1. duplicity, duality
As I head into my late early thirties, I’m developing a mild obsession with actresses who haven’t had plastic surgery. When I was younger, all grownup faces looked the same to me, and that look was “boring.” But just as I’ve discovered that people over forty can do things other than make you dinner and pay for college, I’ve also learned that some of them freeze their faces into little shrines to their former selves, and some of them age.
After seeing Duplicity, AK and I had this conversation:
Me: It’s really nice to see Julia Roberts looking so great but also normal. I mean, maybe she’s had a little Botox here and there, but I don’t think she’s had any full-on surgery. And she’s skinny, but not so skinny you can’t imagine her eating. She looks like she has a life, you know?
AK: Yeah, it’s nice to see. But I’m not against people getting face lifts if they want. We do lots of stuff that’s unnatural to our bodies, so it seems hypocritical to judge them for taking it one step further.
Me: I don’t judge it either. I don’t think it’s immoral or anything—-but you have to acknowledge that it is an act of denial.
AK: That seems a lot like judging.
Me: Okay, so I do judge. But not in a judgmental way. I’ll probably dye my hair pretty soon. Not for fun but to deny the gray.
2. old-lady pride
I appreciate the Julia Robertses and the Jennifer Jason Leighs and the Diane Keatons because by going natural (or at least appearing to), they’re putting forth the radical notion that having lived longer than thirty years is not something to apologize for.
(Of course it helps that they were all gorgeous to start with. I might age a little more like Penny Marshall than Julia Roberts.)
Back in the day, being gay used to seem really unappealing because I had never actually seen a grownup gay person whose life looked fun. So yeah, we need some old-lady role models, not closet cases trying desperately to pass as thirty when they’re fifty.
But even though I’m saying, Be proud of who you are, I think I’m also saying, Be an enviable example of what you are, which is a problem that I and our whole culture seem to have. Like, it’s okay to look your age as long as you’re still beautiful and you’re calm and wise all the time. It’s okay to be gay as long as you’re funny. It’s okay to be fat as long as you don’t have visible cellulite. It’s okay to be “ethnic” as long as you’re not poor.
And it’s only okay to be stressed-out and dramatic and poor if you’re young and white and thin and pretty. (It’s never okay to have cellulite.)
There’s a darker, messier world in which all types of people are flawed at all stages of their lives. I was watching a young mom interact with her toddler at the store today, and I caught myself daydreaming about what a fun and kickback mom I would be, the kind whom you’d overhear saying witty yet educational things to her kid in Cost Plus World Market.
Then I caught a glimpse of my messy hair in the mirror next to the Indian jewelry display and I thought, If I’m a deeply imperfect, high-strung non-mom, what makes me think I’m going to become totally cool once I’m getting three hours of sleep a night?
I guess I want it all: the fantasy of a perfect and endless future, the semi-fantasy of beauty that results from chaos and complexity, and the reality of human fragility. But hey, it’s my birthday tomorrow. I’m allowed to have a wish list.
*No offense to Penny Marhsall. Really, I could do much worse.