I was out to dinner with a group of friends the other night. As a way of describing us, let’s just say that we are all past forty and looking forward to the wonder that is fifty; in two cases, anyway, the women are experiencing the wonder of fifty. In any event, we were discussing the idea of plastic surgery and wondering if any of us would pull the trigger and go in for any procedures. Having been the only one who had had a massive, unplanned surgery that didn’t result in the extraction of a baby too big to birth, I cautioned them that having elective surgery was something that they all should consider thoughtfully. I let them know that surgery is not for the faint of heart.
One friend’s response to the question of plastic surgery was the old Coco Chanel trope, “You can either focus on your ass or your face.” My friend had chosen her ass but I have to say, her face looks pretty damned good, too, mostly because she’s Italian and Italians, in my opinion, age much better than the Irish. (You’d think with all that rain, we’d have perfected that dewy complexion thing. We haven’t. In addition to the rain thing, we’ve got the booze thing, and that’s hard to shake off, even after generations of good dermatology.) Another friend said she might consider an eyelift. I, for one, would consider having the fat sucked out of my chin and then remembered the massive, unplanned surgery and put that idea to rest. Another friend is so thin and so fit that she doesn’t have a line on her face and still looks like a sixteen-year-old. We hashed this out over a few glasses of Chianti and then it finally dawned on me: plastic surgery is a slippery slope. It’s kind of like painting your kitchen and then looking at your dining room and thinking, “Wow, that looked ok before, but now? Not so much.” Where do you stop? Do you stop with the chin and hope the rest of the face continues to look good or do you go whole hog and get the whole kit and caboodle done? I suspect that if you get one “problem area” taken care of, you find that you need to get another one done, and then another, and then, all of them done until you’re deciding to get your ears—now too low on your head—moved up to accommodate your new, stretched thin face.
I had put this whole conversation out of my mind until this past weekend. Every Rosh Hashanah, despite the fact that we are the goyest of the goy, we head to Massachusetts to visit my mother’s brother and his family. The kids are off from school, which makes it the perfect time for a road trip. My aunt and uncle couldn’t be more hospitable, but something I always forget until we’re there is that a) we eat a lot (making trying to stay on Weight Watchers fruitless) and b) there is not a light bulb in the house that is less than one hundred and fifty watts (which makes seeing yourself for the first time in the early morning light the most frightening experience you could ever have). As I was putting my makeup on Friday morning, I regarded my reflection with alarm. Had I sprouted a full beard and mustache overnight? Did I have more wrinkles now than when I had gone to bed? When did my eyes start drooping like that? Were my teeth always the color of corn? What exactly had happened to me while I slept?
I came down to breakfast, a little defeated, wondering how I went out in the world without being chased by villagers with pitchforks. It wasn’t until I was in the car with my mother—the only person you should ask questions of if you want totally honest answers—that I had the nerve to ask her, “Is it the lighting in the upstairs bathroom or do I look as bad and as old as that mirror would have me believe?” I held my breath while waiting for the answer but her hysterical laughter was all I needed to hear. Turns out that under the harsh light of an operating-room set of marquee lights, none of us look that good. Including my twelve-year-old son who was mumbling about Botox on the way home.
So, I have determined that it’s not plastic surgery, or visits to a pricey dermatologist or esthetician, or shooting your face up with unknown products that harden under your skin and smooth out the wrinkles that are the key to aging gracefully. Rather, it’s really simple: good lighting. A quick trip to Target for some forty-watt bulbs and I’ll be all set. Hubby will think that I slept in a time machine and have emerged looking like I did in 1991 (without the bad perm and the shoulder pads). I’ll look dewy, fresh, young, and rested. Now, I just have to figure out how to change the light bulbs in my aunt and uncle’s house every Rosh Hashanah without them catching on.
What are your secrets to the fountain of youth, Stiletto friends?