Oh, good lord. I just heard the “great” news that Shirley Jones, the 75-year-old actress who played the mother on The Partridge Family, may be taking it all off for Playboy. (See http://www.salon.com/mwt/broadsheet/2009/05/11/shirley_jones/index.html)
“She’s still drop-dead gorgeous and, at the age of 75, a natural beauty,” Jones’ husband and manager gushed.
This makes me feel as underwhelmed as when I saw the screaming headlines about Valerie Bertinelli and wondered whether she’d just won a Nobel Prize. No, as it turns out, Valerie had just gotten into the best shape of her life at the advanced age of 45 and was prancing around in her bikini nowhere near Stockholm.
Similarly, Nancy Sinatra who got the mothballs and cobwebs and varicose veins brushed off her in 1995, so she could pose for Playboy at the geriatric way-station of 54. That set the “old” record for posing au naturel in Playboy and I bet old Nancy is now screeching at her personal trainer to hit the barbells and get Hugh Hefner on the line. At the time, I just found it sadly dispiriting, realizing this wasn’t about looking good for your age. It’s about looking good for your daughter‘s age.
If this exposure is supposed to be so damned liberating, why was it just giving me a migraine, instead?
Isn’t all of that supposed to be over by now? I wonder every time I hear about a new aged centerfold or about the “good news” women can get pregnant till they’re 105 and spawn their own great-grandchildren or something. Haven’t we already spent too many of the best years of our lives worrying about our looks and our weight and hanging around the OB’s office in stirrups you can’t ride sidesaddle in?
Of course, I’m as hypocritical as the next 59-year-old, certain that my own so-called regimen of yoga and walking reflects a proper, sane balance for the age I am. I also care about the way I look, to a point, and suffer from occasional panicky impulses to implore the nearest plastic surgeon to do something, anything, to make me look better. But those moments pass and, blessedly, my eyesight’s not as good as it used to be. Candlelight, I have decided, is the remedy for what ails me. What the hell. So this is what I’m going to look like when I’m old.
A friend of mine, who’s a similar age, recently ran into another cohort at the gym. The women she saw looked wonderful — with Michelle Obama arms, a tight butt, you know what I mean — the whole works. Listening to the description made me want to tear into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and brood.
“Oh!” the aerobicized one said. “But you could look this good, too! I’ll give you the name of my personal trainer.”
No thanks, my friend said. “I just don’t want to work that hard.”
I know exactly what she means.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)