Staring at my 20-year-old daughter Lucy* across the dinner table, I couldn’t take my eyes off her artificially plumped-up lips. They looked obscene, like something you’d see on a blow-up sex doll. I cringed every time her fork went to her mouth, keeping my own shut for fear of the comments that might come out.
In the name of family harmony, I’d vowed to keep a lid on the fury churning inside of me, at least for the duration of Sunday lunch. But I couldn’t do it. I ended up angrily pushing my plate in Lucy’s direction before storming away from the table.
After my daughter had her lips injected with filler, I struggled to contain my rage.Credit:EyeEm
This rage had been building up inside of me for a week, ever since she’d paid someone to inject filler into her lips. This act – nefarious to me, not least because of how horribly wrong it could have gone – meant that I could no longer see my daughter in her features. That didn’t just anger me; it also hurt on a deeply existential level. Instead of seeing glimpses of myself, her father, our parents, in Lucy, now all I could see was a mouth with no link to us at all.
Lucy first had the procedure last year, around the time of the Love Island finale. The show had been all she and her 18-year-old sister could talk about, so I endured an episode with them. I hated it, hypercritical of the cosmetic “enhancements” several of the girls looked to have had. “Why have they injected crap into their faces?” I railed.
My daughters rolled their eyes, saying in unison, “Everyone has it now, Mum.” Lucy then reeled off the names of her various friends who’d had fillers, too.
I harked back to those words a couple of weeks later, when my husband and I desperately tried to understand why she’d done the same. Lucy had given no hint of her plans, dipping into her savings to cover the cost before hiding out at her boyfriend’s place while the initial bruising went down.
Back home, she skulked in her room while her sister acted as advocate, telling me what Lucy had done, pleading with me not to be angry. I’m not a shouter, but my god, I let rip when I saw those comically inflated lips for the first time. I don’t normally insult my kids, but that day I told Lucy she looked like a trout.
“She must have low self-esteem,” my appalled husband said later, but without any conviction. After all, this is a girl who walks naked into the TV room, looking for someone to slather fake tan on her back.
“That’s not it,” I snapped. “It’s that her generation sees this kind of thing as routine, like colouring their hair.”
It took a fortnight for me to be able to sit down calmly with Lucy and talk things through. She told me she’d gone to a reputable clinic, as though that made it okay. And added that she’d be going back regularly to get them topped up, whether I liked it or not.
“I like them; it’s my body, my choice,” she insisted. How the hell do you fight an argument like that?
Yet, 10 months on, I still try, pointing out that programs like Love Island have normalised these procedures and explaining my fears that a bit of filler here will lead to some Botox there until, before she knows it, she’s getting her boobs done. But she doesn’t listen.
Only last night I noticed a couple of new telltale puncture marks on her top lip. “This breaks my heart,” I told her, pointing at her mouth. Which is the truth. And it’s also all I have left to say on a matter she’s determined not to back down on – and which I seem to have no influence over at all.
*Name has been changed.
Edited version of a story first published in Stella Magazine, The Sunday Telegraph (UK).
This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale August 4.
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