Let’s be honest. Most face-lifts are unflattering. They turn the faces of middle-aged women, who should be wrinkled from all that laughing, crying and squinting in the sunshine, into frozen wastelands.
Okay, I’ll admit to a little mannequin phobia (thank you “Twilight Zone”), but my point still stands.
I think dyed hair can have the opposite of the desired effect. Instead of: How young she looks! people think: What did she do to her face? Maybe she smokes, or never uses sunscreen. Hair that grays prematurely, on the other hand, is almost always attractive, because then people get a glimpse of the face and think: How young she looks!
I’m sure many men would disagree, but I gotta say: In my opinion most enlarged breasts are the very picture the critics paint for us: Two bowling balls glued to the chest.
That’s my shot across the bow to American standards of beauty, and my applause for French women, who are allowed to age gracefully. The New York Times supports the argument with recent photographs of Juliette Binoche, Isabelle Huppert and Catherine Deneuve.
These middle-aged women are stunning. And not a one will give you nightmares.
The secret of French women is not all that secret. The book, “French Women Don’t Get Fat,” sold a million copies (handy tip: It’s not so much they don’t get fat, but rather that they take the ounce off the nanosecond it shows up on the scale). Besides staying trim, they dress stylishly, even if they’re just running errands.
That’s not to say the French never indulge in plastic surgery. But the goal, according to a surgeon in Paris, is different.
“The objective is ‘to keep the natural beauty and charm of each individual woman, not to fit some current ideal of beauty.’ After all, trends change. In the United States…women who spend a lot of money on face-lifts want to show off their investments….By contrast, Frenchwomen prefer results that look as natural as possible.”
So what’s up with women and their collagen fish lips (aka trout pout) and facial skin so freakishly taut it brings to mind a drumhead?
Some blame incompetent plastic surgeons. However, even the best surgeons can’t guarantee results. Five minutes of browsing on awfulplasticsurgery.com would be enough to scare me off, if I was so inclined.
The high price women pay to be beautiful is not new. For centuries European aristocrats achieved the “dead white” look with lead, arsenic, mercury and other toxic compounds. Tight corsets caused fainting, palpatation and even miscarriage. Foot binding deformed a woman’s feet for life. While that was the standard for beauty beginning in 10th century China and lasting for about 1,000 years, foot binding served the secondary purpose of keeping women hobbling around close to home.
A recent YWCA study revealed that American women spend $7 billion a year in pursuit of beauty. In ten years, surgical and non-surgical procedures have gone up over 400 percent.
For me, one of the pleasures of watching movies from the 1930s and 1940s is the normal women. They wore a lot of makeup and curls, but their bodies looked like those of real women. My favorite picture of Marilyn Monroe was taken before her hair went platinum. She’s not lean. In fact, she has a tummy. And she’s drop-dead gorgeous.
According to some filmmakers, we may be slowly moving back to a more natural standard. One TV casting director complained “everyone either looks like a drag queen or a stripper.” Well, yes.
The New York Times ends its homage to aging French women with this quote: “Françoise Sagan once wrote, ‘There is a certain age when a woman must be beautiful to be loved, and then there comes a time when she must be loved to be beautiful.'”
And Frenchwomen, the story says, keep friends and family close by, and they’re also good at loving themselves. Better than us, anyway.
[originally published by Politics Daily in 2010]