I’m wondering how shocking it would be to see a nipped and tucked Carly at a presidential debate standing next to Hillary Clinton, who’s embraced her grandmotherliness rather than erasing it. Or, is that what it’s going to take to elect a woman to the White House — a pretense of youth to go along with the actual experience?
Frances McDormand is my new hero. In a world where every few months we’re presented with images of the latest Hollywood plastic surgery victim, she is a beacon in the wilderness — an Academy Award winning actress who is stepping up to the plate to say, in essence, ‘This is what a 57-year-old woman really looks like. Deal with it.’
I’ll be honest. I’m not crazy about the aging process. I hate it, actually. So much about it reminds me of the time, not all that long ago, when I didn’t have to worry about doctors as often, didn’t know what those Advil commercials were really talking about when they mentioned “aches and pains,” and had a metabolism that did its job. Sadly, I’ve now become too familiar with:
Menopausal weight gain.
Crow’s feet and laugh lines.
Physical and hormonal changes that impact, shall we say, bedroom “activities.”
Age spots that could possibly become cancerous.
Shall I stop there with the list of terribles?
All of this is, as they say, better than the alternative. And having shared that list, I’m in pretty good health. I’m just not in “good youth.”
We’re a society that values youth — or at least youthful appearance — above so many other things, to a point where it’s damn near impossible to age gracefully. And that’s not a lot of fun because we are all aging. We can’t stop it. Not with the creams and lotions and potions. Not with Spanx or clothes with magical seaming. Not with coloring our hair (which I do). Not with the new make-up that comes along promising to restore our youthful glow. Not with creative women’s clothing sizes — we’re smart enough to know we’re a medium or a large, and not the XS the label claims.
Nevertheless, as each of us gets older moment by moment, it isn’t often that I see someone on the small or large screen who looks more or less like me — in pretty good shape but certainly looking their actual age. And as we’re in the middle of red carpet and awards season, the latest example of age denial has arrived.
This time it’s Uma Thurman who appears to have given in to the plastic surgeon’s knife and wiped away the face she earned through 44 years of living. I suppose it shouldn’t be startling since just a few months ago we lived through basically this same story with Renee Zellweger, but it makes me sad — sad for them, sad for me and sad for my 15-year-old daughter that these truly beautiful and talented women, obviously feeling the pressure of finding fewer roles for women of a certain age, felt compelled to alter their looks so much that we have to do a double take to be sure who they are.
Zellweger and Thurman are two beautiful women who, at least to me, looked awfully good even in “Hollywood years” and were more beautiful before whatever procedures they had done. They’ve abandoned the lovely lines that made them who they were for a smoother, more employable version of themselves?
One of my favorite characters I’ve ever seen Uma Thurman play is “The Bride,” the masterful, sword wielding assassin of the Kill Bill movies. “The Bride” would never have given in to Hollywood pressure to remake herself surgically — not after being shot at her wedding, spending four years in coma, being buried alive, surviving multiple rounds of hand to hand combat, and rebuilding herself physically to seek revenge on anyone and everyone who had a hand in her torture. “The Bride” would have said ‘Screw ’em if they don’t like how I look. I’ve earned every scar.’
The even sadder news is that this sort of faux fountain of youth restoration is creeping into the political world, as well. It’s a bit of an open secret that Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer have had a little work done. So I wonder — is that a requirement for political success? For the first woman president? Hillary Clinton has taken her share of jabs from haters about her wrinkles and tired demeanor, with Rush Limbaugh famously asking in 2008:
“Will Americans want to watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis? And that woman, by the way, is not going to want to look like she’s getting older, because it will impact poll numbers. It will impact perceptions.”
Maybe that’s why Carly Fiorina decided she had to do something about her 60-something lines and droopiness.
Some people say Carly looks good, but heaven help her if she runs for president, as some people claim is on her agenda. She hasn’t confirmed that she’s had any work done on her face, but pictures don’t lie. But I’m wondering how shocking it would be to see a nipped and tucked Carly at a presidential debate standing next to Hillary Clinton, who’s embraced her grandmotherliness rather than erasing it. Or, is that what it’s going to take to elect a woman to the White House — a pretense of youth to go along with the actual experience?
As more aging women are deciding the give in to society’s demand for the appearance of female youthfulness, I’m thankful to one Hollywood actress who is decidedly not a glamour-puss, and I mean that in the most complimentary way — Frances McDormand. I wish her recent interview on aging in the limelight would get the attention that Renee and Uma have gotten:
Quite the contrast seeing a coiffed and made up (and possibly Botoxed?) 58-year-old Katie Couric interviewing a resplendent and unadorned 57-year-old McDormand, isn’t it?
I’m not going to lie. As I get older, hovering in my mid-50s, I have more moments where I look in the bathroom mirror, and pull the skin on my face taut to remember what it looked like without the frown lines. But I don’t feel ashamed of the living I’ve done that’s gotten me the furrowed brow and the dark spots on the left side of my face thanks to the hours of driving kids to soccer games and the swimming pool.
I’d love to have dinner with McDormand so we can compare our respective wrinkles and discuss whether, as Mick Jagger so famously sang, “Time is on my side.” I know you’re never supposed to say never, and maybe there will come a day when either McDormand or I give in to a filler or the Botox needle. But I’m guessing not.
Joanne Bamberger is an independent journalist and journalism entrepreneur who is also the author of the book Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America. She is the founder and publisher of the The Broad Side. Joanne is at work on a forthcoming “surprising” anthology about Hillary Clinton. You can find Joanne on Twitter at @jlcbamberger. Also, follow The Broad Side on Twitter at @The_Broad_Side and on Facebook!