I’ve been trying to watch the Sex and the City re-boot, but you-know-who’s demise wasn’t the only sad part for me. I had trouble hearing some dialogue because someone’s too-wide, seemingly filler-enhanced smile was louder in my consciousness. Something similar happens when I see a photo of Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Melanie Griffith, or Meg Ryan; their off-kilter faces diminish their on-screen accomplishments for me, and they become a growing pool of look-alike women molding themselves to become generic versions of frozen-faced, thick-lipped 20-somethings with narrow noses and big boobs.
So, plastic surgery huh? Cosmetic procedures: what do we think? Of course, women should be allowed to do with their bodies whatever they want. Of course, right? And no judgement, right? I mean, hey girl, you do you!
But, here’s the thing … are you doing you? I would argue, um, not exactly. When you get lip fillers or boob fillers or whatever that is that stretches actresses’ faces to create the Joker mouth, you’re fighting against your you. You’re saying to yourself, and the world, my lips/face/breasts/nose are not good enough. Non-big boobs = bad. Looking over 40 = bad. In Michael Jackson’s case, my black skin, hair, and nose are bad: Being a superstar isn’t good enough, I’d like to look white. It’s even more layered and sad when race is brought into the picture, but it’s all part of the same problem. It’s essentially a math problem: X > Y, the Y being you.
Now, I’m not talking about tweaking. We all want to look our best, and I don’t feel like an imposter when I use make-up to make my lips look redder or my face less red. Tweezing here, injecting there — efforts to look like our best selves can be empowering and often express self-love.
I’ve disliked my appearance for as long as I can remember. I’ve run the gamut from an uncomfortable shrug (now) to a seething self-loathing (30 years). And I didn’t have the pressures faced by Hollywood casting. But all the actresses who try to look 25 when they’re 45 are just reinforcing media’s unhealthy ageism. All these identical noses and boobs don’t serve women or society. And frankly, I don’t think they’re serving the actresses themselves. Is Meg Ryan going to play a Polish woman escaping the Holocaust? Is she slated for a romantic comedy a la Diane Keaton? All we’d be looking at would be her transformed face.
But I submit that going under the knife to look like someone you think is just way better than yourself is not the rousing rah-rah people make it out to be. The ubiquitous actress Kaley Cuoco admits to having a nose job, breast augmentation (“the best thing I ever did”), and fillers. Acccording to Cuoco, who has waffled on whether or not she’s a feminist, “As much as you want to love your inner self, I’m sorry, you also want to look good. I don’t think you should do it for a man or anyone else, but if it makes you feel confident, that’s amazing.” Cuoco seems to believe that confidence comes from looking as close to a narrow, male gaze-driven ideal as possible. X > Y; C cups > B cups. She may think she’s not doing it for “a man or anyone else” but she is clearly doing it for some thing else. I know because I’m very familiar with that thing.
Now, I’m sure Diane Keaton has had tweaks, as had Christine Baranski (love you), Cybill Shepherd, Mariska Hargitay and Helen Mirren, but they all look like themselves. They look like older versions of themselves. They look fine, and I can follow the plot without having part of my brain doing an inventory on what all is different about the face. I think it’d be better for us all — collectively and individually — if we’d embrace the fact that aging is real and need not try to be stopped by any means necessary. It’s not only playing into patriarchal hands, it also looks odd, and sometimes ridiculous.
I don’t mean to sound harsh. I love women and I want us to all feel strong and feel good. I want to hug these women, pour them a cup of tea, and have a heart-to-heart. First of all, you want people to love you for you, not your looks. Don’t buy that? Then look at the facts. Sisters, it’s a losing game. We’re all just going to get older, and, theoretically, look “worse.” If, like Cuoco seems to, you base your confidence on how you look, you’re on a kamikaze mission. Yes, try to look your best, keep your nails clean, shower, and so on. But, we need to jettison this idea that you can keep that ingenue-looking balloon in the air. It’s deflating as we speak. Hiiiiisssssss.
It makes more sense that we civilians make an effort to get our confidence and feelings of self-worth from our inner attributes. These attributes, unlike lips and boobs, can’t be deflated. (Hiiisssss.) As we get older, various douchebags may find us less f**kable (thank God), but we have wisdom, kindness, skills, achievements, knowledge, caring, style, and other innumerable things in which to put most of our self-esteem marbles. Don’t go down a road of diminishing returns, girls. As wise man Boy George said, “The best thing you can do is work on your personality, because we’re all gonna get ugly.”
People always say you’re beautiful just the way you are. I don’t know; maybe you are, maybe you aren’t. Who cares? A surgeon’s make-over is not the answer. You don’t want someone to look at you and have the thought bubble above their head read “lip injections, face lift, fillers, Botox, etc,” right? Don’t you want that thought bubble to include things like “Kind. Smart. Helpful. Funny. Good friend. Good mother. Nice neighbor?” Stuff like that. That’s what’s really beautiful, and it never, ever looks weird.
Dixie Laite has been a second-grade teacher and mechanical bull operator, and for the past 25 years she’s worked for a variety of TV networks as a writer, editorial director, trainer, advice columnist, even an on-air personality. But primarily she’s trotted around New York City in one cowboy shirt or another, lurking around flea markets, gyms, and anywhere they’ll hand her French toast. Currently she lounges around her apartment with one husband, one dog, five parrots, and roughly 2,000 pairs of shoes. Dixie is the main lady behind Age Against the Machine, a column about empowering women over 50. Sign up for the Jumble & Flowdown newsletter to stay in the know about Dixie’s latest columns.
Follow Dixie on Instagram @dixielaite
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