My hubby and I often struggle finding television that we BOTH want to watch. I tend toward the dark stories. He tends toward, well, musicals. It can be challenging.
However, Saturday night, we managed to find a movie on Netflix that we both wanted to see, starring none other than Jane Fonda and Robert Redford.
We we were about 20 minutes into a sweet story about an elderly couple finding love and companionship, when I looked out of the corner of my eye to see if Lindsay was enjoying it. He was wearing a face of grim resignation – not digging this film. When I asked him what it was that he didn’t like, he replied,
“I don’t want to see Robert Redford old.”
But I totally understood what he meant. Jane was spouting a long gray wig for this role and it didn’t suit her at all.
I guess I was feeling the same way Lindsay was feeling.
Why is it so hard to accept aging in our idols?
More importantly, why is it so hard to accept our own aging?
There are plenty of cliches about the subject. “Growing old isn’t for the squeamish,” comes to mind.
But living in Los Angeles and working in the entertainment industry, aging is anything but cliche. How old I look determines, well, a lot. As an actress over 40, there are fewer opportunities – that’s a fact.
Even friends of mine who are in their 20s and 30s express concern. And some receive Botox injections on a regular basis.
I haven’t ever done Botox, but I’ve wondered about it. I’ve also thought about surgery – not now, but who knows how I’ll feel in five or ten years? (As Nora Ephron famously wrote, I hate my neck.)
So, I started thinking back to how I looked in my 20s and 30s. You know what? I wasn’t happy with how I looked then either. I have the journals to prove it, with plenty of entries that sound like a line from Bridget Jones’s Diary (“Today, I am determined to lose ten pounds.”)
When will I start accepting where I am, right now?
Well, how about, RIGHT NOW?
We are all going to grow old. To quote another cliche, “It’s better than the alternative.”
As I look to female role models of how to handle this aging thing, Frances McDormand comes to mind. The New York Times described her as “60 and sexy in the manner of women who have achieved total self-possession.”
Self-possession (and sexy). Yes. I aspire to that.
I also looked to one of my favorite books, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams and this passage:
“[T]he little Rabbit grew very old and shabby . . . he scarcely looked like a rabbit any more, except to the Boy. To him he was always beautiful, and that was all that the little Rabbit cared about. He didn’t mind how he looked to other people, because the nursery magic had made him Real, and when you are Real shabbiness doesn’t matter.”
Real. Yes. I aspire to that.
And finally, from Mary Ruefle‘s essay, Pause:
“If you are young and you are reading this, perhaps you will understand the gleam in the eye of any woman who is sixty, seventy, eight, or ninety: they cannot take you seriously (sorry) for you are just a girl to them, despite your babies and shoes and lovemaking and all of that. You are just a girl playing at life.
You are just a girl on the edge of a great forest. You should be frightened but instead you are eating a lovely meal, or you are cooking one, or you are running to the florist or you are opening a box of flowers that has just arrived at your door, and none of these things are done in the great spirit that they will later be done in.
You haven’t even begun. You must pause first, the way one must always pause before a great endeavor, if only to take a good breath.
Happy old age is coming on bare feet, bringing with it grace and gentle words, and ways which grim youth have never known.”
Grace. Yes. I aspire to that.
Self-possession. Real. Grace. Three things that I will ask God to help me with.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to give up my night serum or my eye cream.
But, as Ms. Ruefle reminds me:
Pause. I haven’t even begun.