A few days ago I bumped into an old friend I hadn’t seen in a very long while: a very pretty woman who, if memory serves me well, used to have a few wrinkles. Now, they have been replaced by a smooth and rosy complexion. I have to admit: she looked great.
I am still torn on the subject of either surgical or less invasive intervention (Botox and fillers), partly because I vowed I would never go down that road. I don’t need to go down that road – I am not a celebrity nor is my job predicated on youthful looks. Nor am I single, trying to make my best first impression (and let it be known my husband is very much against intervention).
And then there is the matter of my feminist principles, of being accepted for who I am, aging (more or less) gracefully and all that.
If you watched the Presidential debate a few days ago, you might have noticed how great Hillary Clinton looked: was it just the make-up and lighting? Gloria Steinem, who is over 80, looks remarkably youthful as well. I am not suggesting they intervened in any fashion (Ms. Steinem, in fact, flatly denies – so there is still hope) but, if they did, would I feel betrayed? What kind of example are they giving us? Are they saying the pressure is too great?
Last Sunday, my (un-retouched) and still beautiful friend Bonnie sent me an article which I had discovered myself a few minutes earlier in the Sunday NY Times. Debora Spar, the president of Barnard College in New York City, a bastion of liberalism and feminism, ponders the exact same question: “does a little face lift constitute treason?”
Ms Spar’s assumption is that aging has become unacceptable, not just in Hollywood, but in any professional circle where women have climbed the ladder.
“Everyone is better off if nobody tummy-tucks and uses Botox, but once anyone starts, it gets harder to pull back from the practice.
So instead, an entire generation of feminist and postfeminist women who stormed the barricades of the American work force, planned their reproductive destinies, and even got their partners to fold the laundry occasionally are now engaged in an odd sort of collective self-delusion. Everyone (at least in certain high-profile or professional circles) is doing it, and very few are confessing, a fact that in some ways is more disturbing than the surge in the surgeries themselves. Because not only are we nipping, suctioning and using hormones, but we’re also feeling embarrassed about it, and lying. Neither of which was really the point of women’s liberation.”
I have noticed that, as I get older, I tend to think of problems in terms of principles. Recently, my bank was found to have opened millions of fraudulent accounts without their clients’ permission, in an effort to meet productivity targets. I was not one of those customers – by sheer miracle, I believe – but I felt compelled to transfer my accounts, out of principle.
Now I am pondering my desire to fill a wrinkle, or three, against my feminist principles: why do it? Because I don’t like the way I look anymore? Because most of my friends are doing it? I call into question self-acceptance and wishing to look my best – but let’s be honest: I would do it to keep up with the joneses, so I wouldn’t look like the old crone in the midst of rosy complexions.
Certainly not to cheat aging.
And maybe that is ok too, as long as I am honest with myself.
We fought for equal pay, for fair division of labor, for the right to vote and for reproductive rights. It seems like the next battle, ridiculously enough, might be to wear wrinkles proudly.