One powerful woman in the news business confessed that she is offended by watching other female newscasters reporting serious issues while revealing too much skin, particularly on top. "I can't help but think the sleeveless craze has gone too far," she told me. "It seems like they're dashing to a cocktail party or a sports bar. Women have worked so hard to have a seat at the table of broadcast journalism. Let's not regress to Mad Men status."
Even those fortunate enough to have arms worth bearing -- and I envy them big time -- and legs worth touting, need to consider where they are in life and where attractive ends and desperate begins. And make no mistake about it: Boomer Babes are feeling exceedingly vulnerable these days. All we have to do is open a magazine or turn on the TV. My daughter showed me last week's episode of Family Guy and there was the title character telling his wife, "I don't mind so much that you're aging, Lois, it's that you're shoving it down my throat."
That one had a happy ending. The man of the family, it turned out, was feeling so bad about himself that he was going on the offensive. But not before Lois went after her daughter's boyfriend to prove her appeal was intact. In the recently published "FACE IT: What Women Really Feel As Their Looks Change," (on which I worked) Dr. Vivian Diller and Dr. Jill Muir-Sukenick elaborate on measures women feel they need to take to survive in this youth-obsessed culture. These may include the reckless infidelity, childbirth at a late and inconvenient time, and multiple plastic surgeries.
Not to mention showing those arms. But does sleeveless automatically translate into ageless? God bless Michelle Obama for proving that first ladies can be fit and proud, but she's in her early 40s, and her outfits seem well on the south side of racy. I was initially flattered that my daughter is constantly in my closet, and borrows half my wardrobe. But then I began to wonder: does this mean I am dressing inappropriately for my age? When is the right time to stop sticking our boots in the jeans, or wearing our hair long and straight? When I think back on how my mother looked at 60 -- not to mention my grandmother --I don't come up with the same picture of how I look. The generation that was going to be "forever young" as Dylan put it, may be turning into how John Mayer describes us: "I am only good at being young."
The key, of course, is to stay youthful and engaged in our minds and to look great and appropriate for our age -- and profession.
Getting back to the news reporter issue, I recall seeing Cynthia McFadden host an event about women of the world a few years back, literally stuffed into a revealing frock. Few could focus on the atrocities abroad while watching this broad. I think of Jennifer Aniston's latest film, The Bounty Hunter, in which she plays a newspaper reporter, though I have seen very few at the (real) Daily News out there digging up sources wearing tight little black dresses. Aniston is in her 40s now and has to live with the vision of Angelina in her competitive head. But I think many of her fans wish she'd stop making bad movies and would appreciate her getting back to those smaller projects in which she can play real women.
Even if my upper extremities weren't, as my son used to say, "fluffy," I like to think I would have chosen to cover them, at least when I'm not in the sweltering summer sun. Hey, aging is the pits but not necessarily those in the arms.
Michele Willens is the editor of FACE IT: What Women Really Feel As Their Looks Change. (Hay House)
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