I'm browned off over whiter teeth

It would be hard for me to argue that I have become more vain since getting divorced, especially considering that one of the many things that annoyed my ex-wife was that, whenever I was in a restaurant, I would regularly check my appearance in the cutlery.

I've always been a bit obsessed with my looks. In fact, one ex-girlfriend, noting my frequent visits to the toilet during a meal, assumed I was going to powder my nose, and I don't mean with make-up. Actually, I was fixing my hair, back when I had hair.

Still, I can't help feeling my appearance has become even more of an issue now, maybe because I'm trying to look vaguely attractive to the opposite sex, "vaguely" being the operative word. Suddenly, I'm keen to learn about exfoliating, where before I just assumed that was a terrible practice of the American military during Vietnam.

And I've started, for the first time in ages, to concern myself with clothes. The place for men to shop right now is Trunk in London where they accommodate the "sartorially elegant" and you can peruse the racks full of outfits by the likes of Aspesi, Zanone, Barena, Montedoro and other members of the Inter Milan squad. Don't know about you, but I haven't been sartorially elegant since as a child I used to wear a bow tie and blazer because my hero was John Steed in the cult "spy-fi" TV series, The Avengers.

Having decided to smarten myself up, I noticed with interest a website called Lookmantastic.com where they offer advice about "Grooming, Health and Wellbeing for Men" and you can order such must-haves as "molding paste" for £13.40 (for that kind of money I'd want more than my barnet stiffened). You can also, for 63 quid, purchase this liquid called "Escentric Molecules", whose mixture of "orris, elderflower and hedione" produces a "pheromonic effect". You'd have to be "escentric" to believe a bottle of fragrance could liven up your love life, but you can see how it might happen: apparently, the "male beauty" market in this country is worth almost a billion pounds as the lager lout is superseded by a new British archetype: the primping narcissist.

Not that I’m gullible, but I imagined that, within the hour, I would become one of beautiful people

I contributed to that market myself last month when I visited a well-known North London shopping precinct whose name rhymes with "financial loss". There, I handed over £100 to a lady in a white lab-coat who claimed to be able to make my teeth whiter. Not that I'm gullible or anything, but I took one look at the photos on display of the iridescent young creatures with their dazzlingly bright smiles and imagined that, within the hour, I would become one of the beautiful people, able to light a room with one grin.

And all I had to do was sit in a chair, shielded from the stares of incredulous passers-by by a low makeshift "wall", and have this "miracle" treatment. This comprised of a "revolutionary" gel that the woman in the white lab-coat smeared on my teeth and was so POWERFUL and EFFECTIVE its name was spelled out in their information pack in capital letters.

According to the literature, the substance would remove staining from the surface and the sub-surface of the tooth. I didn't even realise my teeth had a sub-surface, I thought, as the woman proceeded to affix a clamp-like contraption to my mouth equipped with a blue LED light designed to "accelerate the effect" of the gel. After an uncomfortable 60 minutes sat there looking like Anthony Hopkins in The Silence Of The Lambs, the gadget was removed, the gel wiped away, and a mirror produced to show me the effects of this radical new procedure.

Not that radical: my teeth looked exactly like they did an hour earlier, ie the sort they might show images of to children as a warning against overeating sweets. My face, however, looked different. Where before it was a radiant picture of hope, now you could just see the scowl of a man who had just shelled out £100 and got not much in return. Not surprisingly, I demanded a refund. She coughed up, perhaps encouraged to do so by my use of the magic words: "I am a journalist for various national newspapers and will gladly write a story exposing the truth about this so-called 'wonder gel'".

I checked later that the money went back into my account then proceeded directly to Bluewater where they've got this amazing ointment guaranteeing to restore your hair.

    Last updated: 11:59am, April 14 2011