Archives for: November 2006, 25
At my age, many of my peers go in for the full facelift, or at least the eye-job, with or without browlift. In my own case, I confess to all sorts of manual/pretend operations before the mirror: "This is what I'd look like if...", imagining the deft slicing away of these new ellipses of spongy periorbital epidermis. I see "jowls" developing, too, and (make believe) do away with them, chop chop.
The challenge is to think contextually. Yes, when one is before the mirror, up close, it stands to reason that one compares oneself with filmed or magazine(retouched) headshots of those whose annual surgical bill exceeds your income. But get the Big Picture.
Here's the image that frequently comes to my own mind: Oscar Night, the last time I watched it. I don't remember what year it was, since I don't go to the movies, but it was the year Gwyneth won Best Actress and wore pink. I had never seen her before, or another actress named Kim Basinger, who wore mint/aqua (I think Helen Hunt was milling around, too, in taupe?), and I remarked, "They're all so POINTY!" Well defined clavicles, skinny necks and arms, flat chests, angular jaws, chins, cheekbones, and elbows. I thought, "This isn't even attractive" (and I had some credibility at the time, being then svelte and blonde and pretty myself).
Two women caught my eye at that televised gala, women whose names I was only told later. Both looked soft, womanly, real. Yes, "real" says it, for there seemed to be human substance behind their faces and physiques, so different from the emaciated herd. The two women were: Judi Dench and Kathy Bates. These women clearly knew they were actresses rather than runway models (and dare I say "women rather than boys"?). Much more than mere heft was of note in their carriage: They had class, presence, style, élan. Their sheer confidence made the Pointy Brigade look like vacuous wannabe's, grasping at angularity as if to cover or polish some paucity of ... soul?
Realness. Verve. Character and Vitality. Whenever I find myself playing with my eyelids or jawline, I force myself to remember Dame Judi and Kathy, whom I would much rather resemble as I journey croneward than, say, Morgan Fairchild.
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Looking 30 is great -- when you're 30 or thereabout. Me, I naturally got away with looking young through my 40's. During the past year, however, the decades and processes have realigned, somehow, and here we are... Still: I wouldn't rather be pointy (even if such were beautiful. Beauty, anyway, can attract unpleasant attentions, and all manner of creeps, don't I know it).
When I was "young and beautiful", the way to discourage unwanted attentions was to dress dowdily and hide. In midlife, it's much easier. Nature can help us gain weight, droop, sag, be soft and all too human, even with great hair and clothes. Interestingness should matter. Wrinkles should be welcomed, nay, fanfared.
Even in the case of masculine beauty, there are men who have their eyelids clipped and bald pates plugged, and look scary, like many of the women. Morgan Fairchild does look scary. Seen Olivia Newton-John or Cher lately?
Joan Collins was on Martha Stewart's TV show a couple of weeks ago; she looked like a ghoul beside the much more vivacious, natural (60-something) Martha, whose face gives us that "context". Judi Dench and Kathy Bates are, and look like, real people. (Princess) Grace Kelly died in her 50's, a natural beauty.
The keyword here may well be "grace". Imagine two very elderly former starlets, side by side. One looks her age and is full of life. The other seems to have outwitted Decay by stretching her skin so tight she appears, ironically, full of Death, while she's forced to FAKE the youthful vigor that matches her appearance. The former is aging gracefully and graciously. The latter is a pathetic picture of ambition laced with emptiness: All you see is a catalogue of cosmetic procedures, from hair to teeth to skin to lipo. Whom would you rather be, or know? (Warning: Every one of these latter types began, in midlife or earlier, with some "small" procedure.)
Whom are you becoming, at 50? The parent of bride or groom? A grandparent? A mentor? A sage or leader? And - even if you ARE an actor or actress - are you coming into your prime? or fighting, nipping, suctioning, raging against the softening of the light?
Is it really a spa-trip you need? A facelift? or might you be better occupied with living into your age, finding your depth, celebrating and thanking your wrinkles that shout at your soul to Get Real?
To my mind, a facelift says, "I won't face this reality". A truly aging face says, "I inhabit reality".
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Teenagers go through body-image trauma of the Adolescent kind. Postpartum women traverse a body-image passage too, having experienced pregnancy and childbirth, now coming to grips with mammary and pelvic reality, skin repercussions and the rest. Adolescence, Matrescence, and, yes, Senescence: Pivotal phases on life's way, involving, among other phenomena, coping with massive and permanent transformations of our bodies, changes over which we naturally have little control and which are meant, I believe, to co-operate with mental and emotional expansion and wizening.
Do we embrace all that is Life? Do we endeavor to understand it? Or, rather, to conquer it? This exemplifies one of the profoundest quandaries of our era: Is technology an enhancer of Life? or its Nemesis?
There are magnificent wines that age beyond their corks' lifespans. Masters of such matters fly around the world, visiting great collections and re-corking these fragile gems in a way that does not interfere with their aging process.
Are you aging that gracefully? Is your inner life blossoming so gorgeously that your container can't keep pace? Can you cross the bridge into Elderhood with your juice intact - nay - still developing? or are you jostling the bottle, messing with it, affixing new, glittery (and pointy?) labels? Overhandle the bottle, you see, and you actually destroy the wine.
So: Is your elixir worth preserving? Does it merit its antique bottle with all its dust and cobwebs? If not, pointiness might fool some of the people, but only some of the time, and never yourself.
"Age is one's true face, long waiting in the wings for the charade of youth to tire". - my Journal, 30 June, 1993