The Academy Awards appearances of Goldie Hawn, 68, and Kim Novak, 81, triggered a firestorm of fan reaction. Both actresses appeared with what were perceived to be dramatically altered faces and the Internet was quick to harshly criticize them.
Can we pause a moment and reconnect with reality -- both theirs and ours?
1) Gravity is an equal opportunity employer and time is on nobody's side.
Healthy living and good genes -- mostly the genes -- may slow the eventual outcome but at the end of the day, our body parts wear out. Our jowls sag, our hair loses its natural pigment, and our skin loosens and forms crevices that we call wrinkles and laugh lines that few find funny.
It's aging, people, nothing more and nothing less. And it happens to everyone, regardless of who they are and how they earn a living.
2) Aging gracefully isn't necessarily the compliment you think it is.
When people keep themselves in shape and manage to look younger than their years, we say they are "aging gracefully." If that's you, thank your ancestors for the genes they bequeathed you and maybe the personal trainer you are fortunate enough to be able to afford.
But when someone says you don't look 64, don't act like they are paying you a compliment. Be mindful of the back-handed slap in their words and ask them this: "What exactly would be so wrong with looking my age anyway? How about if I just look 'good,' not 'good for my age?'" Which leads to my next point.
3) There is nothing wrong with looking older.
At the crux of the matter is our definition of beauty. We live in a culture where youth is equated with beauty. But culture can change, can't it? Remember when the body ideal was Rubenesque instead of waif-like anorexic?
Apply it to aging. Instead of congratulating people for not looking their age, why not start valuing older looks, ascribing to them qualities of grace, wisdom, experience -- and yes -- beauty.
If the Third Metric movement can successfully redefine what success looks like, surely we can also redefine what beauty looks like and include the bulk of the population in that definition.
4) Hollywood is an unkind place for older women.
Not all older women, for sure, but with certainty I can say: Most of them. The roles for older women are limited and frankly, it seems that Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren and Judi Dench divide them up among themselves with an occasional bone tossed in the direction of Susan Sarandon. We can laud Streep, Mirren and Dench and say how great it is that they are all "aging gracefully."
But for every Streep, Mirren and Dench, there are dozens of older actresses who have retired from public life. Maybe they had enough of the fame and fortune or maybe they just read the writing on the wall: Older women need not apply. They go underground and we don't hear about them for decades, or until someone gets the idea that bringing Kim Novak on to the Academy Awards stage could do well on Twitter.
5) The public, like Hollywood, also can be unkind to older women.
Goldie Hawn has spent a career being adorable. Novak was a Hollywood sex siren. If you trade in just one commodity and that commodity is gone, your choice is to try and recapture it or leave the game. Hawn and Novak? Maybe they didn't want to leave the game. Novak said as much from the Oscars podium she shared with Matthew McConaughey. "I'm really glad to be here," she kept repeating. "It's been a long time."
And how did the world react to her frozen face? The double-combover Donald Trump posted this mean-spirited tweet:
I'm having a real hard time watching the Academy Awards (so far). The last song was terrible! Kim should sue her plastic surgeon! #Oscars
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 3, 2014
And the vitriol on The View directed Novak's way -- including the suggestion that she shouldn't have even shown up at the awards show but instead "let people remember her the way she was" -- was cringe-worthy.
How about a simple act of respect? Enough with the snark. Cleverness needn't be unkind.
6) Drawing the line is a personal choice. Accept more, judge less.
I color my hair and have caps on some teeth. I have never injected Botox into my body but I do rub creams on my face every night with evangelical zeal.
Out of curiosity, I once went to a plastic surgeon and had a computerized image done of what I'd look like with a smaller nose and stronger chin. I left without an appointment, a situation that is unlikely to change. But the next time you tell me I don't look 64, I won't thank you or remind you that this is what 64 looks like. I will ask you what's wrong with looking 64 in the first place.
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