The Skin You’re In

If you are an aging woman in America, you are anonymous. You won’t see your peers in advertisements, staring in movies, or depicted playing any significant role in public life in tinsel town. That is unless they are trying to sell you an anti-aging cream or Meryl Streep is playing a witch.

Streep

And no matter how backwards that may seem, after all some of the most beautiful, most accomplished women are middle-aged or older, it is especially hard on our sisters in Hollywood.  Take poor Renee here. Depicted at Starbucks deep in conversation with a friend, the Daily Mail couldn’t resist captioning this snap of the starlet with the headline, “Make-up free Renee.”

Renee

What is inferred but not said is: “Doesn’t she look old and horrible.”  Pa-leeze! All I see is her great calf muscles and think what a beautiful, grown dang woman she has become.  In fact, now that she has a bit of character showing on her face, she seems so much more interesting and alive than her younger self.

But the marginalization of older women in the media is nothing new and beauty and fashion in Hollywood is big business. In fact, entire television entertainment shows have cropped up to critique how a woman appears on the red carpet.

Still, like many woman of my age, it all begins to ring so shallow. As a child of the 70s, I was part of the feminist movement that wanted so desperately for the world to value a woman for qualities other than her appearance. But rather than emancipate women from the idea that their worth is only as great as their sexuality, today’s younger generation of women have eagerly embraced a wanton, almost animalistic desire to be thought of as a sexual symbol. I call this the porn backlash. Every woman in America is now competing with porn stars on what is considered sexually titalating.

The feminist movement in America has a decidedly anti-male, anti-family agenda, and many young women who came after me were repelled by the messages. Hard line feminists really achieved success in pushing their anti-male agenda in just one arena, and that was getting women in the work force in significant numbers.

Although young women today think nothing of earning a degree and entering the work force with the expectation of a well paid career, there was a time not so long ago when this was considered exceptional. Although it goes without saying that women should be paid the same as a man for doing the same job, it didn’t come without a price. For more on that read, Gloria’s Mantra.

Gloria

Although I decry that women my age are not depicted in the media, what I find just as disturbing is aging starlets who appear so desperate. Take Jennifer Lopez’s recent appearance on “Watch What Happens Live” with host Andy Cohen.

Lopez cleavage

Perhaps I am just showing my age, but my first thought was, “Where’s your clothes, Jenny?” Maybe Jenny from the Block is going through her own personal identity crisis after her recent breakup and just wants to put the goods out there under the age-old, knee jerk reaction of, “Yeah, this is what you gave up, buddy.”  Or is she just desperately trying to stay relevant while promoting her latest film?

But the spotlight will go out and eventually every starlet will age. It’s just a part of the human experience, and I for one wish women would stop trying so desperately to cling to youth. After all, youth is just one stage in a person’s life, male and female alike. Although we may admire nubile young skin, I wouldn’t want to remain stuck there my entire lifetime.  All of which serves to remind me that we are spirits held captive in a body. We are not our bodies. Although I do not believe we are eternal, I do believe we are immortal, and here is where the disconnect may lie.

I mean, did anyone else literally cringe when Madonna appeared at age 56 in her latest nude photo shoot? I know that there are many of you who celebrate that she still looks terrific or that perhaps she is even showing that women of a certain age can and are sexual beings. I for one say hooray to those ideals, but baring it all when you are old enough to be a grandmother, is just, well, gauche. When do we rise above this?

madonna

And aging music icons, such as our material girl who makes me cringe, aren’t just women. I mean, I am completely embarrassed for Steve Tyler. This aging rocker looks like a cartoon character rather than the “cool” persona he still desperately clings to.

Steven Tyler

It appears sex, drugs, and rock n roll, hasn’t helped Steve age gracefully.

If you hold to the idea that this life here on earth, in this body, is all you get, then the fountain of youth would certainly hold a an almost magnetic appeal. There is beauty in wisdom and there is beauty in celebrating your life in what you have become as a person rather than what your flesh looks like in a skirt.

I personally believe Jennifer Lopez would be more attractive just covering it up and acting her age. There is a beauty and dignity in growing into the person you have become rather than clinging to your former self.

Those Hollywood stars who are willing to wear their wrinkles proudly and embrace roles, no matter how meager or how they may marginalize women of a certain age, will be successful in transitioning their careers from sexy siren or American kitten (think Melanie Griffin or Meg Ryan) and remain in the business to practice their craft.

And for the rest of us anonymous aging middle-agers, we can choose to love the skin we are in while enjoying the peace of self-acceptance and the clarity of wisdom or we, too, can desperately cling to old roles or mourning the youthful beauty of our former selves. The choice is your own.

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