This story by Madhvi Ramani considers the struggle of one person to measure up to the beauty standard
The first thing I saw were her feet and right off I knew she was a stunner. By then, I had become a connoisseur of feet. Feet and lower legs to be precise.
I had just moved into a basement flat in South Kensington. It was a curious place to be, stuck halfway between the earth's surface and the underworld. The front room had a window that looked out at the main road. The pavement was at eye level, and just above it, about 30 centimetres high and a metre wide, was the sky. Across this patch of sky would skate, run, walk, shuffle and stumble legs of all shapes and sizes.
I was hanging up a print of 'The Scream', when I heard the approaching tap tap tap of her heels.
The only reason I turned to look at those feet was because I had heard them coming down the steps that led to the pavement from the flat above me and I was therefore curious to see what my neighbour looked like.
I saw a perfect white foot held in a high-heeled leather shoe, in an arch that reminded me of the shape that women's feet make just before orgasm. One of her delicate ankles was decorated with a thin silver anklet from which dangled a single pink pearl that rolled against her marble-smooth skin as she walked. Her leg - from what little I could see of it - was shapely and firm. Before I could get to the window to get a better look at her, she was gone.
I said the first thing that came into my head; 'I love you'. She twisted round like a doll to look back at me
I sat on the armchair in my living room all night watching legs criss-cross past my window waiting for her return. I had to see her.
I woke up to a growling sound. It was dark and raining, and a black cab had pulled up outside. The door of the cab opened and those perfect white feet flashed across the slimy black pavement and pitter-pattered up the stairs, out of sight.
For the next couple of weeks, although I was vigilant, I didn't catch a glimpse of her. Then one day, we bumped into each other just as I had climbed up my stairs and she had descended hers.
She was like a porcelain figure. Her skin was clear and smooth, her hair, bright gold, her body thin and tight with all the right curves in the right places, her nose straight and narrow, her neck long, her cheeks rosy, her mouth red, her eyes bright and blue, her expression expressionless. After a brief second, she turned to go on her way.
I had to stop her. I said the first thing that came into my head; "I love you". She twisted round like a doll to look back at me.
"What's your name?" I said, trying quickly to redeem myself. She laughed - a hollow, playful, tinkerbelle laugh. "But you're not thin enough," she said, and walked away.
Over the next few weeks I did everything I could to lose weight. I had never thought about it before, but since she pointed it out, I realised that I was overweight. I looked into my gold gilt mirror that I had not found space to hang up yet and saw myself through her eyes; a paunch, love-handles, flabby thighs, thick arms. Compared to her I was a pig.
I did the Atkins diet, the GI diet, the Zone, the Liquid Diet, Raw, Macrobiotic, Weight Watchers - until I was as lean as I had ever been. I returned to her like a trimmed piece of meat, packaged in shorts and a tight t-shirt, certain that she would not turn down the opportunity to devour me now.
No way. No way was I going to do that!
I rang the bell to her apartment and waited. She answered the door, and wore that same, unmoving doll-like face as before.
"It´s me." I said "I´ve lost weight" She eyed me up and down, then, in her sing-song voice, she said, "There's still some fat, and your skin..." she shook her head and closed the door.
I went back to the mirror. Indeed, my skin had become saggy since I had lost all that weight, and there was still a bit of fat around my lower abdomen and lumps in my thighs that I just could not get rid of. I went to a plastic surgeon.
Dr Clay Corpus prowled around my body like an eccentric artist, marking me with different coloured felt-tip pens. Here was a man who clearly knew what he was doing.
First I had the lipo-suction, then the tummy tuck. I had no more fat now and my skin was taut. I felt born again - in fact Dr Clay Corpus had redone my belly-button as part of my surgery, moulding my round, deep well into a long and narrow slit, so it was partly true. I went back to her as a beautiful person.
Again, there was no joy in her eyes when she met the new, improved me. I tried to make conversation before she slammed the door in my face again, and asked her, once more, for her name.
There was no answer to my question. Instead, she commented that my hair was too dark. I went to a hairdresser and had it bleached and highlighted. Of course, when I went back to Paris - for that is what I had started calling her as she reminded me of the famous heiress - she said that it was not nearly long enough. I got extensions put in.
From that point on, I became obsessed. I had my nails done, the skin on my face pulled tight, my toes made slimmer, my nose made straight, silicone implants inserted into my chest and arms, my eyes made brighter, my thighs and legs shaped curvaceously, and my glutens tightened. I was ready. This time I was sure.
When I met her at her door this time, there was a flicker in her bright blue eyes. She put her hand on my cheek and ran it down my smooth skin, my hard and firm chest, all the way down to my groin - where she stopped and pulled away. Before she could say it, I shook my head. No way. No way was I going to do that!
I sat in my apartment, distraught. All this - and for it to come to nothing. I needed to talk to somebody. I went to see Dr Corpus.
He was ecstatic, and convinced me that the operation would make me complete. The process took place in three stages, the castration, the remoulding, and finally the labiaplasty to make it look plump and symmetrical. I had spent months at home in my darkened apartment, recovering from each stage of the operation. Then one day I turned on the lights. I took down 'The Scream' and hung the mirror in its place. As I caught my reflection, I fell in love; I looked exactly like Paris Hilton.