As I grow older, I’m learning more and more about the acceleration of gravity. I think women are more aware of this than men are and we all know the reasons why so I won’t go into that.
Oscar Wilde exemplified the desire of youth, narcissism and vanity to the nth degree in the novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. The movie, Devil’s Advocate played on that same theory about vanity — remember the Devil (Al Pacino) at the very last when we thought Keanu Reeves’ character had learned the lesson, but he again fell victim to that human foible — vanity? The reporter at the end of the movie morphed into the Devil saying, “Vanity — definitely my favorite sin.”
It’s the favorite “sin” of the plastic surgery industry as well. A 2012 Huffington Post article reported that Americans spent $10.4 billion on cosmetic surgery last year. Despite the recession, economic downturn, unemployment rates, we obviously still want to look young, beautiful and thin. According to an article from the Los Angeles Times, women get 91% of those cosmetic procedures but dudes are beginning to get more — their focus is their face, with facelifts having 14% increase in 2010. Still, women obviously are leading the pack. Ouch.
What Do Women Want??
My “formative years” as a woman were the 80s and 90s. Call me crazy, but the celebrities we looked to for fashion and beauty — those looks were far more obtainable that the ones we see now.
Is it me or do you see a difference? Both are gorgeous twenty-something’s (because that’s what you are when you’re in your 20s!) but Jennifer Beals at 20 has normal hair, skin and lips. Megan Fox at 26 has hair extensions, poutier lips and really, really white teeth.
Every time I see those hair commercials with women, whatever their age, with luxurious locks, my rational brain knows it isn’t really their hair but my irrational one thinks, umm, will this product make my hair look like that — really, really??
I’m not sure where I’m going with this. Maybe it’s a reflective diatribe about how we, as a culture, have gone over the edge of reason as far as staying and looking young. I once did a four-part series for a local newspaper about cosmetic surgery. I interviewed several women in their 40s and 50s who went through facelifts and other procedures. They said they did it because people kept telling them, “You look tired.”
They said they didn’t feel tired so they wanted to look the way they felt inside. Don’t we all? Isn’t that the weird thing about aging? We feel the same inside but the natural order of things is that we, well age. When I asked each of them, “Would you do it again?” Most of them said, yes after a bit of hesitation but all said, the recovery was far worse than they thought it was going to be. One gained twenty pounds after surgery.
I’m not sure if any of them felt better, but I think they felt better about their looks. I think there’s a difference.
I’m not against cosmetic surgery — if a woman does so, for the right reasons, I think that’s great and she’s far braver than me. In five years I may fold, give in. But probably not because I’m terrified of being put to sleep and someone cutting on my face and then having to wrap bandages around my head and face while the bruises heal.
I once met a woman at a party who was in her 40s and her face startled me. It was so tight to the point of mask-like and I wondered why she did that. I feel certain she was “pretty” before she decided to do that. And she didn’t look younger, she looked like a woman in her mid-40s with a face devoid of wrinkles — anywhere. I personally think that’s when a woman is her most beautiful — 40s and 50s — when she discovers who she really is.
You meet people who are gorgeous but not so much once you get to know them. Then you meet people who don’t fit that 21st century idea of “beauty,” but their persona is gorgeous, know what I mean?
Maybe we should just accept the fact that gravity is inevitable and that it’s gonna happen no matter how much we fight it. I probably won’t age gracefully. I’ll moan about how this or that isn’t what it used to be, but when I smile, I want my whole face to be in it. I’ve got pictures of my mother (who was gorgeous when she was a young woman) and she still is, just in a different way. She’s in her 70s but when she smiles, it can light up a room.
That’s who I want to be. In the meantime, I’ll keep slathering on those moisturizers and doing what I can to rage, rage against the dying of the light.
What do you think? Have we gone too far with our ideas of beauty and youth?
Press play below. Despite the fact that John Mayer does weird things with his mouth when he sings and puts his mouth all over the microphone, I love this song. Bet you can guess what it is. :). Have a great weekend.
You can’t see me but I just gave you a standing ovation, Brigitte. I feel sorry for the teens and 20-something women out there today, because their “role models” are so incredibly unrealistic. It’s so twisted, the way we’ve gone so far backwards in terms of what women should look and act like. And all these women, these normal looking, beautiful women, ruining themselves with botox, fillers, face lifts, teeth bleaching, starvation diets, whatever. It’s just awful. I still don’t know exactly how or why this happened, but it’s upsetting on so many levels.
Thank you! I am humbly accepting your ovation and applause. I know. I wasn’t thinking about any of that in my 20s! All the strides that women made of being intelligent, educated and valued for just more than their looks — what happened?? I fear that at some point no one’s going to even remember what “normal beautiful” is and you are right — very upsetting.
What she said!
I second that emotion. 😀
Bravo! I couldn’t agree more. Women should let themselves age gracefully and naturally, while keeping their overall health in mind. Like your song choice too. 😉
Thank you, Jennifer and welcome. And I agree with you and I love that song myself. Have a great weekend and hope you’ll stop by again.
Brava! Excellent blog, and yes i think right on the money…which is probably why such “young” women are getting surgery/procedures earlier and earlier…the standards (of beauty) set forth are unattainable (naturally) at any age…really almost alien-like, as you point-out. Thank you for this great post!
Hi Charly — thank you. The current standard of beauty IS unobtainable. Not even those gorgeous, primed “beauties” look like that in real life. Thank you for your comment.
I will take Helen Mirren over a plasticized actress any day. I think she’s the perfect example of aging gracefully. Of course, even she has the benefit of lighting and makeup and such. But like you allude to, who am I to pass judgement on others? People have a right to do whatever they want provided they’re not hurting anyone else.
You got that right. And yeah, they do have just the right lighting, but I don’t blame them. Meryl Streep is another gorgeous woman. I guess what bother me is women are having those procedures younger and younger so that they can curtail the inevitable aging thing. Sad.
I was horrified to see what Lindsey Lohan did to herself. And I don’t usually pay attention to that kind of thing, so it MUST have been bad. 🙂
Oh! I forgot about her. I remember her from the Parent Trap and Mean Girls when she looked normal. So sad.
What a coincidence — I just watched The Devil’s Advocate last night! I wondered if I should do a post with some of my favorite parts in it. I love the way the movie explores vanity, subtly in some parts, as when Milton convinces Marian at the party to wear her hair natural. She pulls her hair back and you see a reflection of her in the nearby window pane, as if in a cameo freeze frame. That image is a statement in itself about vanity. Brigitte, if my outsides matched my insides I’d be quite wrinkly — I very often feel like I’m 101 years old. But seriously, I think it’s important to eat clean foods, drink water, etc. And I exercise regularly. Forget about all that outside stuff. I always say, I’ve been there done that, the youthful velvety skin, etc. — and I appreciated every moment of my youth. So it’s time to move on and explore the other side now. I had my chance, now I turn it over to the youngins!
Sandee — that is truly one of my all-time favorite movies — I just watched it again a couple of days ago. I love the whole good and evil thing. I think it was done perfectly in this movie and I know the scene you’re talking about. And I agree with you, everyone has that bloom of youth and when that passes, as it does eventually for everyone, the torch needs to be passed. That, is beauty. Thank you and here’s to exploring the beauty of the other side. :).
You should see some of the plastic surgery I have to look at around here. Yikes! I wonder what happens to a young girl growing up and sees no beauty in wrinkles? It makes me sad. Great post!
Hey Fish, I know I see it myself. Those lips — seriously? Smile/laugh lines are okay for gawd’s sake! Thank you. :).
I am dealing fairly well with this getting older stuff most of the time – I just stay immature
I hear and resemble that remark. Thanks, Lou Ann.
for me beauty is what i see when the person talks and is … I hate that so many hollywood beauties have immovable faces … but look at Julie Waters or Helen Mirren, gorgeous older women with great facial expressions
Exactly. It’s not all about the outside stuff and like I said, you can tighten up a face, but it still going to look like the face of the years that it is. Make sense? Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep are both gorgeous — I hope I look that lovely when I’m their age. Thanks, J.
ah Meryl has had work done …
You think? Well, it was done well….
I think I read it somewhere … but then can we trust the papers?
I think what you are talking about, is growing old gracefully.
I just read something that really got me going. Filled me up to the top.
A woman was talking about one of the best moments of her life. She went on an 18 day…100 mile hike of the Himalayas with her daughter. She was 58.
Her tried and true moment:
At the top of a mountain…nearing the end…her daughter looked over at her, and said…
“Mom. You are SUCH a BadASS!!!”
That right there is what I want.
That’s how I want to grow old.
I’m like you….if things get too rough…I too may have to go back on some of this graceful business.
But for now…it’s the real deal for this lady.
Great post friend!!!!
That is somewhat what I’m referring to, I suppose, but more about the disturbing trend of striving for perfection and young women having an unhealthy attitude about what beauty and true beauty is. Nice story though! Although I’m a kicker/screamer type from way back so I’ll probably stick with that method cause that’s more fun. 😉 Thanks, Lis. :). xoxo
Excellent post! It is disheartening to see our society’s continued obsession with an unrealistic view of youth-as-perfection. Every life stage should be recognized for what it is. But even before the ’80s and ’90s there were the ridiculous proportions of Barbie dolls. And the fashion industry has spent decades designing clothes that look good only on anorexic mannequins or prepubescent boys. I think that industry is dominated by women-haters who, behind locked doors, laugh at our addiction to their “ideals.”
Thanks, JM. The obsession seems to be getting worse! And I agree with you. Never thought about the Barbie-doll thing — wasn’t it something if Barbie was a real woman she would be six feet tall, weigh practically nothing and have like a 12-inch waist? Some kind of ridiculous nonsense. Ha — the thing about the fashion industry — you know you’re probably right, otherwise why would they make size 2 pants for a woman’s that 5’9″?? Thanks for the comment and glad you enjoyed. :).
I like the picture on the book, Growing old is not for sissies!
Why thanks, D. We picked that book up years ago to keep for motivation and inspiration. :).
Great post! You nailed it. I think as we get older we’re supposed to be looking outside of ourselves, to take all that inner beauty, that we should have been accumulating all of our lives, and use it in service, good deeds, and humanitarian efforts, etc.
It’s sad because I think that women who are insecure, those with a fragile sense of self, have a harder time recognizing their worth, and ultimately put their energies into the wrong things- things that don’t add up to a hill of beans.
How do you want to leave the world? I’d rather have people say Lisa was a beautiful loving spirit THAN, Lisa tried her hardest to look beautiful.
As you pointed out, real beauty comes from within. It’s that light that people feel when they’re in your presence. It’s a quiet knowing of who you are, where you come from, and what you’re all about. : )
Lisa, thank you. And I must say YOU nailed it with your lovely, insightful comment. You must be very very good at what you do and I can certainly understand why you are in the profession you’re in. I feel better just having read this from you. :).
Awww… Thanks Brig! I so appreciate your insights. Your post speaks to all of us struggling to find that tricky balance. Lots of great comments. Makes me proud to be on this blog in such great company.
I know, this IS some great company. Thank you, Lisa.
Not to be redundant but I agree with all of your commenters here! I like getting older.. it is a slow freeing experience and screw them all. i am what I am …Beauty does come from within and it shines on the outside for sure.
Have you seen this ridiculous product? Facelift Bungee? My goodness!
Great post as always Brigitte… get the rants going and make us all feel good about ourselves 🙂 You have great readers and I love reading the comments as much as I do your posts. Way to bring it all together woman!
Audra, thank you! For gawd’s sake, I just watched that video and I have not heard of it, but I’m laughing out loud. A bungee cord for your face — I’m speechless. I love to get these rants going. All of us feel a bit insecure from time to time, but I think as one gets older, we figure out what’s really important and what we should be focusing on.
It’s so great for me too — all these wonderful, insightful and kind people stopping by and speaking their truth. I love it as well and your comments always bring a smile to my face and make me feel all smiles inside. Thanks, friend and I’m like you — I am what I am.
One more thing — what if that thing popped off!?? It could put someone’s eye out. Jeez.
haaa I know … and how long does that really take to get just right? absolutely insane!!
You are the most beautiful woman in the world.
Thank you my love. You are my hero.
Looks like you’re full of mojo today lady. If somebody tells me I look tired, I go take a nap. Good god we are a strange bunch, aren’t we? Got straight hair? use a curling iron. Got curly hair? use a flat iron. Change your look every day ’til your bathroom smells like burnt lavender and plastic. =: 0
P.S. you’re perfection.
Seriously, I’m blushing.
Why thank you, Honie. I could say the same to you (i.e., your most recent post) ;). Burnt lavender and plastic…sounds as lovely as that bungee cord thingy to hold your face up. Thanks, lady.
Great post, Brigitte! When did we come to equate beauty with youth? The way I look at it, this kind of perfection didn’t happen overnight…I like every strand of gray in my head, every new wrinkle on my face, every extra tire around my waist. They point to a life lived with much laughter…and chocolates! 🙂 xoxoM
Thanks, Margarita. I don’t know when that happened exactly, but it’s the two aren’t necessarily linked are they? I’m with you! A life well-lived is a very beautiful thing indeed. xo. :).
Megan Fox looks like Jessica Rabbit. Jennifer Beals looks like a human. I know who I want to emulate! Great post, Brig!
You know, I didn’t even think of that but you’re right! And I’m with you, Emily. Thank you! :).
So very true! Everyone in Hollywood has the exact same smile.. It’s kind of creepy. Yet I am still a huge supporter of Olay.. *sigh lol
It is creepy. And I have Olay in my cabinet as well. :D. Thanks, Sparkly.
I think we have definitely gone too far with the obsession with youth and “perfect” looking women. People always ask me what actresses I think are hot, honestly not many of them. They all look exactly the same and most of them have the bodies of little boys with baseballs sewn on their chests.
AND some of the hottest women I’ve ever met have been in their 40s.
End of rant. 😛
Yes, and there are SO MANY of them — starlets, I can’t keep up anymore. And I agree with you, 40s AND 50s. And hey, there’s Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep and Sally Field — lovely women in their 60s. And Diane Keaton. Thanks, Natasia.
Totally Totally agree with you. Great post. the meaning of beauty has changed drastically over the years and what’s worse is that people/ women are going crazy keeping up with what they think is the idea of beauty ruining their physical and mental health in the process. the simplest answer is “we need to love ourselves first and once that’s in place it simply radiates out to other people and makes you beautiful”.
Hi Hema — thank you. It has changed and not for the good I’m afraid. Everyone has their own unique sense of beauty and there’s no distinct model for it. I love your “simplest answer,” it’s so very true and just perfect. Thank you.
Wonderful post Brigitte. I feel I’ve aged a lot over the past two years – no cosmetic surgery for me though. I think women can look beautiful at any age so long as they smile, love themselves and be accepting of where they are in life. Your 50s is a liberating time of life so why ruin it by worrying about the wrinkles. I’m still learning on that one mind you. I wonder what Madonna REALLY looks like. Judi Dench is one of the most beautiful women in the World and she has lots of stories (wrinkles) on her face. 🙂
Thanks, Teresa. I know what you mean and a smile can transform a face (whether young or older) into stop-dead-in-your-tracks beautiful. I think we need to get back to normal without so much emphasis on perfection. Women come in all sizes, shapes, colors and experiences and what a woman projects is what makes her the most beautiful. Yeah, seriously what does Madonna look like?? And I agree with you about Judi Dench — her range, her expressions and a class A actor — she is a beauty!
I agree with you regarding beauty coming from inside someone (you specifically mentioned women in their 40s or 50s who know who they are, or words to that effect). Personality means so much. I don’t mean that physical attractiveness isn’t important–it DEFINITELY is. But total attractiveness is about a lot more. A couple good examples. Anna Nicole Smith. When I first saw her as a young man, I thought she was drop-dead gorgeous. And then sometime later I heard her open her mouth, and suddenly she was a slovenly ape. Contrast this with Jodie Foster. I think she’s pretty, but as far as “on-screen pretty” goes, she’s not much. However, every time she opens HER mouth I think, “Damn! It’s a shame she plays for the other team, because this chick is HOT.”
And speaking of inner beauty, although I think of myself as a pretty darn handsome guy, in ALL of the four most serious (1+ year or more) relationships I’ve had with women, including my wife, I was attracted to them MONTHS before they woke up and realized I was the most awesome man on the face of the planet. My wife took the longest. I met her on the first day of college, before any of the other three relationships I mentioned.
Cosmetic plastic surgery baffles me. Now, I can understand how if someone is born with an abnormality so emotionally crippling that corrective (not cosmetic) surgery is required, or a woman who has undergone a mastectomy, or someone who was disfigured in an accident.
But cosmetic surgery is kinda gross to me. Especially the bad jobs. I see a woman AND her husband in the supermarket. They look like celebrities (but not just in a “good” way), I’ve tried to figure out who they are, if they’re “anybodies.” Anyway, the woman’s face is unnaturally smooth, and just looks wrong. Her husband’s face is similar, but has a weird baby’s ass-color and texture (I haven’t touched it, it just looks that way). His hair is an inky black that would be unnatural on anyone older than 25 under an ever-present cowboy hat. They seem like nice enough people, and I’ll bet they’d be pretty good-looking without all the cutting.
I agree, physical attractiveness is important. When I first saw my husband, that’s what I was attracted to because he was gorgeous (still is) but had he been not of my same…let’s say mindset, I wouldn’t have found him attractive. Your sentence, “When I first saw her as a young man…(Anna), I had to re-read it cause I thought you meant SHE was a young man and you knew something I didn’t — ha!, but anyhoo I totally understand why she would be attractive to men, why she was — she was, a beautiful woman, but that beauty kind of faded when we all witnessed the train wreck of her life which was very sad. Jodie Foster I get because she’s intelligent (and pretty) but I bet that other team doesn’t think it’s a shame. :).
Men are more visual and women more emotional I think but who knows what the weird attraction pheromone kind of stuff is — why one is attracted to this person or that. In the long run, it’s about sharing that inner stuff more so that the outward stuff because beauty fades and we all get older and I think one gets that as they grow older. Even if your wife took the longest, I’ll bet she was worth waiting for. Obviously!
I don’t begrudge anyone for choosing cosmetic surgery. One of the surgeons I had to interview also did what you mentioned — reconstructive facial surgery for children, here in the U.S. and abroad, but his cosmetic surgery is what paid the bills, so there you go. And, I think it’s okay if a woman (or man) chooses to have cosmetic surgery, but it’s not going to change a person’s life or make them any happier, I don’t think. That’s what I mean by inner beauty — it comes with time and life experiences I think.
Some surgery looks “natural” I guess and others, well as you mentioned — not so much. It’s getting to the point where it’s the norm and my point was that I think it’s sad that young women in their 20s are worrying so much about being perfect — our culture’s interpretation of that now and from the stats I quoted, way more women succumb to that pressure than men. I’m not going to say something horribly corny like “Everyone’s is beautiful in their own way,” but I think you get what I mean. Thanks, Smak — it’s nice to have a male perspective on this and I always love your comments.
You’re right–my wife was SO worth waiting for. All of the women I’ve dated for any length of time were wonderful people (I don’t date people I don’t like; seems obvious, but I think a lot of people do), but my wife is such an out-of-this world partner that she’s helped me achieve so very much. Great chick!
I know exactly what you mean — I have the same. Well, not a chick, but a very righteous dude.
Great post!! I completely agree – especially with the statement that women who grow old gracefully are the most beautiful to me. Thanks for a thoughtful post!
Hi Jenn– thank you and I’m glad you enjoyed the post — you’re very welcome.
Hi, Brig. Great post! I have two sisters who are on this perfection quest (not with surgery… at least I don’t *think* so!), but they happen to be really good at it. They are beautiful to begin with (really), and when dolled up (curious phrase, isn’t it?) they look downright gorgeous. I, on the other hand, have somehow always looked ridiculous in makeup. I’ve got more of that freckly-face thing going, girl next door, etc. My philosophy as I age is to step further and further away from the gimmicks and expectations, and to embrace the simple me. But I have to admit, it is downright hard to do when I am in the presence of my sisters. I always suddenly feel dowdy, out of shape and old. It’s so silly because in my own environment, I’m pretty accepting of myself. It’s the comparison that gets me–when *I* compare myself to or when others have the opportunity to compare us as we stand side-by-side. (Damn, I hate photos!!!) Sometimes it just looks so extreme (because, really, make-up is, isn’t it?). This last time, my younger sister went full-on with false eyelashes, hair extensions, etc., and the older one with boob boosters, waist cinchers, etc. Neither of them actually needs any of this stuff, because I think they look most beautiful without, when they aren’t trying to be some ‘other’ version of their true selves. I hope beyond hope that if just one of us can manage to relax, maybe EVERYONE can relax. That’s kind of it in a nutshell, huh? If some of us ladies can just get the message out there to relax, maybe we ALL could finally relax. Some women like the whole dress up thing, but last I checked, I was born a real girl, and not a plastic, dress-up doll. Just sayin. ;^)
Hey Sue, I think you’ve just summed up precisely how many women feel. I don’t know what it is or why we feel the need to compare ourselves to others. I do this as well. I just don’t have the desire or effort to spends hundreds on all that — hair extensions, perfect nails and all that but I certainly don’t begrudge women who choose that. I can’t stand to sit still that long — I hate going to the spa/hairdresser so no way, no how am I going to sit there for HOURS and let someone weave fake hair into mine. That would be torture for me!! I was born a real girl too (love that!!) and whenever I start to think, well, I’d like to have bigger boobs or whatever, I know me. I would fret and worry about something alien being in my body and if I get chest presses something would deflate. I’m just sayin.’ Thanks, Sue and here’s to relaxing AND embracing who we are.
My own two cents (which means it would be personal, right, IMO): beauty comes with age. To each is own, right? But Le Clown as a young kid was always attracted to older women, because, he thought, there were stories in the eyes, and that made women beautiful, he said. He hasn’t really changed his perception, today. Life in someone’s eyes makes them attractive, in his opinion, of course. Plastic surgery, even though they will not alter what’s in someone’s eyes, erases that life… Again, according to moi.
I like your two cents. This older woman thing — I think this happened to alot of young men. There was a movie, Summer of 52 that was all about that. But I agree with you and love your expression, “stories in the eyes…that made women beautiful.” Wonderful!! Thank you for your brilliance and your wonderful input — Le Clown — much appreciated.
What a terrific post. I feel awful for the girls who are teens and early 20’s right now. It is already an age of insecurity and the lucky ones find their way without too much damage, but I can’t imagine the pressure to look perfect. So many starlets look like cartoon versions of themselves; I can’t imagine what they’ll look like when they’re 50. Will we then adopt a standard of beauty where everyone is supposed to look like Joan Rivers? Because even she makes fun of herself.
Hi RG, welcome! You’re right. I think it’s difficult when you’re that age not to compare yourself with someone anyway (peer pressure, etc.) so to put images out there that unobtainable is kind of said I think. I hope everyone doesn’t end up looking like Joan Rivers — I don’t even remember what she looked before all the work! Thanks, RG — so appreciate your nice comment.