I just saw the movie, I Don't Know How She Does It, and my friend ways saying afterwards how she'd clocked Sarah Jessica Parker when she was here for Oakes Day: “Her outfit was great, but I find it so depressing to watch her aging in front of us. She just looks so old…” Say what? Old? She is precisely ten years older than my friend. SJP looks fabulous, and I’d say she looks her age, which is 46.
What she doesn’t look is oddly frozen in time thanks to a face full of dermal fillers – I’m not saying she doesn’t have them, because I don’t know, but whatever her beauty routine, it’s not one hell-bent on turning back time, Cher-style. Not one that makes her look like a creepy, waxen, wrinkle-free surgery addict poised forever in her mid-20s.
And yet because that’s a pretty reasonable description of so many Hollywood leading ladies and TV stars these days, turns out it’s SJP who’s the one who looks unusual. The more we see something, the more normalized it becomes. And right now we’re riding the crest of the “youth = beauty” wave that’s been building for the past 10 years. We’ve seen so many artfully frozen faces we’ve forgotten what a natural one looks like. I think this wave might be about to break. I hope it is, not least because I’m no spring chicken myself; what I am is too chicken and conflicted to sign up for surgery myself. I also find it depressing to judge beauty and glamour by smooth skin alone. In August, actors Kate Winslet, Rachel Weisz and Emma Thompson gave a press conference in the UK about their newly formed Anti Cosmetic Surgery League, which saw Winslet, 35, proclaiming: “I will never give in!”
So will you? Will I? I reckon it’s pretty hard to say. I kind of like the idea of looking my age, because my age correlates with personal history, my wisdom, my experience. I kind of like it, but then there’s the other bit of me that says, That’s fine in theory, but you’re only 35! What are you going to feel like at 45? At 55? And who are you to come over all judgemental about a woman’s right to look her best, and do whatever she damn well likes to make that happen? No-one really relishes wrinkles any ore than they do grey hairs. I admit that I obsess over the latter. In theory, I’m cheering the Iris Apfel approach – grey and great and utterly fashion fabulous? Bring it on! In practice, I’m at the salon every month bleaching it blonde.
|Apfel shot for The New York Times|
So like I said, it’s complicated.
On my pinboard, I have cutting of a fabulous story written by British Vogue editor Alexandra Schulman for UK newspaper The Daily Mail a couple of years back. In it she reveals her reasons for personally rejecting cosmetic surgery despite working in an industry that drives it. She writes: “We want to look younger because we remember youthful vigour. We want to be sexually attractive, we fear our bosses might think we are getting past it, and, basically, we don't want to be old and physically decaying. But while we want to look younger, we are emphatically not going to get any younger. And while we can a do a great deal about the kind of clothes we wear, and the food we eat, and the holidays we take, and the colour we paint our bathroom, we can't do a damn thing about the fact that we are going to get older.” So Schulman says she’d rather spend her downtime doing something useful- learning a language, reading a French novel – than injecting expensive goop into her face in a doomed bid to win a battle that, ultimately, cannot be won. Doesn’t that just make marvellous sense? I wonder if SJP read it? Whatever. I think she looks bloody brilliant.