Cher at age 67
Ah youth. That time of life before gravity makes you it’s bitch and your skin still fits. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the term ‘aging gracefully’. In the past month I have been happily losing those ‘I quit smoking pounds’ thanks to a full-time job and a lot more walking. The down side of weight loss in your late 40’s, however, is that your chin starts to hang like mud flaps on either side of your jaw and your neck begins to pool just above your collar bones. It’s not a pretty picture. As Bette Davis once said, “old age is no place for sissies”. Middle age is no picnic either.
For the sake of full disclosure, I must admit that I have been getting yearly Botox injections for the past 12 years. It started as a preventative measure, foolishly trying to ward off the ravages of time before they became indelibly engrained in my face. I spent about $800 per year on Botox, which may sound like a lot, but it works out to just under $70 per month and, unlike anti-aging creams, lotions and serums that many women pay as much or more for, it actually works. This past year is the first time I have foregone my Botox injections (mostly due to financial reasons) and I find myself in an odd conundrum of sorts. Part of me is horrified when looking in the mirror and seeing the crows feet, the forehead lines and the sagging skin, while a new part of me is beginning to emerge… a braver part. This new voice is asking if maybe, just maybe its time to let go of some vanity and let nature take it’s course all over my face. I have been asking myself questions like, ‘if you are so strong, then why are you so cowardly when it comes to wrinkles?’. The reality is they’re just wrinkles and everybody gets them if you are lucky enough to live past the age of 40. Just because I feel 16 on the inside, doesn’t mean I should try to look 16 on the outside. I have done a lot of living and should be proud of the lines I have earned. But, then vanity rears its ugly head and I start craving that needle. It’s an odd seesaw to be stuck upon.
I find myself wishing for a happy medium between this,
Joan Rivers at age 79
Bette Davis as Baby Jane Hudson at the age of 54 (just 6 years older than I am now… eek!)
Perhaps, I am desperately seeking role models in this era of surgical enhancements that look great without all the nips and tucks. Maybe I should summon my inner strength and try to be my own role model. These are obviously quality problems that can only be found in a youth, celebrity and beauty obsessed culture. As I type this, I am realizing that there are women all over the world who are currently struggling with issues like freedom and basic human rights and it makes me feel small and petty to be worried about aging, which for those women is a luxury. I am thinking that I have fallen prey to the North American way of keeping a woman from attaining too much power… keep her insecure about her looks and distract her with the possibility of eternal youth in a jar (or needle).
Maybe the answer is to get more involved with causes that are close to my heart and move away from the mirror. So, from now forward, I will hold my head up high (with pride, and because it stretches the skin on my neck) and say goodbye to Botox and hello to more worthwhile endeavors. Maybe that’s what aging gracefully is really all about.
I have worn glasses every moment of my waking life ever since the eye doctor first strapped them to my head when I was 14 months old. I have what is referred to by optometrists as ‘special care eyes’, which basically means that I have blind as a bat-itis. I have multiple astigmatisms, my right eye has a tendency toward laziness, my lenses have a prism in them and I am far-sighted over all. I am grateful for my glasses. More specifically, I am grateful for the advancements made in the field of eyewear since that first pair was strapped to my head. No longer must I endure lenses made of glass that were so thick and heavy that they caused indentations on the bridge of my nose and on my cheeks. Frames have evolved from being a choice between horn rims or cat eyes to a veritable cornucopia of colours and styles with designer names like Chanel, Dior and Burberry. I still remember when the only famous name in eyewear was Sophia Loren. Ms. Loren was a trailblazer, taking the drab out of having to wear glasses.
Sophia made wearing glasses glamorous.
When I was growing up there was a saying, “Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses”. On it’s face, this saying tells girls that you will never get a boy to be attracted to you because glasses are ugly and therefor make you ugly while wearing them. Remember the clichéd image of the plain Jane who takes down her hair and takes off her glasses and suddenly becomes gorgeous? I used to hate my glasses when I was younger, even going so far as to forego wearing them in social situations, even though I couldn’t see my own hand in front of my face, just because I wanted to be more attractive to men. When I look back at photos of myself at that age, I can now see clearly what I never could then, I was attractive with or without my glasses. If only I had the confidence to value my eyesight over my need for male attention. There’s a movie from 1953, starring Marilyn Monroe called How To Marry a Millionaire in which Marilyn’s character, Paula, who wears glasses, meanders around without them stumbling into things and even getting on the wrong plane just because she feels ugly with her glasses on. So ugly, in fact that she falls in love with the first man who tells her he likes her in her glasses. She even references the saying in a “cleaned up” 1950’s version, “Men aren’t attentive to girls who wear glasses”.
It nice to see how times have changed since then. Now celebrities are sporting their specs in public proudly. Some women like Tina Fey and Lisa Loeb have become known for their eyewear, not in spite of it.
Tina Fey is smart, funny and sexy.
Lisa Loeb looking sultry in her specs.
Last night I was watching an episode of the Big Bang Theory in which Penny puts on a pair of glasses and completely shatters the implication that glasses aren’t sexy (and proves that glasses might make you look smarter, but they don’t actually add IQ points).
I now wear my glasses confidently, with pride. I wear them like a fashionable accessory with different pairs for different looks or moods. I have come to the point where I not only need my glasses, but I love my glasses.
Women might not have evolved past our intrinsic insecurities surrounding our looks yet, but it’s nice to know that at least glasses aren’t as looked down upon as they once were.
Pink Parasol. Pretentious or practical?
I admit it. Watching the Fashion Police on Friday nights is a guilty pleasure. For me it’s a mindless distraction from all of the things that get me ranting on a daily basis. Last Friday, they put up a photo of the lovely and pale Anne Hathaway, walking down the street in New York, in the sun, holding a pink umbrella.
The photo that started all the fuss.
The cast then proceeded to rip apart her outfit, as is their usual modus operandi. Kelly Osbourne said that she was trying to look like Audrey Hepburn (apparently this is some kind of sin in Kelly’s eyes), George was defending the outfit, saying it was a great daytime ensemble. Then Joan jumped into the fray and said that her umbrella was pretentious. Then Ms. Joan Rivers, a woman who should know all about the importance of caring for your skin, actually said, “It’s just the sun, it can’t kill you.”
As someone who has had melanoma cancer, I beg to differ. I wish I had understood that tanning beds were dangerous when I was in my early twenties, but at that time everyone touted them as being far safer than sun exposure. My aunt died of melanoma cancer from too much actual sun exposure. The sun can kill you. Now I don’t leave the house, even in the dead of winter without sun block and sunglasses. On sunny days I have no issue with carrying an umbrella (hats just make my head sweat). It’s practical. Not only does it keep the UV rays off of my skin, but I stay cooler in my portable shade.
In the case of Anne Hathaway, as she has recently had her hair shorn, it’s a smart move. You can’t put sunscreen on your head (unless you’re bald) and when your hair is very short, scalp burn is a real possibility. I applaud Ms. Hathaway for being smart enough to take care of her skin. While pink is not necessarily my choice in an umbrella colour, it is a cute way of staying cancer free.
Women who have bared it all
There seems to be a trend of late where famous women are showing the world their bare… faces.
From Teri Hatcher and Tyra Banks to Oprah Winfrey and the hosts of The Talk, famous women are showing us what they look like without make up and the media is touting them for being so brave.
When I was growing up, I never saw my Mother wear make up. To this day, the most glam she gets is when she paints her nails for a fancy evening out to dinner. She never had any trouble finding or keeping a man. She married my Father when she was 22 and they never parted. As most girls who enter their teens, I rebelled against the kind of woman my Mother was. I was very into make up and fashion. Of course it didn’t help that throughout my entire childhood I was teased and criticized for being ugly. I hit my teen years with little to no self esteem. My Mother understood that make up was something that I desperately wanted to play with, so, since she couldn’t teach me about it herself, she took me to the local beauty salon and had one of the experts give me a lesson, then bought all the product that were used on me. I am still very grateful to her for encouraging me to follow my own path, even though it was not her path.
As I grew into my twenties and thirties, I never left the house without a full face of make up. Even just a trip to the corner store required, at the very least, concealer, mascara and lipstick. It wasn’t until I hit 40 that I realized that my face is beautiful without a stitch of make up. That’s the ironic thing about being a young woman. When you are at your most beautiful physically is when you are your most insecure. There are times when I have wished that I could have it to do over again with my newfound confidence and priorities along for the ride, but you couldn’t pay me enough to go back to my twenties without all of the wisdom I now have. Now, I maybe put on lipstick once a month. I haven’t worn a full make up application in over 4 years and I don’t see it as bravery, just as a shift in self perception and priorities. I am single and still get plenty of male attention. The attention I get now is different, though. It’s no longer whistles and hoots from afar (which I hated). The attention I get now, without make up is more of a real interest in who I am. I have heard from men, on more than a few occasions, how attractive and sexy my confidence is.
So, while I applaud these famous women for ditching their masks and showing the younger generation that you can be beautiful with your naked face, I resent the fact that they seem to be doing it for less that altruistic reasons. I also resent the media for making it seem like such a big deal. In the video below, the anchors of The Showbiz Countdown are reacting to the hosts of The Talk recently doing an entire episode of their show without make up.
It also bothers me that they all had to be wearing robes or towels during the episode, as if to say that the only appropriate time in which to be sans make up is before you are fully dressed.
In the wake of one of the world’s most powerful women, Hillary Clinton, being vilified for going without make up this just seemed like a stunt for ratings. When Hillary Clinton goes without make up, she does it because she has more important things to think about. She has also reached an age where she is more worried about who she is and what she is accomplishing than what she looks like, and for that I say Brava!
It’s sad that women, in general, have yet to reach a stage where we are no longer judged first and foremost by what we look like and second by our accomplishments. The fact that the media jumped down throat of the Secretary of State for going without make up speaks volumes about how far women have yet to go before we are truly equal.
I was watching an episode of Big Bang Theory last night in which Sheldon and Amy were discussing how fast a meme can spread and Sheldon mentions that “Sheldon Cooper’s a smelly pooper spread like wildfire”. Even as I laughed out loud, it got my thinking about my own childhood nickname and while I found it humiliating at the time, it really wasn’t that bad. In fact, it was very creative as nicknames given by elementary school children go.
Sheldon Cooper (the smelly pooper)
I grew up in a small town that was very sports minded. Even as a very young child I was overtly feminine. I loved my ballet class and had very feminine mannerisms. These qualities got me nicknamed Dainty. I didn’t mind being called Dainty. I wore it as a badge of honour. But then came the year I turned 10. It was the mid 1970’s and the big trend in hairstyles was the pyramid perm. All the girls were getting them. My Mom and I went out and got a Toni home perm kit and set to curling my poker straight hair. After the perm rods cam out, what I saw in the mirror wasn’t a pyramid perm. It looked more like this…
Little Orphan Annie
The next day when I went to school, Dainty officially became AFRO DAINTY. Because I was very insecure about the way my hair had turned out, I found this new add on to my existing nickname absolutely humiliating.
When I look back on it now, it was a clever double pun. The reference to the goddess of love was more complimentary than a myriad of other references I can think of. Certainly nothing to be so ashamed of. I’d rather be called Afro Dainty than Smelly Pooper any day of the week. So I guess nicknames, like so much in life, are relative.
Feel free to use the comments section to share your childhood nicknames.