I recently visited a local plastic surgeon to consult about a minor procedure. I’d heard great things about this surgeon and was pretty much sold on him. I was ready for a quick, “Hello, nice to meet you. My friends say you’re great. Let’s do this.”

However, after half an hour in his consultation room I vowed never to go within a mile of that office ever again. He had the nerve to bring Bo Derek to my consultation.

Not the real Bo, but a look-alike from his staff—long blond hair, chiseled features, willowy body with large breasts, a specimen of New Aryan sensuality, packaged with dollops of help from aesthetic medicine.

I hope you are not making the same mistake this doctor made. Instead of creating a safe space for his prospect—a place in which I could unburden myself and confront the aging process with hopefulness—he created an atmosphere of insecurity.

He should have encouraged a rapport with me, which is Step 1 in any successful sales sequence. Unfortunately, he encouraged alienation.

This version of Bo is actually just an update of “Christine the cheerleader,” that high school juggernaut all Boomer women know and still dread. Whenever Christine sauntered by, the boys’ heads swiveled in unison. At that point, a force field swept over all the Jewish girls, Italian girls, brown-haired girls, and assorted other “second-class citizens.” We’d slump our shoulders and creep toward the shadows.

Torture Chamber

Sitting on the examining table, clutching a hand mirror, I prayed for wings that would fly me out the window. I’d fly to a safe place, a place teeming with normal, flawed women like me.

The mirror got heavier, and I didn’t dare make eye contact with Bo. I was sure she was smirking. Every time I held up the mirror, prodded by an unrelenting, cruel fascist disguised as a surgeon, the news was worse. Was it the lighting or my deflated mood? My face was all creases and droops, slightly pink with shame.

I fled as soon as I could, feeling like I’d been deposed. I spent the rest of the day hiding in my bedroom, calling friends, and wailing about the unfairness of growing old.

What was that surgeon thinking? Was he parading his best material, hoping it had sales value?

Your patients come to you at a moment when life is playing rotten tricks on them. Their looks and social standing are under siege. Men have started ignoring them at parties. Their careers are topping out while younger employees are getting promotions—some of them are younger women who become managers. They can’t even chill out in safety.

When they come to you, they are very, very vulnerable.

What was that surgeon thinking when he brought his most delectable employee into that room? Her presence sent me back onto the street. What I needed was a sop to my misery, not an introduction.

If there must (by custom or law) be a female present at these first meetings, make it someone unthreatening. Choose a warm, nonjudgmental presence. Ideally, it would be our fairy godmothers, our “bubbies,” or that unmarried aunt who loved us unconditionally when we were growing up. Need a role model? Think Maureen Stapleton or Doris Roberts, not Bo.

The only place we want to see Bo is in your portfolio, where we can cackle over her lumpy nose and concave chest in the “before” photos.

If you must hire a young hottie, leave her in the front office to answer the phone. Wise up. Show compassion. You are in the Hope business. Flaunting a woman’s nemesis in front of her fizzles all hope.

Take-away lesson: Bring your least threatening woman on your staff into that consulting room.

Joyce Sunila has 30 years of experience in medical marketing. Her company, Practice Helpers, provides Internet patient-loyalty and lead-generation campaigns for aesthetic plastic surgeons. She can be reached at (866) 706-0550 or via her Web site, www.practicehelpers.com.