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The Latest Wrinkle On Staying Young

I don't mind getting old, but why does it have to start when I'm so young?

Apparently, I'm not the only one who feels this way. Customers clamor for products whose promise is "Stay young forever," and cosmetic surgery is at an all-time high. When I was a kid, if somebody said they had some work done, it probably meant something like having their back porch screened in. Now it's more likely to mean they've had their back porch liposuctioned.

The number of people getting cosmetic surgery has tripled in the past 10 years. Tummy tucks have increased over 200 percent, and something called a "forehead lift" has also increased over 200 percent. Breast augmentation has increased more than 500 percent. (I don't think they mean this per person.)

There's nothing wrong with people trying to look younger. If it makes them feel better and they are aware of any possible risks, and they can afford it, why not go for it? I'm just questioning why so many people feel it's necessary today. What does it mean to live in a society where some parents want to look younger than their children? Speaking of children, cosmetic surgery patients are getting younger and younger as even teenagers fret about wrinkles.

It doesn't make any sense that appearing youthful should mean so much today. People live longer and are healthier than ever. And there are 90-year-olds who are more youthful in many ways than some 30-year-olds. But looking young still means a lot. Too much. Some employers act as if a few gray hairs on a head are more of a turn-off than a few felonies on a resume.

Supposedly, as we get older we get wiser, but that's not enough of a trade-off in our society. When somebody walks into a room, people don't elbow their friends and say, "Wow! Check out who just walked in. Nice wisdom, huh?"

The latest "in" procedure is Botox. Botulinum A exotoxin (or "Botox" for short) is injected into the face, and it paralyzes the facial muscles that would otherwise be up to no good causing wrinkles. This new, smoother face lasts between three and six months. However, sometimes the frozen muscles also prevent the person from making facial expressions. The eyebrows may get stuck in place, giving the eyebrow-owner a constantly bland expression. These poor folks have gotten rid of wrinkles, hoping that people will find them more exciting, but their faces have turned emotionless and dull.

This possible drawback wasn't enough to stop people from spending approximately $430 million this year on Botox. There are even "Botox parties." People gather in their homes, and a doctor comes over and gives them all injections. Sometimes there's even a photographer there to record the festive event. This seems a little weird to me. If I'm going to have a medical procedure, I want it in an office where they have out-of-date magazines and a receptionist who gives me a hard time about validating my parking.

On the other hand, I guess there is something nice about having supportive friends around when you go through a medical procedure. So, we shouldn't be surprised when more and more procedures start being performed at parties. Someday, there may be liver transplant parties — but, of course, no alcohol will be served. Or maybe a bunch of men in their 70s will get together to have a prostate surgery party. I just hope they don't have a photographer there to record that event.

We're lucky to live in a time when all these anti-aging choices are available to us. It's just a shame so many people feel they have no choice but to use them. That's the wrinkle to this whole thing.

Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.

By Lloyd Garver