‘To Hell in High Heels’ by Helena Frith Powell
The book blurb gave all indications of a chick lit story, the cover picture even more so. In the rush to grab as many books as I could on the last day of the epic 80% off sale at Reliance Time-Out a few months back, I failed to notice that the heroin’s name was the same as that of the author. Not that I am complaining. It took a few pages before it dawned that this is a true story – of Helena’s research to find a cure for the wrinkle on her forehead , the thin lips, small chest, a microscopically large tummy, limp hair and what not.
Her journey starts from the perfectly round, full and pert bottom of her hairdresser. The first stop is at the world renowned Clinique La Prairie in Switzerland, supposedly the best and naturally one of the costliest anti ageing clinics in the world. An experiemnt in 1931 to save the life of a patient who was suffering from the after effects of a thyroid removal surgeries led Dr. Paul Niehans, the fouder of the clinic into some more research on cell therapy. A successful treatment on similar lines for Pope Pius XII in 1953, firmly established the clinic as one of the pioneers and leaders in ‘ cell regenaration’ therapy. And the main ingedient in the ‘CLP Cell Extract’, a revitalising agent the clinic is most famous for? Hold your breath – the liver of unborn lambs. Are you wondering how on earth they extract it? Simple, kill the mother when the foetus is almost fully grown. Yes, the clinic has its own sheep farm as well.
In the course of her research, Helena meets a yogi Frenchman, gets herself treated at the spa in The Ritz Paris (whose clientele boasts of Liz Hurley, Sharon Stone and Jodi Foster), visits the small village of Limone in northern Italy where the people have a genetic abnormality that causes them to live longer, spends a relaxing week of stress releievng treatments at ‘Golden Eye’, Ian Fleming’s old house on the Jamaican Coast, gets younger and younger in New York, meets some typical LA women and even spends a few mornings in Laughter on Laguna Beach.
The book provides an overwhelming amount of data on the deep ocean that the search for eternal youth is. When you remember that she has covered only a small part of this business, and that too the legitimate side, your eyes and mouth might open wide at the billions that women and more increasingly men spend in search for an elixir of life. What did not really surprise me was something that most of us alerady know in our heart of hearts. Acording to one of well known doctors in this business,
“What cream you use doesn’t really make a difference, the main thing is that you moisturize.”
And you thought, the higher the cost, better the product? Here is one for you,
“the only difference between, for example, Nivea and La Prairie is in the packaging. They are even made in the same laboratory. Just like Lancome and L’Oreal.”
Intesesting, isn’t it?
Helena’s experience is an example of how one gets pulled into this maze from which one may never come out. You start with a basic spa treatment, the ‘consultant’ there talks you into that ‘wonderful’ treatment that can oh so subtly change the look of the tiny wrinkle at the corner of your eyes, then another one tells you about the miraculous tummy tuck that can be done during your lunch hour and you get sucked into the cess pool. There is no end, and that is the brilliance of this business. No treatment promises permanent results. You do a lip filling, it needs to be refilled every 3 months, you get a botox done, that has to be redone every 6-9 months, you get a hair infusion, that has to be redone every 6 months, it goes on and on. Once you get into a new look, it is as if you can never be your old self again.
Her narration of the ‘lollipop’ girls with anoerxic figures that are so disproportinately thin as compared to the seemingly large heads, restuarnts with faces that are all lips and the 1661 women – who looks 16 from behind and 61 from the front – are hilarious at first, and patehtically sad once you actually start thinking about it. It is as of you have enetered a mass production factory that churns out women of the same size and features and all of them endowed with luscious hair. By the way, your loved one may never run his fingers lovingly through your tressses anymore, it is all glue in there.
The most ironic fact is what almost each of these specialists recommend for a permanent change – good diet, no sugars, lots of water and sun screen, exercise, stress free life and minimizing enviornmental factors. Now, you tell me who is having the last laugh all the way to their Swiss banks.
The author quotes the palstic surgeon Mr. Ghengis in Fay Weldon’s ‘The Life and Loves of a She Devil’ and this one sentences summarizes it all,
“I can stop you looking old, but you will be old”
Verdict – I would still categorize this as a chick lit, a very interesting one at that.