Monday, March 5, 2007

failing to be Fabulous at fifty

I usually put The Today Show on in the morning while I'm eating breakfast and perusing internet news/blogs. There are PLENTY of issues with The Today Show that I won't get into at this time (since I often blog in the mornings, I'm sure I'll have plenty more chances), but I finally had to respond to one of their regular features.

It seems that every few days they run one of those "Fit And Fabulous At Fifty" type deals. It usually features some rich skinny author-type woman with a decorative Ph.D. who is forty-nine and just hysterically happy about it, probably because she looks like a thirty-year-old with a few token "lines" on her face. She will swear up and down that every fifty-year-old female viewer could hot too if they'd just *decide to be fabulous*. They'll usually march out a few other already-naturally-gorgeous women, slap some $50 makeup products on them, and point out how being fifty is really no reason to stop obsessively prettifying yourself every morning.

I get a different message from this; namely, the message that "getting older is no excuse for not still trying to look like the Hollywood set". It's an impression that you can look GREAT (where "great" = "skinny and young") if you would only just get off your lazy potentially-fabulous behind and make up your mind to be snappy-happy. In other words, older women are no longer allowed to, god forbid, stop obsessing about their appearance just because they're "past their prime". It's extending the lookist idea that women should constantly be maximizing their Hotness Potential to a wider and wider age range.

I can see my future in my mom. She would never EVER be featured on this show because - holy crap! - she spends her evening with a book instead of with wrinkle cream, and she eats big gooey decorated cookies with her grandkids instead of daintily nibbling on a few crackers to watch her figure. She walks, she hikes, she lifts weights, but she does so to stay healthy, relax, and enjoy the outdoors. I love the way she looks, but she looks like a nice, happy, and well-lived fifty-something mother and grandmother who doesn't think that hiding the bags under her eyes is vital to her status as a Today-Show-certified woman.

I'll admit it - I may not dress stylishly or wear make-up, but I tend to try and look nice on a day-to-day basis. Particularly when I see The Boyfriend or go out with friends, I tend to break out the skirts and nice jeans, brush the hair, and dust off the make-up. I realize that everyone, male and female and young and old, prefers looking good to looking bad, but personally, I can't wait to get away from it - to be the cantankerous old lady scientist that runs around in T-shirts and fleeces and hiking boots with deep wrinkles and flywaway gray hair. I want to dig out the studies I've read about menopause as a revolution for more discussion, but the short version is that many women find a new lease on life once traditional tenets of femininity are out of the picture - they write, they paint, they travel, they generally feel an enormous sense of agency in their own life. I really hope that when I'm fifty I'm obsessing over getting some pottery into a local artists' show or patching up my old hiking boots for a trip to Thailand, rather than worrying over my wrinkles and listening to The Today Show trying to remind me that looking fabulous at fifty = BEING fabulous at fifty.

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