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Breast surgery is almost universal in pornography, and pornography is almost universal in the sexual coming-of-age of both young women and young men; those images now have greater impact than they did when I wrote the book.One would have thought that with all of this trending “worse” that the fear of aging would be worse, as well.The rhetoric today is focused on being as healthy as possible, whatever one’s size, rather than attaining an artificially low body weight.

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Their results demonstrated that about 17 percent of women felt more trapped than ever by the ideals of attractiveness; about 53 percent have good days and bad days.

The rest, about 30 percent, are “change agents” who are defining beauty for themselves.

Today, the notion that beauty ideals are socially constructed, manipulated by advertisers and marketed for profit motives is part of the conventional wisdom, not a fringe argument.

Smart advertisers for beauty products court women’s raised confidence, and few use the hectoring, insulting tone of the early ’90s, when anti-age cream manufacturers would refer to wrinkles as “lesions” and aging as a “disease,” and the standard ad image was a barely middle-aged woman looking, stricken, into her mirror, as if finding her first wrinkle was the equivalent of getting word of a terminal illness.

The archetype of the Evil Queen and Sleeping Beauty has been laid to rest.

Many older women no longer see younger women as rivals in the same way.I personally expected that when I entered the middle of my life, I would start to mourn my youthful physical self and that, even though I had thought long and hard about the dangers of the beauty myth, I would feel a sense of existential loss of self when my appearance began to change.But I am coming out with this and hope that many midlife women will join me: Those pangs of loss have largely not happened.The body size of fashion models and starlets has dropped still further; fashion ads showcase women who look as if they should be hospitalized.The technologies of cosmetic surgery have become so commonplace that there are communities in which women with unreconstructed faces are seen as bucking the norm.The field of cosmetic surgery, especially breast implant procedures, was booming.

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