I flip my vanity mirror over to the 50x more magnified side – the one that’s meant to be used purely for cosmetic related tasks that require extreme attention to minute detail, like plucking away stray brows in an effort to maintain a strong arch or adeptly applying one’s black noir YSL liner back and forth between the upper lash line for maximum coverage.
Widening my eyes in a manner that would suggest that I might be capable of commanding a prisoner who’s situated in a hole twenty feet beneath me to put the lotion in the basket, I remain steadfastly in position and begin to examine my forehead. Horror follows.
I notice the faint trace of three fine lines that have surfaced across my skin.
Upon revisiting old photographs from a shoot that I did when I was nineteen, I realize that I am, in fact… aging. As is [presumably] the case with all harrowing matters like death, pregnancy and bill paying, I abruptly arrive at the conclusion that somehow – surprisingly, impossibly — I won’t be the one who’s hand delivered a Get Out of Jail Free Card from the Divine, permitting my dismissal from basic evolutionary processes that the human race has withstood since the beginning of time.
And before you call me a hyper paranoid, neurotic, superficial idiot (all three of those adjectives have assuredly been used to sum up the greater portion of my entire existence before, so don’t worry about sparing my feelings now), it’s important to note that I recently came across an interview that Anne Hathaway did with Glamour UK in which she discussed losing out on recent movie roles to younger Hollywood starlets. Anne goes on to say that she “can’t be upset about it, though” because “it’s the way things are” and wistfully recalls the fact that she, too, had been “that twenty-four year old once.”
When I read the article, I want to vomit – not because I’m a HathHater (That’s a bizarre subject for another post) but because I’m sickened at the thought of a woman’s social prowess being largely contingent upon a factor that’s as unreliable as a flaky college boyfriend becomes after he realizes that you’re just not going to give it up anytime soon– that is, ephemeral/transient/sure to fade away into the night.
Or did that just happen to me?
For a moment, I want to shake Anne like a flimsy American Girl doll and to remind her of the fact that she’s far too dynamic of a woman to accept such a gross mentality without putting up some measure of a fight first. And then, sarcastically, I want to ask her how she can even recall what being twenty-four was like in the first place. After all, at a whopping thirty-two years OLD, she’s apparently verging on elderhood, and we all know that forgetfulness is a trait that’s fairly ubiquitous with respect to the plights of our proverbial Grandmothers.
But then, at once, I also want to coddle her, reminding her of the fact that she’s a sterling example of a well-rounded woman and that she — of all people (!)– a particularly well-educated activist/actress, mustn’t allow her femininity to be subjugated by something as demeaning as ageism.
During my imaginary bipolar back and forth with Anne Hathaway, I finally consider the fact that I’m the girl who’s counting her forehead lines in the grey-green light of a 50x magnification mirror on my bathroom floor.
Disclaimer of the day? I’m not a bra-burning feminist. I don’t refer to God as a “She.” I shave regularly. I’m not even morally offended by the prospect of putting my fiancé’s dinner on a plate and serving it to him. And this isn’t, in any way, intended to be an attack on the male gender – because on some level, most of us buy into and propagate society’s disposal of old women.
Among the realities of my Tuesday, though: I walk down the street and I’m called a “bitch” after I have the audacity to tell a particularly incessant – and physically aggressive — cat caller that he’s being a little bit disrespectful towards me. I sit at a nail salon, look up at the TV and see side-by-side images of Brooke Shields, Bridgette Bardot and Raquel Welch splashed across the screen. Each actress is immediately compared to a vision of her younger self. The audience gets to decide which of the former sex symbols has aged best – meaning, whose been able to maintain the strongest resemblance to her twenty-two year old self despite the four plus decades of life that have ensued since her alleged “glory” days.
In the evening, I spot one of the world’s most talented and renowned actors wedged in a corner booth at a sushi haunt that I frequent. He’s doing the creepy snuggle beside a girl who appears to be about forty years younger than he is, and I can’t help but to wonder if he feels any mental or emotional connection to her whatsoever. Conversely, I think about how people would react if an old woman walked in with her twenty something year old lover and started ordering up some sashimi and a couple of bowls of lightly salted edamame.
And at twenty-eight, I’ve become an aficionado on the subject of ladies who are worrying about the palpable tick tocking of their biological time clocks. Where my single friends used to be generally affable, enthusiastic and free spirited about the dating world, many of them (not all) are now convinced that they will never meet anybody, ending up barren, wrinkled and alone. And it’s not that they mind the literal act of being single – ironically, in fact, many of them seem to prefer it; it’s that they fear that their marketability will decrease in the same way that Anne Hathaway’s aptitude to land a movie role has. Sure, it’s easy to dismiss this concern as being superficial and frivolous, but what about the strong, intelligent and wildly successful women that I know who are forty plus and won’t even look at a guy their own age because they’re convinced that he’ll only be interested in “some twenty-five year old” anyway.
Answers? Solutions? I don’t have them. But I’m confident in asserting that none of the anecdotal information that I’ve put forth here is anything that’s particularly staggering or jaw drop worthy. It only serves to underscore how our psyches can so easily become saturated with subliminal signs that suggest that youth is something to be coveted, chased and retained at any cost necessary.
But I can also share this with you — during New York Fashion Week, I sat front row at exactly one show (Better luck next year, B). To my immediate left, I noticed a particularly striking woman wearing open toe suede booties, a knee length wool skirt, thick framed optical lenses with Miu Miu like flowers attached to the sides and a 35 mm tan Birkin. Her legs were crossed at the ankles, posture straight, shoulders strong. While everyone else (disclaimer – myself included) Snapchatted the show away, IPhones and Tablets aglow, she looked straight ahead at the runway.
At some point, above the crowd, the woman and I locked stares, and I held her gaze for as long as I could. She smiled. In a sea of top models and fabulous fashion people wearing all kinds of origami shaped wonders (picture a cross between fortune cookies and Star Wars figurines), this woman’s splendor easily bypassed everyone else’s in the room – her confidence, her style, her swagger.
After the finale, she quickly picked up her bag and walked out. It was obvious that she had somewhere else to be – front row at another show perhaps.
Even now, months after Fashion Week has come and gone, I find myself thinking about this woman and her presence somewhat frequently. I’ve realized that somewhere within the sass of her strut, the purpose of her gaze, the confident warmth of her quick smile, I might have already found all of the answers that I could ever need about retaining the feminine mystique.