About a month ago I posted on my Facebook business page what I thought was a fairly lovely -- and innocuous -- photo of two beautiful women, Maggie Smith and Judi Dench. I captioned it: "Two divine women. No wild outfits. No heavy make-up or plastic surgery. They simply inspire our admiration and grab our attention because of who they are."
That post got nearly 16 million views. It was shared 96,454 times. It received more than 14,000 comments.
The vast majority of those comments (ok -- so I didn't read ALL of them ... yet) were in complete agreement. Grateful women from all over the world wrote in to thank me for showing real women with real wrinkles. A few suggested both actresses had likely had their eyelids done. Some said they just had good genes. But for the most part, there was a rousing chorus of "hear, hears."
That is, except for one group of women: those in their late 30s and early 40s. The backlash from them was brutal. Several called me out for "shaming" those who choose to have plastic surgery, wear makeup and dress in a more revealing manner. Now, I applaud all women however they choose to face age. But I posted the photo specifically because our popular culture has bred a deep fear of wrinkles, age spots and white hair, as if they are symptoms of a communicable disease. I simply wanted to show how they are accessories to a life well lived. Here's my response, young ladies: aging is not communicable, but it is inevitable.
Now here's the kicker. I also received responses from a great number of men, which was something completely unexpected as my blog is primarily directed at older women. And many of these men were considerably younger than Smith and Dench. All the comments I read said, literally or essentially, the same thing: We love you as you are. We love what's real. Don't make yourselves plastic for us. Here are a few:
"Two of the most beautiful women onscreen. I love and admire them both for their intelligence, talent and wit."
"I think they are beautiful and it should inspire every woman to accept getting older gracefully, not with all this Botox and cosmic surgery."
"They are also talented/sexy in a subtle mature way... Something younger women don't seem to get!"
"The thing that bothers me is that women are bombarded with pressure and images from the media and the fashion industry that call into question self-image and prompt comparison to perceived norms. The worst offenders are magazines written and edited for women by women. Time for an injection of feminism and realism into the female run fashion media."
True, many of the articles and fashion magazines espouse feminism but most of the images they feature are airbrushed and the vast majority of the models are under 19. For me, just as Joni Mitchell gladly accepted "spots on her apples" I'll take spots on an older face. I'm just starting to embrace my own.