"I have not yet internalized my older face," said writer Letty Cottin Pogrebin, when I told her of the book I had recently edited. (FACE IT: What Women Really Feel As Their Looks Change) Pogrebin is not of the vain variety. She is one of the founders of Ms. Magazine, an outspoken advocate of women's issues, a happy wife, and mother of accomplished children. Yet, this topic struck a nerve.
Maureen Dowd wrote a memorable column last year in which she asserted "women are getting unhappier." She went on to say it could not all be blamed on the juggling thing or the economic thing. Much later in the piece, she added: "Men can age in an attractive way while women are expected to replicate--and Restylane--their 20s into their 60s." Bingo.
Yes, my fellow Boomer Babes, you 'forever young' believers: there is a new 'problem' with no name. The first was that of which Betty Friedan spoke so movingly in the '50s, telling the Betty Drapers out there that it was okay to seek something beyond getting dinner on the table. She hit upon a festering malaise, highlighting the suburban somnolence of Revolutionary Road. Many of those issues were taken care of and now women comprise more than half the workforce, have proved you can be a good mom AND executive, yada yada yada.
So what's the new problem? Dare I call it Feminist Narcissism? "We live in a culture that on the surface has gotten away from traditional female roles," explains Dr. Vivian Diller, "offering us greater flexibility. Yet we have to continue to deal with the biological imperative that pulls us back to our original function as females in society."
She refers to the primal urge to mate, or at least remain attractive to the opposite sex. (As dictated by today's youth obsession.) In spite of our accomplishments, we do all we can (sometimes unconsciously) toward fulfilling what we have been programmed to do. "That urge and our current freedoms pull us in two different directions," Dr. Diller says. "The success of the Women's Movement in certain ways has made navigating our path more complicated, and at times, has brought disillusionment."
Ah, those "dis" words: distressed, dismissed, disenchanted. We talk to our friends and sometimes we talk to our mates about a lot of things that are getting us down. But how many of us really share what's at the core of this unease, this low grade depression? What's new about this one is that it comes with serious ambivalence. Hey, we got it all, so what's the problem? We are so much more than what's on the outside--- so why can't we just accept it and move happily into the next chapter? Why can't we internalize our older face?
"Start with the fact that women are much harder on themselves than men," says Dr. Jill Muir-Sukenick. "They often perceive and experience things through a highly self critical lens. But that's only half the explanation. Even with all their attributes, achievements and acquisitions, women may still feel empty. From the beginning, from their own mothers, the experience of love becomes associated with being obedient, smart, pretty. Unlike men, who continue to be "mothered"--by their wives, secretaries--women are expected to relinquish that and provide it for others."
As always, the way out is balance, between accepting our natural aging process and putting it in perspective. Realizing that beauty is a great gift but that being loved for the right reasons is the truest kind. Says Dr. Diller: "At a time in their lives when they should be enjoying their hard earned success, so many women have been made to feel they have failed somehow, failed to live up to an unrealistic image. Women need to redefine what success looks like."
It does not mean NOT caring how we appear, it's about taking care that we appear as who we really are. And knowing that most our comrades are as confused as we are."Sisterhood is so significant because it's a way for women to mother each other," says Dr. Muir-Sukenick. So It's time for a new movement, one about the freedom to face an aging face with pride.
FACE IT: What Women Really Feel As Their Looks Change by Vivian Diller, Ph.D, with Jill Muir-Sukenick, Ph.D. and edited by Michele Willens is a psychological guide to help women deal with the emotions brought on by their changing appearances. As models turned psychotherapists, Diller and Sukenick have had the opportunity to examine the world of beauty from two very different vantage points. This unique perspective helped them develop a six-step program that begins with recognizing "uh-oh" moments that reveal the reality of changing looks, and goes on to identify the masks used to cover deeper issues and define the role beauty plays in a woman's life, and ends with bidding adieu to old definitions of beauty, so women can enjoy their appearance--at any age!
For more information on the book, authors, and events, please visit http://www.faceitthebook.com or visit our fan page on Facebook.