Actor Kristin Scott Thomas, 53, is one lady who feels she is becoming invisible. (AND MALE READERS: please stay with me, because I need your opinions.) You remember Thomas in THE ENGLISH PATIENT, LIFE AS A HOUSE, THE HORSE WHISPERER. Though she’s beautiful, talented and fluent in French, she recently lamented what happens to women as they age. “…when you’re walking down the street, you get bumped into, people slam doors in your face—they just don’t notice you. Somehow, you vanish. It’s a cliché, but men grow in gravitas as they get older, while women just disappear.”
Let’s step back a moment: Thomas is a film star who also stated that as actors age, “often a young woman in her 20s or early 30s …is the lead, and you’re constantly put next to them. You’re watching yourself get old, on a screen that hides nothing.”
VERY TRUE. But what she’s saying is a day-to-day experience for any woman who has a daughter, works with younger women—or is just out in the world! It’s life, a given. Comparisons are odious, but there isn’t a woman on the planet who can escape them.
Tira Harpaz in SALON writes: Women are often defined and judged more harshly (then men) by their appearance and attractiveness, a feeling reinforced by a society in which magazine covers celebrate youthful feminine good looks and taut bodies often photoshopped to an unnatural degree.
But Thomas is really bothered. “At the Cannes film festival I got such a shock…saw lots of my contemporaries…all looking so beautiful and gorgeous and healthy, and I just felt like an old ragbag.” She surmised that many of them had undergone plastic surgery—you think?
Then I received the latest edition of LADIES HOME JOURNAL, in which Sally Lee, editor-in-chief, featured untouched photos of 8 women in their underwear. So refreshing! SIZE DOESN’T MATTER, CONFIDENCE DOES the article proclaimed and rightly so. Editor Lee went a step further asking women to let her know whether these unretouched photos were empowering, inspiring or something readers don’t want to see. DearSally@LHJ.com
My email was positive. It was a bold editorial move and something that women need to see. (Being an RN and a health educator, my one caveat: health comes before bad habits—future good health relies on watching calories and exercising because Type 2 Diabetes is truly out there.)
So what do you think? Thomas is echoing a standard complaint of females: as our beauty goes, we go with it. But within the last decade models like Cindy Joseph and actors like Carol Burnett and Jamie Lee Curtis (who let the camera photograph them without makeup and lots of support!) are reassuring us that there is always beauty in life—and that maybe later it comes from within—note that smile lighting up your face and displacing those wrinkles.
So what should Thomas do? Get plastic surgery? I remember seeing Sally Field on Oprah in the mid 90s and she had big bags under her eyes. When I her saw next, they were gone. She had a blepharoplasty. Years later I confess I did too. I was older than Thomas’s 53, but too young to be constantly asked why I looked so tired. I saved my money, had the procedure and have enjoyed the results.
But facial plastic surgery, peels, injections etc are just warring against the inevitable process. Our bodies are aging, but our attitudes and our minds don’t have to. And though big changes are definitely ahead for our daughters and granddaughters, in terms of position in society and leadership roles, there is still time for us to make a difference in how we are viewed—right now.
Tira Harpaz writes: …we have to find places, organizations and people to whom and with whom we feel vital and alive, and if possible, look for ways to become leaders no matter our age… We have to fight or ignore our insecurities and look for opportunities to become visible – run for local office, get on a community board, start a program – and find ways to take control of our lives…
And despite the physical aging that we are experiencing, we need to remember that we are the bearers of experience and wisdom. This culture might be ignoring us, dissing us when past cultures did not, but we can shoulder along, use our engendered power, fascinating lives, and creative insights to change that. We can share what we know. We are not anonymous older women being ignored in the street, but valuable people.
I guess I would say to Thomas and to my aging self —shake it off. Be like Maggie Smith who has let time do what it will, yet is revered for her acting prowess. What will Thomas do? Being a well-known actor, she’s got a lot going for her. It will be interesting to see how she takes advantage of it, how this one beautiful lady deals with becoming invisible.
Thanks to Google Images