Posts Tagged ‘Madonna’
August 3rd’s New York Magazine cover story by Jonathan Van Meter was on “The NEW New Face” women are buying from their plastic surgeons and dermatologists.
His article highlights the surreal visuals we now associate with youth and beauty, and the procedures women undergo to bear them. He writes:
Somehow the idea of maintaining, preserving, and restoring feels less like cheating. The New New Face promises to reclaim something that was lost. But does it? Even the most successful and beautiful result is something entirely different from what a woman looked like when she was 30. …The New New Face is a fantastic approximation! An uncanny resemblance! It is, at its best, a close copy of youthful beauty, not youthful beauty itself.
If the “old” plastic surgery look was an image in a circus mirror, the new new face is an image in a mirror with abstruse imperfections that puzzle the observer’s mind. Women who choose to have work done do so with the goal of looking better, and/or younger. But is that what they actually get?
In the questionnaire on Medical Procedures for Appearance and Aging in my Women’s
Realities Study, I ask the following question:
Generally speaking, do you believe women who have “had work done” tend to look (check all that apply):
A) younger and prettier
B) the way you imagine they looked when they were younger
C) basically the same
D) better in a way you can’t quite put your finger on
E) worse in a way you can’t quite put your finger on
H) like women who have had work done
78% of the respondents answered H. Tied for second place were D and F. Not a glowing affirmation of women getting the look they were hoping for.
I also ask in my study:
Do you see electing to have plastic surgery as a feminist statement in that women should be free to feel better about themselves in any way possible given how much youth and beauty are valued in our culture? Or do you see it as an anti-feminist statement in that it only perpetuates the value placed on youth and beauty in a way that does not allow women to be themselves and age naturally?
62% saw it as anti-feminist.
Whatever side of the argument you fall on, and whatever your personal beliefs, the premium our culture places on physical beauty is real and entrenched, and I don’t know if it’s even possible for women to escape its pressures. To enter into this argument means having to confront all the nuances of how we pursue “beauty”. How much of what we come into the world with is it acceptable for us to change? At what age? And from what motivation?
You know what the most provocative response to my questionnaire was? One of the questions asks women to go down a list of medical procedures and check the ones they’d had done. Among them are botox, thermage, tummy tuck, liposuction, nose jobs, and so on. The follow up question is: If you’ve had any of these procedures, please describe what influenced your decision to do so, and one 43 year old woman wrote:
I had buck teeth [and got braces when I was 11]. My looks improved greatly. I’d do it again in a minute. Why isn’t that included on your list?
How do we draw the line in our judgments? Is breast reduction accepted while breast augmentation is derided? Or is it the other way around? And where does hair color fit into all of this?
Do braces seem to fall into a different category because they’re gender neutral? Or do we not consider braces enhancing? Because with the exception of a severe cross bite, I can’t think of a dental impairment that would keep teeth from functioning well enough for someone to get by. If you can chew your food and nourish yourself, there’s no mechanical need for braces. It’s usually a cosmetic decision.
From the 11 year old girl who doesn’t want to be branded with a nickname because of her teeth, to the 55 year old woman whose altered face is unnatural enough that it can find no resting place in any age group, this much is true: The societal messages that confirm for girls and women their greatest value is beauty, are inextricable from the private worries of our individual psyches.
To what extent are we trying to protect ourselves in these ways, and to what extent are we complicit in making the problem even more complicated for ourselves and our girls? These are questions each woman has to consider for herself.
I don’t have the answers, and, at 46, I wonder if my thoughts on this topic will modify at all over the next 10 or 15 years. But I can tell you what soothes me right now when I’m facing some physical change due to growing older. I’m soothed when I look at my peers, and I see changes in their faces and bodies that reflect the changes in mine.
I can also tell you, that ever since I was a little girl, the woman I’ve aspired to physically model myself after is my grandmother.
Earlier this week I read a little snippet on Madonna and A-Rod in The New Yorker, and this morning came upon another article on Christie Brinkley and Peter Cook in the New York Times. Reading them revived a chain of memories, working backward from Eliot and Silda, to Bill and Hillary, Jennifer and Brad, to Nora and Carl, JFK and Jackie, to Gertrude and Hamlet’s dad … ad infinitum.
Our interest in sexual transgressions stands the test of time, and we cannot look away because we want to know who and where we are in the context of these insanely complex matters. Taking a peek into what really happens within a “committed” sexual relationship provides us with a gauge for self examination, and juicy tidbits to boot.
I have five people in my practice right now, two men and three women, contemplating the perils of going out there to try and find love again after having their hearts trampled in their last relationship. Each of them was hurt in a different way, because, as we know, the possibilities are endless.
And I have more than a half a dozen clients who are working on how it feels to teeter between staying with their partners and wondering if they should leave.
Marriage isn’t the culprit. Intimacy is. Intimacy of any kind. From our parents, to those we date or live with, it’s the people closest to us who hurt us the most, because others don’t mean enough to us to have that power (perpetrators of stranger violence aside). If an acquaintance ruffles you, you walk away and mutter “jerk” under your breath, then forget about it; if an intimate hurts you, you perseverate on the offense forever.
So if intimacy is dangerous, add sex to the mix and you have everything we know sexual relationships to be: a recipe for transcendence, which, depending on when it’s served, and to whom, unfortunately doubles as a recipe for disaster.
We want sex to be a permanent adhesive in our relationships. But for the majority of us it’s more Elmer’s than Crazy Glue.
Since we don’t often hear even a smidgen of the realities of other people’s relationships until they blow up, here are some real-life descriptions of sex lives within marriage, taken from my Women’s Realities Study. 25% of the respondents said they’d had affairs, and within that percentage, 22% of them had more than one. I put their quotes out to you as a testament to intricacy.
Quotes describing the quality of sex lives from marriages 1-5 years in length
Great. It’s getting better with time.
We have a wonderful sex life. There have been dry patches. There have been times we were both dissatisfied. Generally, however, it’s great! We are very similar so it works out well.
Non-existent; I go elsewhere.
Well…it’s not terrible. I am attracted to him and vice versa…I don’t feel he knows how to turn me on, and I don’t know a nice way of telling him…because he overreacts often, and gets mad/hurt.
Our sex life is not that great. We have sex regularly (once a week or so) but it’s very perfunctory! Not much foreplay going on, not much exploring! I haven’t had an orgasm in a very long time. But I don’t miss them (Really! I think it’s due to a lot of things, not just the quality of our sex life.) I like the intimacy of our sex.
I think our sex life is fine, my husband would say that we could definitely have sex more frequently. I often feel guilty because I would rather go to sleep than have sex. My husband is a wonderful and gifted sex partner, but I still prefer sleep when I’m tired.
After 20 years, our sexual relationship is routine and comfortable. We are both healthy and sexual frequency is not an issue, but our lovemaking is ultimately unsatisfying and somewhat distant. I find it frustrating and disappointing.
It’s satisfying. I wish it were better. Sometimes I wish it were non-existent and it seems like a chore. I feel a bit sad, my body is older, so is his. We are not as attractive and it’s not as much fun as it once was.
It has changed over time although it was never the most successful part of our relationship.
Very happy. Very lucky.
Fair! It took a long time to reach this state.
And lastly, from a 15 year marriage, the eloquence of this one always gets me:
It was fantastic until I didn’t want him to touch me because I hated him.
As we learn from those in the public eye, couples can come undone no matter how together they look from the outside, no matter how intelligent, or powerful, beautiful, or at the top of their game they are. And the realities cited above confirm marriage is an interpersonal maze couples either walk through, get lost in, or flee.
But these are our alternatives with regard to intimacy in or out of marriage: We can close up shop and live a deadened existence because the fear of betrayal and loss is too much to bear, or we can take the risk and follow the inclinations of our bodies and hearts, and appreciate the connection as long as it lasts.
In Alex Williams’ Sunday New York Times article “Boys Will Be Boys, Girls Will Be Hounded” she asks, “Is there a double standard for stars who behave badly?”
Williams goes on to compare the inequities in the coverage of male and female celebrities’ tribulations. Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Amy Winehouse, Anna Nicole Smith and Paris Hilton, each emotionally impaired in a different way, have had their woes resolutely plastered on every one of our entertainment shows and magazines. On the other hand, stories on Heath Ledger, Owen Wilson, Robert Downey Jr., and Kiefer Sutherland are far fewer and have shown more restraint and respect. On this dynamic Williams and the editors of US Weekly, People, the producers of Entertainment Tonight, as well as the two publicists for Madonna and Ben Affleck all agree.
The article includes a quote from Beverly Hills psychotherapist Rebecca Roy to explain part of what fuels this engine.
“…troubled male stars, like Robert Downey Jr. are encouraged to move past problems to a second act in their careers, while the personal battles of women like Lindsay Lohan or the late Anna Nicole Smith are often played for maximum entertainment value. With men, there’s an emphasis on, ‘he had this issue, but he’s getting over it…but with women, it’s almost like they keep at it, keep at it.”
While I was reading this, I realized I was jarred by the contiguousness of two images in my mind. I would never have put Hillary Clinton and Britney Spears together. Yet there they were.
Two adult women responsible for their own decisions, with each of them paying a price as the entire nation looks on, yes. But also two adult women in the public eye personally scrutinized beyond the point of reason…scrutinized in a way a man never would be. Two women commanding television, newspapers and magazines with questions of whether their tears were real, or appropriate, or effective in holding their fan base. Two women critiqued for the sound of their voices and their hair styles. One beleaguered by mental illness, the other by the tense task of integration, and both apparently slogged down by the mere ownership of estrogen.
We love to pick apart women until there’s nothing of substance to be seen. We’re all guilty of it and we do it consciously and unconsciously. It’s not just the likes of Glenn Beck and Chris Matthews and their male demographic. Guess which gender subsidizes this by representing 70% of the readership of US Weekly, and 90% of People?
The double standards in our society make it hard for us to have an unobstructed view of what’s been involved in Spears’ efforts to be well, or Clinton’s effort to become the first female president.