I've just fnished "Face It: What Women Really Feel As Their Looks Change" by Vivian Diller, Ph.D. and Jill Muir-Skukenick, Ph.D.
The authors, both former models and psychotherpists, promise to lead women distressed about changing physical attributes out of their funk. They are not against surgical and non-surgical treatments, but prefer us to know what we're doing should we erase life's experience from our faces.
A picture is worth a thousand words: Helen Mirren, 66 next month:
Nicole Kidman, 44 next week and admittedly an easy target:
A few quotes from the book:
"We are buying–and buying into– an anxiety-producing cultural imperative to look younger than we truly are. And we are terribly uncomfortable as we succumb to the siege of internal and external pressures tugging at us from so many places."
"In adolescence, we are letting go of our youth and fearful of growing up. In midlife, we are letting go of the last vestiges of youth and fearful of growing old.
In both, we sometimes find ourselves holding on too long, for fear of moving on. Yet the more we hold on, the less comfortable we feel in our own skins."
The authors explore the two main strategies the culture hands us:
"Your looks shouldn't matter. If they do, don't let anyone know. Stay true to your real self; let your looks take their natural course as you age".
"Your looks should matter, and don't you ever forget that. Buy products, work out at the gym, and defy aging whatever the cost, any way you can. And be sure to make it look natural."
Their six-step process, which includes examination of our relationship to Mother, earliest experiences of beauty-tending, and the masks we adopt, take the reader beyond the realm of appearance, into deeper psychic territory of self-concept and identity.
The last chapter, "Say Goodbye to Say Hello" explores the attitude shift the previous sections work toward: mourning what's lost, and then "allowing a new definition of beauty".
Finally, the outer and inner signs of aging are honoured rather than despised, and the body and face therefore receive as much care as we choose, once we realize that the interventions won't bring back 20 or 30 again. (Diller and Muir-Skukenick do not condemn surgery or injections, but lead you to your own conclusions.)
"Face It" goes wider and deeper than physical appearance, addressing self-empathy and compassion not just for body issues, but for one's entire being and that of all females, regardless of age or appearance. The authors aim somewhat higher than self-help clichés and indict the culture of youth worship.
The book would be stronger without examples of actors and media personalities, who face very different demands concerning appearance than most readers. You can skip through the long case studies at the end for a free anecdotectomy.
If the authors can deliver wholly on their stated objective, "Finding balance, satisfaction and pleasure as your appearance changes with age", the book will outsell "Gone With the Wind".
As for me, I'm using Mirren's tactic: disciplined maintenance while letting the lines come– and wearing a pair of stunning earrings!