Friday, May 22, 2015

Age Appropriate

I have to say I recently felt a little sorry for Madonna.  Here she is – the epitome of sex from the 1990’s and still trying to rock it at 56 – wearing hot pants, black thigh high boots, a tank and serenading Drake.  At the end of the song, she leans over and lays a passionate kiss on him.  At first it seemed appreciated and then it became a something out of a Pepe Le Pew cartoon – Drake trying to get away and Madonna oblivious to his resistance.  Then, the look on his face and immediate need to wipe it off his mouth made it seem all that more unseemly – a woman hitting on a man half her age and him definitely not digging it.

I like everyone else, wanted to poke fun at it.  Madonna’s ego – had been taken down a few notches because she stepped over the line of sexy into ridiculous.  But then I began to wonder at the tender age of 52 if trying to be sexy in your fifties was crossing a line.   Of course – it’s important to know when to flaunt it – and hitting on a guy who’s young enough to be your son was probably not the way to go about it even if you were the ultimate sex goddess in 1993. 
It’s a tough road from your 30’s into your 40’s into the 50’s and beyond –
particularly if you’re a woman.  I really feel for female celebrities hitting those milestones and having to compete against their younger selves thanks to YouTube and Netflix.   Now the movies you made 20 or even 30 years ago are a reminder of how things used to be – when you were forever young– free from the worries of Botox and the necessity of a nip and tuck.  The worship of youth has always been there – but the availability of plastic surgery and the practitioners who claim to be able to fix all your problems is way too alluring to those that make their living with their appearance and sadly those physicians don’t always deliver the desired results.  It’s not like a haircut – a botched face lift will not grow back.  It will require more surgeries to fix and with each one – new news stories on someone leaving the back end of a cosmetic surgery center trying to be unrecognizable – and sadly they are.  Those parts of their face that made them interesting and unique have now been replaced by a face that is shiny and immovable.

Of course, men rarely have to do those things to mask their age.  George Clooney can look as rough-hewn as he wants.  But if Jamie Lee Curtis decides not to color her hair – she gets flack for giving up and looking old rather than being celebrated for her authentic self and forgoing hair dye and plastic surgery.  It’s a very confusing message.
So why do we have such a hard time allowing a woman to grow old naturally and at the same time we condemn a woman who wants to celebrate the fact that she’s still a sexual being well into her 50’s?  “The Most Interesting Man in the World” is in his late 60’s and has young women around him – in awe and laughing at his jokes.   He has charm, wit and money – that apparently transcends the fact that he’s old enough to be their father.   He is even a little over weight but his worldliness overcomes that as well.  Now, put a woman in her 60’s surrounded by young men and either it’s creepy or more like Mae West where the tongue was firmly in the cheek.  The message is clearly an older woman could never really attract this much attention from young men in real life.
In the films of the 1950’s and 60’s – a fifty year old woman was regulated to being a grandmother and probably was one – since she more than likely started having children in her early 20’s and then her daughter would follow suit.  At 40 back then – the best you could hope for was being handsome – sort of like Lucille Ball and definitely not sexual.  A woman in her sixties would probably be like Barbara Stanwick but at that point – her face would became softly fused with a filter so her features would be slightly out focus – a silly way to mask her age because it only made it that much more glaring.
But even a woman’s weight at any age is not off limits.  Look at someone like Pink or Kelly Clarkson – who are not anywhere near their 40’s or 50’s but God forbid they gain a little weight doing something as prized as being a mother.  The expectation is that if they don’t immediately get rid of their postpartum Lbs. – they are excoriated on social media as being too fat.   Luckily they both have the wisdom and strength of character to take their attackers to task and being proud of their bodies. 
But for those of us that grew up during the Twiggy years – the unrealistic
expectation of weight and beauty has become ingrained.  The curves of the 1950’s gave way to the boyish waif look which was impossible for 99% of young women to pull off naturally.  It touched me so much that when I was in middle school – I developed an eating disorder and tried to keep my calories to fewer than 400 a day.  I was 5’3” and about 90 pounds.  I kept fixating on my thighs and how big they looked to me compared to the rest of my body.   My chest looked bony and my shoulder bones were poking out of my shoulders but still in my mind I was too fat.  It finally took my sister to point out that I was too thin before I snapped out of this self- induced haze of body hating to see the truth – I was radically too thin.  I put on a few pounds to look healthier – but my weight for most of my life has been a slippery slope.

I guess pregnancy can put that all into perspective because having a big belly that was full of my future progeny was a wonderful and blessed thing.  I even got a pretty nice set of boobs!  For the first time in my life I had crossed over the A-cup line and was spilling out of a B-cup.  My husband Max got the fringe benefits.  I knew that he loved me for better or worse but having an awesome set of knockers was definitely the better.   Once the babies were here and I was breast feeding they got even bigger – I was easily a 38C cup and curvy like Marilyn Monroe to the point that even the gay stage manager at the theatre where I was working at was checking me out. 
It took me 20 years to finally get it but it turns out men aren’t necessarily turned on by waif like bodies – they want something they can hold onto.  So I’m okay with not weighing 105 pounds– but I’ve always gotten a certain amount of attention because of my looks.  At the point that I was at the end of my pregnancies, I rather enjoyed it because I got attention for being the pregnant lady and not necessarily being the pretty lady (although people were quick to assure me that I was still beautiful even as I waddled up to thank them). 
But now that I am hitting my 50's, I know that the days of being able to rock
a pair of white shorts and a short sleeve button down shirt tied to my waist with a pair of sneakers are well behind me.  Unlike Madonna, I have not made my bread and butter on the fact that I used to wear a corset and belt buckle that said “Boy Toy.”  I never had my father preach that I needed to be “Like a Virgin.”  For the bulk of my career, I’ve had to look professional and not provocative. 
But I still feel for Madonna who is not ready to lose her sexy but has to tread a fine line between edgy and creepy.   Being confident is sexy but being arrogant can add years – so maybe a little humility can go a long way to make you seem younger.   There’s definitely a glow about women who feel good about themselves at any age.  Even entertainers who have had the media focus on mostly their good looks vs. their talent have had to make that transition into their 50’s and self-confidence can go a long way to achieve that. 
I also think having a sense of humor about yourself is important in keeping your sexy up and your angst of aging down. My husband Max recently showed me a sketch Amy Shumer recently did on her show about aging in Hollywood with Julia Louise Dreyfus, Tina Fey and Patricia Arquette. It’s a hilarious reflection on the double standard of a woman’s sexuality in tinsel town as the group celebrates Julia’s last f**kable day – the last day that a female movie star is can screw realistically on screen.  Click here to view the sketch.  I was laughing pretty hard and Max mentioned that in his eyes they were all still very f**ckable.  It’s nice to have a husband who appreciates beauty at any age.  
Most people would tell you that Sandra Bullock is downright hot and she does it effortlessly which is the key to her allure.   My guess is if she, Mary Louise Parker and Laura Dern could give some advice it’s that you don’t need to work so hard to be hot – just let it happen and people will still notice you.  For God’s sake – don’t buy into having to get so much work done that people can’t take you seriously anymore.  Meryl Streep is Meryl Streep and she has the street cred to do just about anything –but  she doesn’t need to look younger to get roles.  Granted there are less and less roles for 60 year old women, but people will watch her perform because they believe who she is – her face is still as amazing as it was when she started back the 1980’s – it’s just older as it should be.  Max recently commented that he would nail Helen Mirren in a New York minute which was reassuring but made me think I need to be in the room when he’s around other women over 50.  

Betty White is a beautiful woman in her 90’s who can tell you that being relevant is key but not so over the top that you look like you merely want attention.  The night she hosted Saturday Night Live was the highest ratings that show had gotten in 18 months – she was great because she has the show business savvy to know how to play to her audiences – both old and new.  When she was on the SNL 40th Anniversary – she locked lips with Bradley Cooper and he didn’t try to wipe it off – probably because it was rehearsed and he was in on it.  Just about every woman watching would have loved to have switched places with her – and she pulled it off with just the right amount of tongue in cheek – acknowledging that she still had it.   
Which brings me back to Madonna – and my own struggle to reconcile the fact that I’m getting older and not the fresh young thing I once was.  Interestingly enough, I actually I agree with one statement she recently made: "I don't understand. I'm trying to get my head around it. Because women, generally, when they reach a certain age, have accepted that they're not allowed to behave a certain way. But I don't follow the rules. I never did, and I'm not going to start."  So maybe we need to ease up on her and see where her blazing trail takes her. 
I’m way past the shelf life of most improv performers – and yet I still go out there and perform because I love it and I’m okay with making fun of my age.  Hell, I even poked fun at Madonna in a recent show in her get up in which I felt sexy and just a bit ridiculous at the same time.  Maybe the road most of us need to go down is confident in our own skins and not worry about what the world thinks.  I need to not hold myself to unrealistic standards as I have in the past and accept the fact that you can get older and still be sexy and interesting.  And if you happen to be out in public and a younger guy checks you out – smile back.  You never know - maybe you just made HIS day!

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