by Liz Smith | bio

“Aging gracefully!”

I love the absurdity of that phrase as it relates to all of us, but especially to women in motion pictures, television and life in general. It has always been a fake expression.

Aging gracefully for any woman known for her beauty or good looks always meant a lot of subtle plastic surgery, diet and exercise. It didn’t mean looking your age or allowing yourself to thicken noticeably.

Believe it or not, Shelley Winters was a shapely, buxom knockout in her youth. But she “aged gracefully” as nature intended. She got plump and went with the flow. In doing so, she extended her career decades beyond most glamour girls.

I have a movie director friend who says, “Nowadays, when we need a grandmother type woman and we put out a casting call for women in their 70’s, we have to weed through hundreds of females who resemble the young Angie Dickinson. Most actresses these days have had work done and no longer resemble concepts of ‘grandmother!'” (Well, hell, maybe they do — young looking grandmas are all the rage these days.)

These days on the red carpet, actresses are saying, “Forget my motivation. Does this dress make me look fat?”

Yeah, I know. We’re all saying that. And by the time you’re into menopause, I think you probably have your “motivation” as a woman well in hand.

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  • Carolyn Hahn January 12, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Interesting comment, Tami. I just saw Mary Tyler Moore on TV the other day–PBS show on the history of SIT coms, so it offered her through the years, as it were. She looked REALLY done. Much as I adore Mary Tyler Moore, I felt strange watching her–it was like Jocelyn Wildenstein, that gallery owner’s wife who had plastic surgery to look like a tiger. Jocelyn looks bizarre, but Mary also just looked not quite of our world. I thought “is that the only way to keep up in Hollywood”? Because it seems to involve a total denial of self, somehow.
    That said, I bought this InStyle book on beauty for 5 bucks at the thrift shop and followed their eyebrow suggestions (brush ’em up, trim) and it was amazing–like a mini-face lift, they said, and it was! I look better (says me) than I ever have, and it is, in fact, in an older, more elegant, more styled way than I did when I was young. I recognized that knowing one’s face/style better will add up to a look that is attractive (by society standards) but even the word “knowing” is often the opposite of “youth.” You gotta live a while to know stuff. I guess what I’m going for is an elegant knowing, rather than a youthful look, and it’s interesting to see which women out there I can use as role models. Coco Chanel at 55 was more beautiful than she was when she was younger (then she got older and began to look like an overly made up hag complete with jutting cigarette crumbling off her lip).

  • Tami Anderson January 10, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    What is fascinating to me is that while these women don’t look like “traditional” (read: wrinkled, sagging) grandmothers, they don’t look exactly youthful either. As much as plastic surgery can lift and pull and make so-called flaws disappear, it can’t mimic actual youth. Joan Rivers has far fewer wrinkles than most 30 year-olds but would anyone describe her look as young? Sadly, we are going to have to come up with a new word.