Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Fountain of Youth

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?

Maggie Barbieri


  1. Well, soft lighting is key!! but i'll admit to having some laser hair removal... How is it that as our head hair thins & greys... the facial hair seems to take on some sort of alien life span and new color!!! I wish I was a real blond... not a brunette! This is something no one told me when clueing me on on that other important stuff....

  2. My old rule is that while getting older isn't all fun, consider the alternative. I'll take getting older.

    It's better if you don't fight it on the physical level. It's enough to stay fit physically and do challenging things mentally.

    I personally don't wear any makeup (it just never appealed to me) or dye my hair. Honestly, I think this has let me avoid the mild shocks of catching my reflection "with and without." About four times a year I wear lipstick, though, and I sometimes get my nails done. I've gone to short hair because it is more attractive as your hair and face change, and it's just easier.

    Otherwise, I try to get exercise, eat well, drink plenty of good liquids, and--very important--get enough SLEEP. For my insides, I have a mentally stimulating job, I read lots, I knit, I get out in nature gardening, etc. I participate in the lively art of conversation and laugh a lot. Crying now and then is good for you, too, of course.

  3. Vicky, you are of course right about the "alternative." Who wants that? And girlygirl, what of the facial hair? Seriously! Let's stick with the soft lighting; I hear it melts the pounds off, too. :-)

  4. Your post made me chuckle. Here I am at 78 proud of my wrinkles--wow, did I go through a lot to get them. Do I want to look like an alien who is related to all those aging movie stars who either look like aliens, no longer look like themselves or in some cases a grinning monster? No! I do dye my hair red because it's fun and I can tell people to look for the great-grandma with the dyed red hair--works every time.

    As for my mind, sometimes I can't remember stuff--but I remember having the same problem when I was much younger.

    All of you girls are beautiful--quit worrying about it.


  5. Thanks, Marilyn. I, too, will be the great-grandma with red hair so pass the mantle, sister! Maggie

  6. Well, Mags, I do have to admit that some tweezing with a 10x mirror does go on a couple of times a week! THAT task is such a bother, but I do feel it's a must to get rid of the thicker, sometimes darker/sometimes white "whiskers" that I never saw coming my way!

    Perhaps we should start a movement to help warn the young women of today about this terror headed toward them?! No one ever "shared" that little joy with me when I was a girl!

  7. I think laughing a lot helps. And being able to make fun of getting older (just as you did in this post!). If we can't chuckle about it, what's the point? I agree completely about surgery. Once you've HAD to do it a few times for life-saving reasons, the thought of elective surgery...well, it's easy to just say no. I'm scared of needles, too, so forget the Botox or fillers. I still think somewhere down the road, they're going to realize Botox (aka botulism) does something really funky to people's brains or nervous systems. But each to his own. I'll stick with my wrinkles, thank you very much. I think I've earned them. Love this post, Maggie!!!

  8. Thanks, Susan. I have earned every single one of my laugh lines (see: Mom telling me the truth all the time...that leads to lots of laughing) and enjoy them. The thought of Botox makes me shudder. Maggie

  9. Soft lighting, a good sense of humor, an active mind, and I have to cop to some extra weight which keeps the wrinkles at bay. I still believe that a good laugh makes things so much better. Surgery, not so much, and most of the stars that have had lifts, and tie backs or whatever they call them look misshapen to me. After 60 years, I'm finally a blond, and I like it.

  10. Lil, I've been considering going full-on blonde, if only to get more mileage out of my color, which I do every four weeks. And amen on the good sense of humor. Laughter makes everyone attractive. Hope you're doing well! Maggie

  11. The key is to NEVER turn the light on in the upstairs bathroom!! Can you say "blinded by the light" lol. It's even worse if you move the mirrors!! :-)

  12. Susie, don't tell your grandmother about this post! LOL!!! Maggie