Sunday, May 15, 2011

Grandma Wanted: Discerning Eye Required

No doubt motivated by people watching at the mall, an organization called Diet Life polled 2000 women asking the appropriate ages to quit wearing certain fashions.

Here’s a sample of their findings:

Quit wearing your miniskirts at 35, your bikini at 47 and your stilettos at 57.

OK. This isn’t a problem for me since I gave that stuff up long ago. All of it. Probably at 35, even though I still looked good, if I do say so myself. Thirty-five was a peak year for me. Gosh that was a long time ago! Darn it!

Editors from US fashion magazines Allure and More (geared to women over 40) stepped up immediately to voice their opinions on the subject. They say that these decisions are not about age, but about judgment. “Just look in the mirror,” they say. If you look good, wear it!

They point to Helen Mirren as an example, saying in her sixties she still rocks a plunging neckline and a bikini. Couldn’t agree more.

However, they gloss right over pronounced examples at the other end of the fashion faux pas spectrum. To wit: Cher, who used to rock it, but now dwells in the realm of caricature. And I’ll bet she has many mirrors in her many mansions. Susan Sarandon’s tired cleavage must be reflected somewhere; but she’s not looking.

While many celebs continue to look great well past the magic ages of 35, 40, 50, and even 60, we cannot let them be our rules of thumb. They and their plastic surgeons are not trustworthy.

And frankly, we can’t trust ourselves! Some of us just can’t accept what the mirror tells us. The human brain is a magnificent mechanism of mendacity. It can blot out trauma, even the trauma of sagging, bagging, bulging, and crinkling.

As you know, anorexics continue to see themselves as fat even as they waste away before their own eyes. Some of the rest of us manifest reverse anorexia: We continue to think we look slim even when the mirror says, “Not so much.”

I remember the first time I went to Weight Watchers (to be supportive of my friend who needed to go --- she invited me! Go figure.). When I weighed in, I blurted, “Are these scales correct?!” I didn’t believe the scales at Weight Watchers! That’s how far denial can go in the so-needing-it-not-to-be-true mind.

And so, if we’re not going to pick an arbitrary age to make the crucial determination as to whether it’s appropriate for us to wear a ponytail (cutoff age – 51!), and we can’t trust Hollywood or our own judgment; what about fashion designers themselves? They’ll look out for us, right?

Oops. Look no further than Princess Beatrice’s chapeau at the Royal Wedding. Designer Phillip Tracey said beauty and elegance inspired him when he made it.

Oh well.

We’re going to need a blunt and honest “friend.” We need someone who will look at our reflection for us and tell it like it is.

I remember years ago when Tina Turner appeared on the Oprah show. Tina looked good. She might have been 60 already, but hard body and wild hair --- we all wanted to go there. And Oprah did. She bought a Tina Turner wig and began to wear it on the show and around town in Chicago. I thought she looked great.

But soon Oprah returned to her show sporting her familiar coif. She confessed to a conversation she had about the wig with Stedman in which he asked, “Doesn’t anyone tell you the truth?”

So where can we find our own personal Stedman? I’ll have to hire one. My husband loves me just the way I am. Either that or he’s too smart to tell me what he really thinks.
Too bad my grandma’s gone. She would do it. And from her, I could take it.

I can see her now, filtered cigarette between manicured fingers, right eye squinting as she inhales, sizing me up in my new summer dress.

“That dress isn’t doing you any favors, Honey.”

That’s all it would take. I don’t need the details. Or Allure magazine, or Diet Life, or Entertainment Tonight.

I just need my grandma to state the facts without the varnish to keep me on the real side of “young at heart.”

There’s an opportunity here for grandmas with entrepreneurial spirit. Lots of us Baby Boomers need help with our reflections.

Come on Grannies! Step up! Get paid to save us from ourselves!