So, let’s just get this out of the way first: when I was a teenager, I wanted to be you! Seriously! Here you were starring in my favorite show with Michael J. Fox (who I had planned to marry but I decided to step aside and let Tracy have a shot at him 😐) and I just knew we would be besties if we ever met. And to be honest, I think that still applies.
Anyhoot, I bought your book yesterday…FACE. I had read about it online and couldn’t wait to take a look-see at it myself. I was literally only a paragraph into it when I started highlighting passages; after a while, there was more highlighting than not and I gave up and just enjoyed. It may not have looked that way to my neighbors though since I was in the backyard and every few seconds I would yell “YES” and “NO SHIT”; and I actually cried through much of it because you showed me a different way of being.
I had already started a blawg post about the unreality of instagram (I hate social media…hate it! Why in the fuck do they call it ‘social’ media when it’s really an individual love fest with yourself? 🤔 And, sorry for the cussing, ma…but Justine cusses too so there! ) but knew I had to finish that one later because this took precedent.
Here’s what pulled me completely in:
“I was elated when creases emerged across the top of my cheeks when I smiled, when I saw the promising beginnings of small bags under my eyes, when the skin loosened on my neck. One summer, I even noticed a real bonus of cleavage creases on my upper chest from the sun. I was finally beginning to look like the kinds of women I thought were the most interesting, and the most attractive.”
Then later: “I hated the idea that half the population (*women) was perhaps spending the entire second half of their lives ashamed and apologetic that their faces had aged naturally.”
Wow. Then, through the various stories you told, you were able to get me inside other older women’s heads to see how they had been berated, humiliated, vilified, and scorned because…GASP…they had the audacity to grow old.
And here’s the conundrum: if a woman tries to ‘grow old gracefully’, she is made to feel horrible about herself for having wrinkles and thinner skin. BUT, if she gets any work done (and you are right…that’s a rabbit hole for sure), she’s made to feel horrible about herself for being plastic. So basically, women can’t win no matter what they do. Is that the point?
I had never really thought about how all young women are looking the same. But they are! When your face is made up to the point you can’t smile and you have now got the perfect nose, filled lips, manicured eye-brows, and creaseless skin you look like ‘everyone’ else. There’s no uniqueness. No individuality. As Julia Bruccilieri writes in her Huffington Post article “Between make-up and Facetune, we’re creating a homogenized expression of beauty.” Look at this from Seventeen magazine…these are 3 different women who all want to be Kyle Jenner (🙄)…you can’t tell one apart from another!
You are so so right when you say that being called ‘pretty’ is the ultimate in female praise. Someone calls you smart? That just means you’re not pretty. Someone says you have a nice personality? That just means you’re not pretty. Someone says you look good for your ‘age’? That just means you’re not pretty. Blech.
But here’s the bad thing…I’ve bought into it! Hook, line and sinker. I am smart (shutty the mouthies, peeps 😐)…have an OK personality (I’m bipolar…not always the most charming 🤨)…look OK for 54 (more about that in a bit). But, call me pretty and I’m elated! After all, isn’t that what women have been striving for since the beginning of time? Isn’t that the end all and be all?
I have to say my favorite story was about Denise who was sitting at the kitchen table while her hubby was looking at a pic of an aging movie star saying how ‘he wouldn’t do her for anything.’ OK. Right. Because, as Denise points out, what woman WOULDN’T want a thinning hair, drooped eyes, potbelly man offering to boink her. She should be grateful since he’s such a catch. Rrrriiiigggghhhhttt? 🙄
And that’s what pisses me off so much! How men CAN age and look it and not be ashamed of it. In fact, they still think they are God’s gift. Another rrrrriiiiiggggghhhhhtttt. But a thinning haired, potbellied, droopy eyed woman needs to hide herself away from the world because she’s so hideous she shouldn’t be out. And people say men and women are treated equally. Hmmm…
It’s like the worst thing you can say to a woman is: “You look as old as fuck.” And that’s the ultimate put-down, huh? To be told that because you’ve been on this earth for a few decades, your value is nil. Zip. Zero. Yes, we can try to turn back the hands of time, but who are we really fooling? Us? ‘Them’? As Tara says in your book: “You’re people pleasing the group that cares the least about you.” Like in high school…all you wanted was for the popular
bitches girls to notice you…compliment you. But you hated them. Why in the name of all that’s holy did you want their acceptance so badly?
I never realized how ashamed I was of my age and looks until I dated a much younger man. After just a few months together, he told me how old my neck looked and I instantly became obsessed with it and humiliated by it’s wrinkly skin. This was also around the time he started being mean to me…so…I had a face lift. I was promised by the doc that this would not only ‘fix’ my neck (which it didn’t…thanks for the extra pain and price-tag, doc 😳) but would make my face ‘fresher’. After all, I was 50 at the time and ALL 50 year old women need to start ‘maintaining’ themselves. This, Justine, was one of the worse decisions I’ve ever made. I thought that if I looked younger, J would treat me better. Actually, I looked a bit younger and J escalated his emotional abuse and serial cheating. So…looking younger is obviously not the panacea for all our troubles.
Here’s the thing: even as I write this, I’m crying. I KNOW age ‘shouldn’t’ matter…but I also know age ‘does’ matter. I’ve been conditioned for 54 years to strive, among anything else, to be pretty…which means at my age, to be young. The media has made me ‘believe’ aging is ugly…if they didn’t make us believe this, we wouldn’t spend billions of dollars on their fucking products. Like the story you told about Faith and her experience as a former advertising exec: “…people will accept what you tell them to accept. You tell them they have a flaw and you sell them your remedy.” So we’re pawns in a game. A game of money that preys on a culturally determined ‘flaw’ that is lucrative for so many, but emotionally detrimental for more.
You know, I could talk forever about this and if you ever want too, I suppose I could make it to L.A. where we could pal around and yack. Just sayin’. But I want you to know that you have started the process of freeing me from these bonds of youth. You said something in your introduction that I have been reading over and over again: “Because, in the end, there’s nothing wrong with your face.” I needed to hear that. Most women need to hear that. This is MY face. My 54 year old, experienced, educated, mentally ill, professoring face. It’s been through a lot and I hate the diatribes I’ve directed towards it. It’s mine. All mine. And I’m going to love it for that.