Yes, I'm Getting Older Too: An Open Letter to Hollywood Women
Dearest Women of Hollywood,
You cannot stop the aging process. (Surprise!) No matter how expensive the creams you apply, how many injections your dermatologist administers; regardless of how tautly your surgeon tucks—still, you will get old and the wrinkles will come.
This past week while watching the latest episode of American Horror Story: Coven, I had a moment where I felt stopped in my tracks by all the beautiful variously-aged women. It’s not the first time I’ve felt so enamored of the show’s visuals; my heart actually does a little dance when the camera hones in on Jessica Lange’s face. Yes, the rumor mills and photos suggest she had cosmetic work done some time back, but no one can truly stop time (except maybe Angela Bassett). The wrinkles have arrived. As a woman, I feel proud of her—and Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk—for not only letting that camera in for the close shots, but also poking a bit of fun through Ms. Lange’s character, who is semi-obsessed with living forever. AHS has featured several actresses in, over and around their forties, and not a one of them has been camera shy.
And haven’t we all enjoyed long-standing crushes on Helen Mirren and Judi Dench, both of whom continue to barrel through the industry’s apparent agism? These women refuse to be defined by their ages, and the confidence and self-worth they carry can change perceptions—not only for them, but for all women.
Unfortunately, there’s the other side of the coin. It’s true; I can’t imagine the pressures of being an actress, especially one who is hailed for her beauty. In our society, there’ve been all kinds of anecdotal studies about the advantages of being physically attractive, which to an extent includes youthfulness, or the perception thereof. Actresses have long lamented hitting a career wall when they reach the age of 40; in 2002 Rosanna Arquette made the documentary Searching for Debra Winger, which in part looks at the way Hollywood treats women of a certain age. But even realizing the pressure, both self and industry imposed, it’s hard to understand why some actresses choose to overhaul themselves the way they do.
Within a day or so of watching that AHS episode, I was reminded of an actress who has altered her appearance to the point I no longer wish to see her: Courteney Cox. A friend on Facebook mentioned her favorite part of a new Cougartown was that Cox’s face was looking more “normal” and while that may be true, my heart is still broken that Cox ever felt the need to do something to her face.
Ladies, please stop thinking we’ll love you better if you never allow a wrinkle to creep across your forehead. Please stop doing all these strange things to tighten your skin and puff up your lips; we’d much rather crows feet than feline eyes, I promise you. Whatever inner demons you’re fighting, let them parade across your expressive face. It’s so much more interesting than this idea of smooth-skinned, magazine cover perfection. It is you who can help stop all the Photoshopping bullshit goings-on, you who can say it’s all gone too far…you who can change the ways we can’t accept ourselves. I don’t know exactly how it happened that society has become so enamored with one sex aging and so repelled by the other, but I’m quite certain our own attitudes have and will continue to shape the discussion. So why don’t we band together and take charge? Let’s love ourselves enough to feel as comfortable in our own skin as say, this guy:
or this one:
What if all you Hollywood women continued the wonderful recent trend of being unafraid to show your true selves—whether it be without make-up, or clothes, or letting a bit of grey show around the temples? What if that became just as sexy as, say…a man with grey whiskers? What if our wrinkles were deemed distinguishing? While our logical minds might think it impossible, I’d challenge us all to take a good look at the alternative; really study what’s gained by injection or knife…
Do these enhancements really give you a younger, fresher, more beautiful appearance, or do you look like someone who’s afraid of what she can’t control?
Maybe instead of letting the industry create false standards for us, we should take hold that wheel and drive where we want to go. It’s time to stand against the people in back rooms who manipulate images and set impossible ideals; time to truly accept ourselves, and flat out refuse to conform to some ridiculous double-standard. And that’s where you lovely Hollywood ladies can really help the rest of us, because it’s you we see on those magazine covers—on television, in film. It’s some of you our daughters grow up wanting to be like…to look like. It is your courage that can inspire us in a way that those before you never did. And wouldn’t it be your pleasure to know that your cover of Vogue inspired a girl more than to want the skirt you wore; wouldn’t it be grand if it inspired her to be comfortable in her own skin?
Ever so sincerely,