Loss of Face

10/11/2011 02:13 pm ET | Updated Dec 11, 2011

The October 14th special issue of Entertainment Weekly is dubbed "The Reunions Issue." On the magazine's cover, you see the reunited casts of The Carol Burnett Show, The Princess Bride, Home Improvement, Fatal Attraction, and Aliens, and there are 5 more inside.

Shortly after thinking how neat it was that they reunited all these classic casts, my next thought was "What happened to their faces?" And the wonderment is even stronger inside the issue, where the magazine feels it necessary to run side-by-side Then and Now photographs of the casts.

Don't get me wrong -- these Hollywood people look great. And many aging faces, like those of Glenn Close and Gary Cole remain familiar due to current TV appearances. But, in these side-by-side photos, here it is staring us in the face: when we get older, even the best of us lose our faces.

Obviously this isn't an original observation. Five years ago, I, along with everyone else, read Nora Ephon's entertaining lament about aging and her neck, and was amused and sympathetic. But being born at the tail end of the boomer generation, this was before I had crossed the Rubicon into the land of "Huff/Post50" -- a point of no return, indeed.

It's not until you see it in the mirror with your own eyes, around your own eyes, that you get it. You're losing the face you've known since age 18. Sunshine, laughter, food, late nights, loss, illness, and, most of all, gravity are having their way with it. Your features are migrating toward the middle, your chin is suddenly soft, the cheekbones less defined. The eyes seem droopy and why is there always a frown line between them? And the reading glasses sure don't help the image.

My husband looks into his mirror and sees no changes at all. Ah, the tricks of the eye. But then, when he looks at photos taken from my 50th birthday a year ago, he says, "That's not what I look like, is it? These photos have a bad angle or something." You, sir, are experiencing loss of face.

So you have to feel sorry for celebrities whose deal with the devil is to constantly have their photograph taken. Even if they look in the mirror and say to themselves, "Damn, I look fine," the camera may show differently.

My point is not that today's editions of Sigourney Weaver, Alan Thicke, and Cary Elwes don't look happy and attractive. My God, go to any mall and look at "regular" people compared to these stars. But, still, even the stars lose their faces.

It's not unnatural or wrong. It's just... new. You've had your face your whole life and now it's disappearing. If you're lucky, at your college reunion you'll hear, "Oh, you've hardly changed." Meaning "Yay, I still recognize your face!" You know it's not true, though, because how could everyone else's faces have changed, but not yours?

As much as I don't care for this naturally incremental loss of face, I know that there are at least two far more dramatic ways to lose your face.

The first is cosmetic surgery. Intended to preserve your face, ironically plastic surgery often just creates a different face, one that is almost unrecognizable. Right here in this Huff/Post50 section, I recently read that 53-year-old Michelle Pfeiffer is "all for plastic surgery" if it makes a person feel good about themselves. You're in good company, Michelle. I'm sure many, if not most, of the over-50 celebrities featured in the EW issue have endured plastic surgery. (The one that jumps out at you -- besides the ones whose different faces we've already gotten used to, like Carol Burnett -- is Debbe Dunning, the Tool Girl from the '90s sitcom Home Improvement. She looks too young to have lost her face, but it's gone.)

Meanwhile, I recently read in HuffPost that Michelle Pfeiffer's younger colleagues Kate Winslet and Rachel Weisz have formed the "British Anti-Cosmetic Surgery League." The name of the org pretty much spells out their position. However, Winslet and Weisz are both still far from 50 -- they really have no idea how they're going to feel years later when facing their own loss of faces in the mirror.

Interestingly, the third principal in the British Anti-Cosmetic Surgery League is Emma Thompson who, at age 52, has no doubt had to start facing her own loss of face. But Thompson often seems to embrace her aging face by playing quirky characters such as Nanny McPhee and Prof. Sybil Trelawney in the Harry Potter films. Obviously, by dint of her actorly occupation, she has a healthy attitude toward losing face that those crossing the age Rubicon could well learn from.

If we live long enough, we all get the chance to embrace our aging faces. The final way we lose face, of course, is when we look into the mirror and see Nana or Grampa (and sometimes a combo of both) looking back at us. I think of this face as more of a mask, overlaying forever the face we knew for so long.

Now I see plainly in my own mirror the process of how Nana went from the young flapper and mother I saw in her old photos to the witty elderly woman whose face was wreathed in smiling wrinkles. I cheer myself up remembering how beloved she was -- both as a young dancer and a grandmother to many. She was the same easy-going, smart woman no matter what age or what face.

But if Nana were still around, I'd ask her: Was it hard to get used to your loss of face? I'm sure she'd just laugh -- while nodding.