So, while I was playing armchair fashion police during Sunday’s Oscars, “Private Practice” actress Kate Walsh was tweeting. And into the umpteenth hour of statues and montages and Cirque de Soleil, she dropped this twitbomb:
…dear Hollywood actresses, stop fucking up your faces, it’s looking the the bar scene in Star Wars.— Kate Walsh (@katewalsh) February 27, 2012
Kapow! There’s a whole lot going on in that 140-character-or-less sentiment.
I want to shreik, Hell to the yeah! You tell ’em! But also, it’s not that simple.
A couple of weeks ago, I was at an event at an art gallery with a couple of friends. Beautiful friends! Talented friends! Interesting friends! Smart friends! Friends who are (damn them) just a bit younger than I! And the subject turned to wrinkles. One poked at an imaginary line between her eyes, while the other espoused a theory having to do with the idea that horizontal lines (i.e. crows feet–to which I am no stranger) are okay, while vertical ones (the eye wrinkle the first friend was obsessing over) were not. In a feeble attempt at a conversation redirect, I said, “Hey, what about cleavage?” (due to the fact that I have none, and therefore think it is wonderful), but they were not taking the bait. There was no lightening of the conversation; for more than a couple of minutes, there was no changing the subject. During a fun night out and surrounded by interesting art, my very intelligent girlfriends and I were talking about getting old.
And I was pissed.
But why? Was I pissed that my super smart and beautiful friends were talking about superficial things… or was something more sinister at work?? I mean, why should that make me angry? Bored, sure; annoyed, that would make sense too. Upon closer (and unflinchingly, unattractively) honest examination–I think it made me angry because they were voicing my own fears, the ones for which I have a stable of rational, enlightened, stock replies at the ready. Replies I’m happy to bandy at anyone else. Ones that go, “Oh, but the lines on your face tell the story of your life!” or “We only fear getting old because society tells us we should, and forces this unrealistic ideal upon us!” or “Old women are so beautiful!” or “Only shallow women buy into that crap.”
As I wrote some time ago, the internal debate goes something like this:
If a feminist worries over her worry lines, frets over getting fat, or lusts after lipstick … but there’s no one around to witness it, can she still call herself a feminist?
They’re questions we all ponder at one time or another, I suppose. Is buying Spanx buying into an oppressive ideal? Does dabbling in fillers make one a tool of the patriarchy? Does plunking down your VISA at the MAC counter mean you’ve forfeited your feminist card? Who among us hasn’t felt that guilt, that shame, keeping your head down while silently praying no one spots you — enlightened, intelligent, feminist you — shelling out way too much money for two ounces of eye cream? Who hasn’t wondered: Are vanity and empowerment mutually exclusive?
Sure, maybe we can coast through a couple of decades, smug in our certainty that we’d never stoop so low. And yet. Once we start to age, once it’s our forehead that’s lined, our jawline that’s softened, the tug-of-war becomes urgent.
I know I should know better, and yet, deep down in places I don’t talk about at parties (art openings being, apparently, another story), I fear getting older just like everyone else. Just like, I would guess, Kate Walsh does. There’s an “It’s Not Fair” element to it, too–especially, I’d imagine, in Hollywood. When everyone else is doing whatever it is they’re doing, the un-done are left to stick out like sore thumbs. They may look awesome for their age, but that’s only awesome for their age.
Maybe the knife (or the needle, or the laser… or whatever) is the coward’s way out. But, who am I to judge? The pressure is powerful, and it’s oppressive–we wouldn’t react so strongly if somewhere pretty tender weren’t being poked. It seems to me that opting in and making fun are two sides of the same coin. But, when it comes to aging, it’s not like we have a choice. I guess the kindest thing we can do–both to ourselves, and to other women–is to approach it with an open mind, and an open heart — and not to worry about what everyone else is doing.
Worrying, after all, causes wrinkles.