Getting to the bottom of things

I have had a bottom makeover. I have had bio-dermology and bio-therapeutic on my backside, executed by a woman in a white coat and surgical gloves.

She looked like a doctor, but was a beautician called Jacqui, with diplomas in subjects such as “beauty culture” and membership of various sauna societies.

Still, she tells me in great depth about the epidermis, connective tissues, collagen and toxins and asks me to fill out a medical questionnaire (Question 21: What are your specific concerns? Answer: sagging.)

Then Jacqui massages “the area” (as she likes to call it) with something like a Hoover nozzle—that’s bio-dermology and is supposed to break down fatty tissue, otherwise known as cellulite, a term invented by American Vogue in 1973.

Then she pulls on a pair of sinister black mitts, with wires attached, over the top of her surgical gloves and runs a “microcurrent” through my posterior. This is bio-therapeutic and is supposed to wake up my gluteus maximus and minimus.

Jacqui then forces them into the desired shape (I should have ordered a JLo), as if moulding a huge pile of Play-Doh. “You couldn’t do anything better for the area than those two treatments,” said Jacqui.

I secretly laugh at her seriousness, but perhaps we need those cold, seemingly scientific names to convince us it is not our hang-ups that need treating. It is not just my self-obsessed mental state that makes me so unhappy with my behind. Jacqui’s toxins talk convinced me that I really must have a genuine problem with lymph node drainage in the area.

But such quasi-scientific reassurance was only partially successful. I know our bodies are a collection of nerves, muscles and tissues, but they are also a ragbag of emotions, unfounded fears and distorted images. However many times I scour Gray’s Anatomy, I never get a full picture of my bodily parts.

My concern is not the size of my bottom, but its built-in cushioneffect. I want it to be pert.

The American way of describing this region seems to focus on its tightness. Butt, or even the harder arse, has an in-your-face feel that bottom, backside and bum simply don’t. Butts stand up for themselves; bottoms apologise the minute they walk in the room and are generally laughed at. I want a butt.

According to sexologist Havelock Ellis, British culture overemphasises the buttocks, which is why we enjoy and sanction so much whipping. Certainly classic art, particularly sculpture, looks at a naked woman from behind, often seen coyly glancing over her shoulder.

But I disagree with the celebrated sex guru: I don’t think we’re a posterior society. Generally, the rear mirror view doesn’t count for much; we like our women full frontal. Although the buttocks’ main purpose is not padding, but stabilising and moving the hip joint, we sit on it far more than we swing it. An elegant gait is not worked at or applauded. One of the first things I notice when I go abroad is how beautifully the women walk.

The enticing thing about your bottom is that, unlike almost every other bit of your body, it is easy to admire someone else’s but very hard to see your own. That is why the “Does my bum look big in this?” question is so important—only other people can tell you.

But if yours remains a mystery, other people’s are omnipresent, and often one of the first things you notice about them. Give a small child a camera and the film will come back with a collection of snaps of groins and backsides.

Curious then, that for most of our young children, bum is one of the naughtiest words they can think of, being so closely associated with poo. Bums are dirty almost by definition. (It’s difficult to even write this column without being open to accusations of prurience.)

Tellingly, Jacqui’s salon had no place to admire my re-formed shape. As soon as I got home, I arched to try and see it in the mirror. It looked pink and blotchy, as if it had been smacked. It also, I’m sure, sat up more, even if only because I wanted it to.

Later that night, I casually asked a friend if she noticed any difference, spinning around in front of her. But she didn’t and nor did anyone else, even though Jacqui promised that the microcurrent would go on working for a further 48 hours.

It is said that men’s narcissistic goal is to admire themselves, while women want others to admire them. But in truth, other people, even those to whom you are close, rarely notice any change in body shape unless it is drastic. In the end, the only person who will notice if my bottom has become a butt is me.—(c) Guardian Newspapers

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