It’s hardly surprising that people, especially women, are prone to feeling insecure about their looks. But Botox is perhaps a special kind of beauty treatment in that it inhibits the visible expression of emotion. It helps people hide the way they feel. That this should come as a bit of a surprise is interesting in itself – this has never been its explicit selling point. The idea has been more that youth is good and age is bad. By starting Botox in your 20s you can supposedly pre-empt the signs of passing time. But what is facial ageing if not physical proof that you have smiled, frowned and been surprised? In other words, that you have let the outside world in on some of your feelings.
In Jane Austen’s great philosophical masterpiece Sense and Sensibility, we see two sisters attempting a serious experiment in living. Marianne expresses emotion freely while Elinor buttons it up. Which of them will fare best in life and love? Austen’s ultra-humane answer is that both ways have their ups and downs. And anyhow, while you think you’ve made your choice about which is better, you may find yourself doing the other.
More than 200 years later we’re still struggling over the same question. From the misery memoir to Instabrag via Geordie Shore, we’re trying to work out what will make us more lovable: free expression or self-control. Loosely speaking, some therapies work more towards the former, some towards the latter. As Austen wisely noted, there’s no clear answer as to which is best, although extremes in either direction do seem to cause trouble.