I saw Jane Fonda on the Emmy Awards this week.
Well, I didn’t watch the show, but I love to take a look at the evening’s finery in the after photos. And there she was, in bright pink top to toe, a long ponytale and bangs. Her face looked a tad overly made-up and did it seem kind of motionless? I have no idea what she said, or who else was on the Emmy’s that night.
All I saw was Jane.
Where do I begin with the mixed feelings?
My first reaction was a rallying “you go girl” kind of response. Here she was, 79 years old and owning the stage with her ‘in your face’ finery. I have a soft spot for Jane. From the film Barbarella in 1968 to anit-war Hanoi Jane in 1972, the film Coming Home in 1978 to fitness guru of the 80’s, her chameleon like ability to reinvent herself has always fascinated me.
She has always projected a strength, an ability to endure that I admire.
In my Pilates classes I sometimes offer an ‘homage to Jane’ as we tackle an exercise reminiscent of her aerobics classes of the 80’s. Everyone laughs probably as much for homage as for the fact that we all understand what I’m referring to.
But then there’s the ‘work’ she’s had done. Is it a red mark on the tally sheet of Jane’s wonderfulness? Or do I ??????? (I tell myself that the woman chose to live in the limelight and the limelight has demanded she stay young looking and beautiful.) To her defense, Jane’s on record saying she’s not particularly proud of having cosmetic surgery, but that it did make her look 10 years younger.
Not so secretly I’d love to have ‘work’ done on my jowls and waddle neck. There. I admit it. I stand in front of the mirror and pull and push my face around until it looks like a more rested, younger version of myself.
I struggle to accept the physical changes of aging and seeing Jane, or any other uber-septugenarian, ultimately makes me feel like maybe I’m failing at Ageing 101.
And that’s the crux of it. The advertising and Hollywood worlds are pitching us the same sh*t just in a different decade. They have no clue how to approach older women, so they go old school and send us the same messages they’ve been at since we were teenagers. Be beautiful, be perfect. Value the outside, not the inside. Be seen, not heard. And for gawd sake, spend all your time on this so you don’t have an iota of empty space in your head to think great thoughts.
And just to add a soupcon of crazy to the mix, in true Baby Boomer style we’re barraged with messages of third act reinvention and resisting the very real, very insidious ageism that thwarts us at every turn.
My brain hurts. Does yours? We carry all of this around with us. The uncomfortable pull between these larger than life versions of what we should be and the real version of what we are.
I don’t know about you but I’m a 65 year old woman who wants to be healthy in an aging body, to make peace with my past and to make the most of my future. I’m still considering having ‘work’ done and feel fine about it. I wish I turned heads, but I never did, so meh. I’ll work til I’m 70 because I must. I bristle at being called ‘dear’ by the grocery clerk and I’m knee deep in an online business that muddles along.
I’m a product of 50+ years of shrewd marketing and it’s messaging is deeply embedded in my psyche. I am a Baby Boomer whose collective pride and legacy is stopping a war, being part of Woodstock, embracing the pill and free love and, well, just plain moving mountains.
I’m not sure of the answer. I think it’s always been right in front of me, literally. Live life in all it’s messy glory, one day at a time. Be there for those I love, help in whatever ways I can. Laugh a little. Worry less.
And one important little addition, now that the journey actually looks like it has a finish line, is to clean up my regrets.