7 OCTOBER 2019


Jenni Murray is spot on — staying slim can take its toll on your features.


I do love Jenni Murray. For telling it like it is. For those of you not aware of the comments she made at the Henley literary festival, let me recap for you. She recalled the advice given to her by Barbara Cartland — “Jenni, you know, when you get older you sacrifice your face or your figure. Don’t sacrifice your face, just sit down a lot.” Murray went on to explain how, despite having gone through a gastrectomy to lose weight, she had, at the age of 69, decided to follow Babs’s advice because she didn’t want to end up looking like Nigel Lawson. “And that’s no insult to Nigel Lawson,” she went on to say in her mellifluous, unbitchy way, “but you know, when he went on a really serious diet, his face collapsed.”


You’re right, Jenni, it did, just like the faces of all those other late-life shedders, Tom Watson, Charles Saatchi, Nicholas Soames among them. But then male diet face — hasn’t it totally become the new thing? Looking around the room last night at a party mostly populated by over-fifties, I couldn’t help but notice the hefty preponderance of smug older men with that telltale, baggy, Deputy Dawg look about their etiolated features.


Constantly bragging about their evangelic conversion to 5:2 and how much they lost at whatever fancy schmancy fasting clinic they’ve just been to, and how they never eat after 6pm no matter what, the evangelical older male dieter has become a real demographic. Or so it seems to me. I wanted to tell every one of them that they should have lost it while their skin was elastic enough to take it. I mean, having been accused of diet face myself, I know of what I speak — more of which later.


The concept of diet face is hardly news. Mae West, Catherine Deneuve, Courteney Cox, Jane Fonda — these are just some of the famous women who have warned us over the years that at a certain point you have to make a choice between your arse and your face. And they are absolutely right. Ask any skin doctor and they will tell you: the first place you lose it is your face (and your bosoms), and the older you get the more this is true. Being a tanorexic — obsessed with being brown year round — makes it ten times worse.


As I said, I speak with some authority on the subject, having spent a lifetime going on diets. I do not have enough space here to analyse why, when I’ve never exactly been fat; let’s just say that for whatever reason, being slim has always mattered to me a lot. At the age of 59, I care about the idea of going up a size every year; I fight against my stocky Dutch genes, and as such have always been extremely prone to diet face. So how come I don’t have diet face any more? Because I’ve had my face done, of course! Only joking. Well, sort of. All I can say is thank the Lord for Botox and filler. Being slightly gaunt of features whatever weight I am, without them I’m really f***ed.


It took a while to find the right cosmetic doctor — one who erred on the side of caution because, goodness, is there still a market for trout lips — but I found her, Dr Suha Kersh at 23MD in London, and I go to her every six months for what they call in the business a little freshening up. Botox, filler — they are my friends, and then there’s this collagen-boosting treatment called Profhilo that I and quite a few female contemporaries have started to use, and which sort of plumps everything up as a kind of bonus feature. One friend of mine in particular has skin just as good as she did in her thirties, and she’s one of those classic blonde English roses that are supposed to fade well before they hit 40.


In other words, sorry Jenni and all those people relieved at being given an excuse to go mad on the food front — the choice between face and arse doesn’t necessarily have to be made any more.


Does that apply to men too? I’m not sure. This sounds dreadfully, dreadfully sexist, but I’m thinking of my partner, who is, shall we say, not wasting away. Supposing he were to pull a Nigel Lawson on me then ask if I could book him in with my cosmetic doctor. I cannot think of anything worse. A double standard? Undoubtedly. But then I have always been attracted to the heavier man.