One thing I hate with a passion is seeing myself on my laptop camera. Does anyone else have this issue? What is there about looking at yourself in a mirror that allows you to deceive yourself as to your wrinkly-ness and imperfections, while a laptop camera depicts you in all your aging glory?
Or is it just me?
I’ve been fortunate in appearing younger than my age for much of my life. I like to tell the story (because it’s true) that when I started working at the University of California at Davis, at the age of 31, people took me for an undergraduate. Even other undergraduates did. But now, at 50, I’m thinking my age has maybe caught up with me, because much of the time, when I tell people I’m 50, they often just nod or carry on the conversation, rather than stopping and saying, “Fifty? Seriously? I thought you were [insert way lower number here]. You look great.” (Occasionally something like this does happen, but because of its infrequency, I figure the person is either very kind hearted or legally blind.)
Aging is tough, but being a woman and aging is tougher. Tougher than that is being a woman who was once pretty and aging. I count my lucky stars that I wasn’t super-model gorgeous—I’d probably be close to suicidal at this stage.
Years ago, when I was in graduate school, a friend suggested we make a promise to talk each other out of facelifts when we got older. I had no idea how to respond to that, so I said nothing, and I wonder now how much my expression revealed of my thoughts. She was from Southern California and her grandmother was a wealthy Beverly Hills lady who was on maybe her fourth marriage, had skin stretched as tight as Saran wrap over a bowl of leftover tuna salad, and likely had a tab at her plastic surgeon’s. I knew that no one was going to have to talk me out of a facelift because it wasn’t ever going to be on my agenda. It’s the sort of thing that’s simply outside my scope of possibilities, for a whole host of reasons.
Before I clumsily segue into my next point, I want to make something clear: I am not someone who revels in schadenfreude over celebrity plastic surgery gone wrong. I’ve seen links to those articles when I’ve succumbed to click bait on Facebook and the accompanying (Photoshopped, distorted) photos make me cringe. I do admit, however, to being a bit disconcerted by Renée Zellweger’s transformation, and I found the online discussion of it to be revealing of attitudes toward women.
First off, I know there are differing takes on this (it’s kind of like #TheDress), but I’m adamant: Renée Zellweger now looks like an entirely different person. If I had run into Renée Zellweger before her surgery, I would have recognized her as Renée Zellweger. Now, she looks vaguely like someone I might have gone to high school with. When I wrote in response to a friend’s Facebook post that Ms. Zellweger looked like someone else, I was told (not by her, but by a Facebook friend of hers), “You wish you looked half as good!” Really, friend’s friend on Facebook? Do I know you? Um, maybe I do look half as good. Or maybe I look even worse: like a sea lamprey, even, and yet still don’t give a flying rat’s ass. Methinks you’re missing the point.
But that’s just it, isn’t it? As a woman in our mind-numbing, beauty-obsessed culture, you can’t even say you’re sad that Renée Zellweger no longer looks like Renée Zellweger without being attacked on your own appearance. Because obviously, if you’re a little disturbed about movie stars going to such extremes to “fix” their looks that they end up looking vaguely like that girl you think you went to high school with, it’s because you’re jealous and bitter and your life sucks. And of course it sucks: you’re not drop-dead gorgeous.
Don’t forget that no matter what your age, if you’re not movie-star beautiful, it’s your own damn fault. After all, there’s liposuction, botox, plastic surgery, laser surgery, electrolysis, eyelash and eyebrow tinting, and shall I go on for another hour or so? Sure, these things cost money, lots of money, but we already know that if you don’t have money, that’s your own damn fault, too. After all, you’re worth it. So if you don’t go into extreme debt making yourself look as good as possible, aren’t you simply saying you’re not worth it? Talk about low self-esteem!
So what am I saying? Well, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t care at all about our appearance. But I do suspect that focusing too much time and energy on the superficial makes us pretty… well… superficial. So, once again, I guess balance is the key, as it seems to be to pretty much everything. I’m working on it and, in the meanwhile, trying my best not to turn on my laptop camera.
Photos taken on my laptop camera, sans makeup, with/without Thing Two, on 3.2.15.