking men with straining shirt buttons over bulging bellies don’t give off that impression. We work long hours, have business lunches or sandwiches at our desks or on trains. Combined with family commitments, we struggle to get to the gym or take the exercise we need. For many this is a quick and relatively painless solution.”
He put me in touch with George, a gentleman no stranger to the scalpel, with 2 cosmetic procedures already notched up, a tummy tuck and eyelid surgery, as well as Botox injections. Clearly my tips on Touche Eclat had fallen on deaf ears. “ I work in a client facing environment and was starting to look a bit paunchy, saggy and tired. Companies don’t like to work with people who look as though they lack energy and permanently seem in need of a vacation. It was well worth it and I have no regrets!” Whatever happened to the revered elder statesman role?
But anyway who is going to see this perfectly re-constructed abdomen in a professional environment I asked somewhat directly? George did smile when he expanded “ It’s about confidence, my suit fits correctly. I just feel better.”
Is 60 the new 40?
To repeat what I said last year, this rising trend to attempt to create washboard abs or any other age reducing surgical procedure, simply to stay ahead in the career game, seems a sad commentary on our times and corporate cultures. The ultimate irony of course is that youth unemployment figures are at an all time high. Could it be that our rejuvenated 50-something Boomers, with their newly achieved 6-packs are getting in the way?
If 60 is really the new 40, then things are not going to improve any time soon for Gen Y.
What do you think?