When I grow up, I want to be Julia Ormond. Not the unsatisfied booze-swilling mother-in-law to Don Draper character she plays on Mad Men (who performs a blowie on a Sterling Cooper colleague -- shield your eyes Sally!) but the woman herself. A woman who appears comfortable in her own skin, even as she ages. The last time I recall seeing Ormond was in the '90s as Brad Pitt's tortured lover in Legends of the Fall, and Harrison Ford's would-be tortured lover in Sabrina. She wasn't an actress who stood out to me. Not because she wasn't talented or lovely, but because it's a rare thing for me to be blown away by the Hollywood studio system (what a snob!). Yet, here I was watching last Sunday's episode of Mad Men, blown away.
And here's why: in addition to the brilliance of that show, at 47, Ms. Ormond looked like she hasn't had a stitch of work done. Her features appeared to be the same shape, and in the same place. She had wrinkles. And she was beautiful. "That's Julia Ormond!" I said aloud to my cat. She glanced at me sideways for a moment, one leg straight in the air, before going back to licking her undercarriage. Ormond looked the same, just older, real. As a woman who recently entered my forties, I can't tell you how comforting that is. Especially as I've declared loudly to friends and family -- a thing I do regularly to establish accountability -- that I will never, ever do anything invasive to my face. No Botox, no collagen, no plastic surgery, ever. There are times I look at my face and see the effects of age, the effects of drinking and smoking, of sun. But so far, they are just moments. I have really good genes, eat pretty healthy and exercise regularly. If I never make an expression I could pass for 32! As I get older, I know these effects will set and deepen and these moments will no longer be fleeting. It will just be my face. And it will bother me, because I am vain. And I will be tempted to do something beyond buying expensive creams and facials to correct the situation. But when I see a woman like Ormond represented in popular culture, I feel motivated to maintain this path.
Because the thing is, we can tell when most women have had work done. And what it says to us is that looking young or "fresh" is valued above almost all else. More than knowledge gained, the accomplishments we've racked up or the emotions that have lined our faces through a life fully lived. More than the strength of character we project to our peers and our daughters. And while we may declare, "wow, Nicole Kidman looks amaaazing," it is usually followed up with: but who wouldn't with all that work done, or the private chef, trainer and team of stylists? In fact, that second thought almost cancels out the amazingness of it all, because it's not real.
Once, while watching Sex in the City -- when it was still airing on HBO -- my husband said, "Man, Sarah Jessica Parker is looking old," to which I responded "News flash! That's what a 40-year-old woman looks like!" And Ormond is what her 47-year-old self looks like. Thank you, SJP and Julia for keeping it real, because keeping it real is the true mark of beauty. If you don't reconcile that within yourself early, it becomes an exhausting, obsessive, pricey, forever project with mixed results (Heidi Montag and Rose McGowan come to mind, but not Joan Rivers who has been honest about it and a groundbreaker in so many areas she can do whatever the fuck she wants). I understand that pressure exists in the entertainment world -- image is the job and the job is one's image. It can't be easy. I only hope that I will continue to heed Liz Lemon's advice to Jenna on season four of 30 Rock:
Liz Lemon: You can try to fight getting older. You can be like Madonna and cling to youth with your Gollum arms. Or you can be like Meryl Streep and embrace your age with elegance.
So you're saying it's a choice? Between the dignity of middle age and the illusion of youth.
Lemon: Two paths -- Meryl Streep...or Madonna.
Jenna: Very well. I will emulate my acting inspiration. A woman of profound poise, whose career is what we all aspire to--
Lemon: Okay, this build-up is making me nervous.
Jenna: ...a woman whose feminine grace and normal outfits are an inspiration--
Lemon: Just say who it is, and I'll feel better.
Jenna: ...someone whose very name stands for enduring beauty and the wonder of womanhood!
Lemon: Please don't say--
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