At a cocktail party recently, I walked away with a lot more than the latest gossip and the (inevitable) hors d’oeuvre dribble on my skirt that I usually get.
My friend and I dolled up for it, and she—who’s fit and slender because she believes, as I do, in the body equals temple thing—wore an outfit that accentuated her finer (physical) points. It turned quite a few heads. But then I heard disturbing words mumbled from some of those heads, words like “work she’s had done.”
The funny thing is that there’s nothing injected, nipped, or tucked about her, and yet the assumption is that a middle-aged women who looks good (must we say “for her age?” Nah ...) must have “gotten” work, i.e. plastic surgery, instead of “done” the work, as in exercise, a healthy diet, etc.
That’s odd, isn’t it? I mean, when a handful of students in a class get an A on a test, the assumption is that they studied and understood the assignments, not that they cheated, although some of them might have.
So why the double standard?
Of course, it doesn’t really matter what people think; the satisfaction of knowing for yourself that you didn’t go the easy route should be enough. And yet, it’s important that people feel and see that they can grow older and still be beautiful, sexy, desirable—without having to get surgeries to look like everyone else, Barbies. You can’t do that in a world that just assumes you took the easy way to get to that beauty.
(To me, it’s a little like the whole BALCO-Barry Bonds issue and all the other performance drug-using athletes—sure, it got them the win, the glory, the record-breaking hits, but at what moral cost? Some sports fans couldn’t care less, but now the rest of us are forever wondering what a pro athlete is up to, and it’s assumed he or she’s up to something.)
But back to aging gracefully ...
There’s a beautiful moment in a lovely little documentary on Zen priest/cookbook author Edward Espe Brown (whose Tassajara Bread Book was my first cookbook) that’s playing at the Rafael, “How to Cook Your Life.” An emotional Brown shares a story of the many teapots lining the shelves at the Zen center, old teapots with chips and the kind of fine cracks porcelain tends to get over time. Time and just life itself have created all those little flaws, those imperfections, and yet the teapots are still useful ... and beautiful. It’s a touching metaphor about how easily we discard or devalue things (and people) that are imperfect.
I’m not against the quest for beauty; I sure do it with my antioxidant creams and diligent exercise. I just don’t like that nowadays it’s assumed you’ve been injected, nipped, and tucked to attain it.
Or am I missing the point?