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Paulina Porizkova on aging
October 21, 2010 12:07 PM   Subscribe

80s supermodel Paulina Porizkova (images may be NSFW) on aging: Beauty, unlike the rest of the gifts handed out at birth, does not require dedication, patience and hard work to pay off. But it's also the only gift that does NOT keep on giving. It usually blossoms at an age where you're least equipped to handle its benefits and rewards and instead take it all for granted, and by the time you start understanding the value of it, it slowly trickles away. How's that for revenge of the ugly ones? (related)
posted by Joe Beese (121 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
Much more thoughtful and much better written than Elizabeth Wurtzel's sorta-similar piece from way back. Thanks for this, I wouldn't have read it otherwise.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:14 PM on October 21, 2010


I always thought she was awesome. And I can't explain why it makes me so happy that she's still married to Ric Ocasek, but I am.
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:19 PM on October 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


I love that she turned what could have been a shallow lament into a beautiful piece on being comfortable in your own skin.

I hope people posting after me actually take the time to read it and don't just post canned knee-jerk responses about "the supermodel feeling sorry for herself"
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:20 PM on October 21, 2010


This reads as honest, and depressing, and depressed.
posted by darth_tedious at 12:20 PM on October 21, 2010


Her descriptions of botox and plastic surgery are quite funny, in a ghastly way.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:21 PM on October 21, 2010


My friend used to see Paulina and Ric occasionally, pushing a shopping cart in the Star Market on Boylston Street in Boston; that made me particularly happy, too.
posted by not_on_display at 12:22 PM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, Ms. Porizkova has quite the Wikipedia entry. She was a cause celebre in Sweden when she was merely a Czechoslovakian toddler, she appeared in Emir Kusturica's Arizona Dream, and the song "Friends of P" is about her. Ta-da.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:22 PM on October 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Shame Amusing that such a beautiful piece about beauty by a (still quite) beautiful woman would be published on one of the ugliest websites.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:28 PM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


The slam on Madonna perfectly encapsulates one of the underlying reasons I've never liked Madonna - that hard, awful, concrete desperation she exudes. And to compare her to Jamie Lee Curtis, who radiates charm, contentment and grace, well that was just perfect. The rest of the article was well-written, honest and excellent too.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:28 PM on October 21, 2010 [20 favorites]


She is wise. She acknowledges her doubt, and questions herself. She'll be fine.

I read through the Wurtzel thread, but didn't read Wurtzel's essay. Seems to me that growing up beautiful would certainly skew one's outlook. One is completely unprepared for living without it, and one has formed all one's perceptions based on it.

Imagine losing a limb, a little at a time, unnoticed, until you realize it's a useless thing. Those of us who have never had it, can't miss it, and cannot understand the loss someone must feel. It would take extraordinary empathy to feel someone else's loss of privilege.
posted by Xoebe at 12:32 PM on October 21, 2010 [12 favorites]


I like her post on fame as well. She sounds depressed and a little shallow, but she's very real and down-to-earth about that, which has the curious effect of making her sound profound and comfortable with herself. I don't know which is which, but I enjoy her writing!
posted by katillathehun at 12:34 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I was just looking at a pretty recent copy of Interview magazine with Madonna on the cover (inside, interviewed by Gus Van Sant - a surprisingly weak and disappointing, insubstantial mutual crush piece, given how fascinating and accomplished they both are) and was freaked out to see 2010 dates on a series of new photos that all looked like Desperately Seeking Susan vintage.

WTF? I was 15 then and she was 25 - how come only one of us looks the same now as we did then?
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:35 PM on October 21, 2010


Jamie Lee Curtis, who radiates charm, contentment and grace

Especially in this clip.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 12:36 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I find it interesting how Wurtzel, the professional writer, came off as the most narcissistic and superficial and unpleasant, whereas the Porizkova, the professional model, came off as the most relatable and thoughtful and empathetic.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:36 PM on October 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


She was great on ANTM; no wonder Tyra fired her.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:39 PM on October 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


WTF? I was 15 then and she was 25 - how come only one of us looks the same now as we did then?

Photoshop is a hell of a drug.
posted by katillathehun at 12:44 PM on October 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


WTF? I was 15 then and she was 25 - how come only one of us looks the same now as we did then?

You know she doesn't actually look like she's 25 in real life, right?
posted by The World Famous at 12:44 PM on October 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


...a pretty recent copy of Interview magazine with Madonna on the cover (inside, interviewed by Gus Van Sant - a surprisingly weak and disappointing, insubstantial mutual crush piece...)

From what I've read about Interview magazine, the surprise would have been had it contained anything else.

Time magazine art critic Robert Hughes, in a long piece about Warhol, quoted what he claimed was a representative bit of mutual gratification in this interview of Diane von Furstenburg:

You have the mystic sense and quality of a pagan soul. And here you are about to introduce a new perfume, calling it by an instinctive, but perfect name.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:46 PM on October 21, 2010


She is still gorgeous.

And I liked this quote: But even as I struggle with the choices -- age, age a little, age not at all -- I realize I'm blessed to even be in the position to age. To age is a privilege, not a birthright, even though most of us in the civilized world seem to forget this. This choice of "not-aging" is actually reserved for well-off women with lots of time and money.
posted by yarly at 12:53 PM on October 21, 2010


Senor Cardgage: I love that she turned what could have been a shallow lament into a beautiful piece on being comfortable in your own skin.

I hope people posting after me actually take the time to read it and don't just post canned knee-jerk responses about "the supermodel feeling sorry for herself
I kind of hear what you're saying here, but there's still a part of being in the "ugly ones" category that makes you not want to forgive. I posted a somewhat similar screed in a "hot chicks with douchebags" thread where people who are so fortunate early on, you don't want them to age gracefully, to be content- because then they've had the best of both worlds. A staggering youth of beauty and glamour and love and wealth, and then a contented aging, becoming comfortable in their own skin while their live is suffused with comfort and love.

As an ugly one- I'd contend, as the ugliest one- I still find it a bitter pill to swallow when beautiful people tell me what they've learned in life, especially in regards to beauty. While I agree with the article that watching someone like Madonna cling to the illusion of youth like a barnacle is unseemly (and Madonna looks TERRIBLE with all that surgery), and I'm glad that she understands what a huge benefit beauty is, and that even more than youth it is something wasted on the young, it's better to have had it and lost it than never have it at all. Beauty privilege, like white privilege, is something that isn't just about any given incident, it's the wholly different course your life can take with all those little benefits.

When people talk of what's more important than beauty- when Paulina speaks of the depth of person and personality that will shine later in life- a lot of those things come about by, well, being beautiful. Confidence, feeling comfortable with one's own body and skin, getting along well with others, learning to love, to be loved, to exude a magnetism of charm, etc- these things don't come about in a vacuum, they come about with affirmation and reinforcement from your environment. What people who aren't incredibly ugly don't understand is how much you become twisted and warped by your ugliness, how much the petty slights, the body language, the lifetime of going untouched, unloved, unwanted, and recoiled from don't lead to you being the kind of loving, wonderful person we all wish we were. They lead to being a wretch.

Also, while benefiting from the best make-up artists in the biz, this picture of Paulina from March of this year hardly speaks to a King Lear-esque fall from grace! And fucking Paulina Poriskova, reasonably bright, rich, and once heralded as one of the most beautiful women in the world, wants to tell me how she's learning to be comfortable in her own skin as she "descends" to being one of the more beautiful 45-year-old women on the planet. I'm so sorry for your loss and your burden, lady. You are such a champion to be "comfortable" with aging.
posted by hincandenza at 12:56 PM on October 21, 2010 [41 favorites]


All that said, I agree with what she says, and think she makes valid points. But I'm completely shooting the messenger here: I'd rather read this kind of article from someone ugly like me, talking about how life eventually worked out for them and how looks mattered less and less with each year- as everyone else broke down to a common denominator of "... what a great personality"- not from one of the top supermodels of all time, no matter how much she sits around the house now, knitting and eating Haagen Daz.
posted by hincandenza at 12:58 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd rather hear from them both.
posted by found missing at 1:00 PM on October 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


From the article:

I keep a list of my "heroines," the women who have dared to age, and I'm always stupidly grateful to see these women highlighted in the media.

Paulina Porizkova's mother is a midwife who delivered my son almost 10 years ago. I have an image of her, as vivid in my mind as the photographs of her daughter on google images, standing between my wife's knees, cupping her right hand so the red-grey glop of childbirth didn't fall onto the hospital tile, and urging, "Poosh, poosh now." Now that was a beautiful woman.
posted by hhc5 at 1:05 PM on October 21, 2010 [17 favorites]


That was indeed a nice piece; thanks for posting it. And I now realize I can add her to my usual taunting of people who follow Nabokov in talking about "Anna Karenin": I hope you also talk about Martina Navratil and Paulina Pořízek!
posted by languagehat at 1:05 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


not from one of the top supermodels of all time, no matter how much she sits around the house now, knitting and eating Haagen Daz.

But a big part of what she's saying is that beauty isn't all that. She's saying she's envious of people who got by on their smarts and confidence - something they will always have - rather than something fleeting like looks. She's not saying, "I'm insanely gorgeous... and I'm okay with that!"
posted by katillathehun at 1:07 PM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


How's that for revenge? Not good enough.
posted by grobstein at 1:07 PM on October 21, 2010


I liked this very much. Thanks for posting it. I'm no Paulina Porizkova, but I know how much depending on beauty for your sense of self-worth can screw with your head.
I grew up thinking I was ugly. People started telling me I was attractive around 13, but I mostly didn't believe them. I adored the attention, though.

I put on 30 or 40 lbs in my mid-20s and boy did I notice a drop off in attention. I felt like I had become all-but- invisible. Now I'm back down to my fighting weight and turning some heads again, but it doesn't feel as important as it used to. I'm exactly 35, but really more in love with myself and comfortable with my appearance than ever before. I think about how ugly I felt at, say, 16, and wish I could back in time and slap myself.
I'm sure I've said this in some other thread... beauty is definitely a kind of power, but it's dangerous to make it your only source of power, because it depends entirely on the appoving gaze of others. Beauty is far too fragile and perishable a thing to make it the only trick in your bag.
posted by apis mellifera at 1:12 PM on October 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


WTF? I was 15 then and she was 25 - how come only one of us looks the same now as we did then?


Well Ric Ocasek still looks the same and I dont see you havin' a go at him.

:P
posted by Senor Cardgage at 1:12 PM on October 21, 2010


I watch very few "reality" TV shows, but I managed to get hooked on America's Next Top Model a few years ago when I was stuck in a hotel room with a limited amount of cable channels and an ANTM marathon was about the only non-sports alternative. I was prepared to dislike Paulina because I only knew her as the 19-year-old model from the "Drive" video who stole Ric Ocasek from his wife, but she turned out to be very likeable and down-to-earth and much more helpful in her teachings and comments than many of the other models-turned-judges (glancing at Janice Dickinson). And her comments about Madonna re: her facial reconstruction are spot-on; however, I've noticed in photos that no matter how many Botox injections and cheek implants Madonna gets, and how many hours per day she works out, her veiny hands still give away her true age. (I also noticed this when I saw KISS in concert last month; the make-up hid most of the band members' facial bags and wrinkles, but the big screen close-ups of their hands playing guitar were as telling as the rings in a slice of an aged oak tree.)
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:14 PM on October 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


it's better to have had it and lost it than never have it at all

Speaking as a never-was-physically-attractive male, I suspect that my acceptance of advancing decrepitude has been made much easier by the fact that I am not losing any once-possessed allure. The fact that no female would look at me twice today hardly stings since they never did before either.

I'm sure my sense of humor would be far duller if I had ever been able to get by on my smile. And though I like to think I would never cheat on my wife even if women pursued me, I'm just as happy that I'll never have to find out.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:15 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was so hoping this was going to be about her failed attempts to inject Ric with more and more botox, in hopes of something happening.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:18 PM on October 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


katilla, my point is that she's not vapid- she's obviously reasonably bright and isn't really suffering from a youth coasting entirely on looks; this is not like the article Heidi Montag might write in 20 years, or Anna Nicole Smith were she alive and the money all gone like her looks.

She was then and still is incredibly lovely, and even her point here (and I loved this quote):
Like everything else in life, there is always payback and it's a bitch. Beauty, unlike the rest of the gifts handed out at birth, does not require dedication, patience and hard work to pay off. But it's also the only gift that does NOT keep on giving. It usually blossoms at an age where you're least equipped to handle its benefits and rewards and instead take it all for granted, and by the time you start understanding the value of it, it slowly trickles away. How's that for revenge of the ugly ones?
sounds hollow to those of us who were never supermodels. The problem I have is that, like some trust fund kid who squandered 80% of his inheritance early on... he still has enough to be quite comfortable, and had one hell of a good time in his 20's. She's not disfigured, she's still quite beautiful, really all you can say has gone "wrong" in her life is that the current generation of teenagers is not spanking it furiously to a Sports Illustrated photo spread of her flawless bikini'ed 20-year-old body. And while she's growing okay with that, I lump this in with Bill Gates writing an article about how "money means nothing, it's all about _____". I'd value it more from an armless refugee drinking dysentary-laden water and subsisting on plumpy'nut.
posted by hincandenza at 1:22 PM on October 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


Paulina Porizkova's mother is a midwife who delivered my son almost 10 years ago. ... Now that was a beautiful woman.

I remember an editorial photograph of Paulina and Mrs. P in some fashion magazine - Harper's Bazaar, I think - many years ago. They're looking back at the camera as they walk energetically down a city street. There was a distinct family resemblance. And even allowing for the professional makeup, lighting, etc, you could tell that the mother was gorgeous in her own right. One's first thought was, "Oh, that's where she got it from.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:25 PM on October 21, 2010


This part:
I keep a list of my "heroines," the women who have dared to age, and I'm always stupidly grateful to see these women highlighted in the media. I just found out that Jamie Lee Curtis, one of the women on my list, and Madonna are the same age. Looking at photos of them side by side is a revelation. One looks no older than 30, hard-edged, determined and hungry. The other looks like she's old enough to be her mother, but radiant, confident and content.
I already know I'm too vain and too insecure to follow her footsteps. This is what and whom I'm jealous of.


...was just lovely. Seriously. Very nicely put. I love Jamie Lee Curtis for having the temerity to put on a few pounds not color her hair.
posted by 8dot3 at 1:28 PM on October 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Most people want what they don't have. If you're lucky you gain enough wisdom as you age to figure out whether or not what you want is important.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:31 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


i think hincandenza missed the point: Porizkova actually acknowledges that as an aging "beautiful woman" her ego makes her weak. getting comfortable with aging isnt something that comes easy for her. it's a daily struggle and it's exactly why she's jealous of women like Jamie Lee Curtis.

she look up to JLC because she can see herself ending up like Madonna. After all, a woman who hasn't contemplated seriously Botox or fillers wouldnt havent gone to the lenghts of describing their pitfalls as she did.

i like this piece very very much and it resonated even more with when she says "aging is a privilege". my father would remind me this whenever we would go to visit his remaining living family: most of them had died in a dissentenry epidemic that hit Puerto Rico in the 1940s.

in my family, waking up to being in our 40s and beyond was indeed a privilege.

this is an amazing essay. thanks for sharing.
posted by liza at 1:33 PM on October 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


I loved this -- well-written, wry, self-aware, poignant. Thanks, Joe Beese, for linking it.

As much as I recoil from Madonna's current ghastly obsession with chasing the beauty/youth rainbow, I long admired her determination to tease and experiment with looks and fashions that were far afield from the typical 80s Patrick Nagel princess (although Herb Ritts came closest to capturing her simultaneous obsession with reincarnating Marilyn Monroe). It's easy to forget that she was a trailblazer and that many of the current younger cadre of singers and stars are basically retreading and re-retreading stuff that she did with far more oomph and sassiness 20 years ago.
posted by blucevalo at 1:40 PM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well Ric Ocasek still looks the same and I dont see you havin' a go at him.

:P
posted by Senor Cardgage at 4:12 PM on October 21 [+] [!] Other [2/2]: «≡·


Oh, I'm not having a go at anyone. I know Madonna works harder than me. But then, that's her job.
posted by toodleydoodley at 1:40 PM on October 21, 2010


I think Hincandenza's point is that the benefits of beauty indeed are a privilege that continue even into age, because you will have reaped benefits from your youthful beauty -- friends, spouses, children, higher salaries, property, self esteem -- that don't go away with age. Porizkova doesn't acknowledge this at all. It's also true I guess that the beautiful might have further to fall as they age in coming to terms with their appearance, but it's not like anyone, no matter what their appearance, really likes to get older. We'd probably all rather be an ugly 21 year old than an 80 year old.
posted by yarly at 1:43 PM on October 21, 2010 [14 favorites]


I found the phrase "My life is sucks." incredibly endearing.
posted by sawdustbear at 1:46 PM on October 21, 2010 [5 favorites]



Speaking as a never-was-physically-attractive male, I suspect that my acceptance of advancing decrepitude has been made much easier by the fact that I am not losing any once-possessed allure. The fact that no female would look at me twice today hardly stings since they never did before either.


Not everyone that feels themselves to be unattractive can make the same claim, especially with grace and not bitterness.

And yet...

It's worth acknowledging that the trauma of aging is somewhat worse for women, depending on where you are I guess. North American culture allows a certain amount of aging in men, but it certainly does not in women.

I'm not saying that men aren't held to beauty standards as well, but that grey hair and wrinkles are more acceptable for them, even in our youth obsessed culture.

As a man, you're allowed to age - just try to stay wealthy, hip and intelligent! :-/
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:46 PM on October 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Botox makes you look like a poorly dubbed movie."

The article's worth it for that sentence alone. * tips hat toward Mrs. Porizkova*
posted by spoobnooble at 1:47 PM on October 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


That reminds me, I need to schedule for my first shot of Botox soon.
posted by adipocere at 1:49 PM on October 21, 2010


I didn't really know who she was when I read the article, so I looked at a bunch of photos (mostly of her younger) and thought "Wow, she's really pretty." Curious, I looked her up on wikipedia and saw this photo and I corrected myself "Beautiful. She's beautiful."

Pretty is easy, it can be done by being young and photographed by talented photographers with good lighting and hair and makeup teams standing by.

Beautiful is a blurry cell phone photo with disheveled hair and an impish grin.

I like her writing,

"It's also true I'm still very insecure and want attention and universal love and have not a friggin' clue on how to achieve it."

She has a sense of humor and honesty that I'm digging.
posted by quin at 1:53 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


hincandenza: " And while she's growing okay with that, I lump this in with Bill Gates writing an article about how "money means nothing, it's all about _____". I'd value it more from an armless refugee drinking dysentary-laden water and subsisting on plumpy'nut."

This logic never made sense to me. Who would know more about how good looks or money can't make you happy than somebody who has endless amounts of it?
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 1:58 PM on October 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's worth acknowledging that the trauma of aging is somewhat worse for women

Oh, I would have thought that goes without saying. But if not: Absolutely, a man's experiences don't begin to compare.

In the Barry Paris biography of Louise Brooks, he rhetorically asks how much more difficult it must be for a world-renowned beauty to lose her looks than it would be a for an average person. And Brooks had always been something else besides a great beauty: a dancer or an actress.

Whereas being beautiful was the entirety of Porizkova's job description. [And one of the things I liked best about the self-portrait she draws here is the sense that she feels a personal responsibility to be gainfully employed in some capacity.] And no less than authority than Francesco Scavullo - a man in an unusually qualified position to say such a thing - once described her as the most beautiful woman in the world. An opinion I quite agreed with in my furious-spanking days.

Just as there are only 4 people who fully understand what it was like to be a Beatle, there are very few women - Elizabeth Wurtzel not among them - who have experienced the Beauty Trip on the scale Porizkova has. For that reason alone, I would find anything she says on the subject of intense interest - even if she were not able to write about it as effectively as she does.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:04 PM on October 21, 2010 [10 favorites]


Hmm. I had heard rumors that Porizkova had hooked up with Adam Schlesinger during Ocasek's production of Fountains of Wayne's album with Stacy's Mom on it, but I can't find any confirmation on the web, and they seem to be still together and happy. I'd heard this from a guitar tech who worked on the album, but maybe it was all nonsense.
posted by klangklangston at 2:04 PM on October 21, 2010


Didn't this chick marry Ric Ocasek? Obviously looks aren't important to her.
posted by jonmc at 2:10 PM on October 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Words fail.
posted by found missing at 2:15 PM on October 21, 2010


The wonderful Ruth Gordan (I'm pretty sure it was her) once said something about how getting older was less a problem for her than for the bombshell actresses because she never traded on her looks in the first place. Revenge of the comic actress, as it were.

Not that she was hard on the eyes back in her younger days.

(Anyone who can find the exact quote gets Kharma Points (tm))
posted by IndigoJones at 2:18 PM on October 21, 2010


I have to agree with hincandenza on this one -- Porizkova is still flat out gorgeous. The only thing that Porizkova can complain about is that she isn't as young as she once was. But she still is fabulously beautiful 45 year old, and it seems wrong for her to be complaining on the "loss" of beauty. She reminds me of the non-rich U of C professor, -- she is the wrong person to be bemoaning the ravages of aging.

Granted, she seem like a thoughtful, self-effacing person and she writes well. I would read more of her stuff. I just wish she was a bit more careful in her topic choices. Talking about how she receives slightly less head-turns than she once did seems a bit over the top.
posted by rtimmel at 2:19 PM on October 21, 2010


Who would know more about how good looks or money can't make you happy than somebody who has endless amounts of it?

Someone's who's had the contrasting experience of having to manage without it, and realizes how much better an unhappy life where your material needs are provided for is than one where they aren't?

Confidence, feeling comfortable with one's own body and skin, getting along well with others, learning to love, to be loved, to exude a magnetism of charm, etc- these things don't come about in a vacuum, they come about with affirmation and reinforcement from your environment.

This is spot-on. People become good people, by and large, by having been treated well.
posted by enn at 2:21 PM on October 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


If that were the case, people who have been treated well would be good people, by and large.
posted by found missing at 2:24 PM on October 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


I think it's hard to watch anything you relied on - or maybe took for granted - start to slip away. And with an increasing temerity that is beyond control. To be on that descent and to realize that you weren't aware or appreciative of what you had when you had it best. With health, success or enthusiasm, we can easily wrap our heads around the loss. But beauty wants to fool us into thinking it's somehow different. I think that has something to do with the ego, but I'm not sure exactly how or what. All I know is that ageing is universal, regardless of your starting point on the beauty scale. And we all have egos.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:25 PM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


If that were the case, people who have been treated well would be good people, by and large.

Well, it's been my experience that people who have been very fortunate in life in one way or another tend to be fairly nice and easy to get along with. Maybe you have had different experiences. I don't know that they keep good statistics on that kind of thing.
posted by enn at 2:28 PM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Y'know, ageing isn't all that bad. I'm about to turn 40 (and, granted, I was never pretty), but I'm kind of enjoying it. I can drop any pretense of keeping up with trends and being 'ccol,' I can dispense ridiculous advice that some youngsters will regard as 'wisdom' and then laugh, and I can be grumpy and smell bad and nobody will notice, let alone care. How can you beat that? And I'm not even rich like this glamourpuss.
posted by jonmc at 2:32 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gah. I always though Isabella Rosellini's quote about being was the most accurate.

She (I think it was Rosellini, or some other model, anyways) said that being beautiful is like winning the lottery.

Seriously, I think the posted article is readable, but it does kinda sound like a lottery winner who is telling you "remember kids! Winning the lottery isn't everything in life. There are drawbacks! You will never learn how to work hard for something! You will never build character from having to worry about your finances!"

rolls eyes

Furthermore, wow, does she really have to snipe at women who choose to get botox, done, and maybe they don't want to talk about it? There's the slight whiff of "LOOK AT ME AS I AND OTHERS WILL REMAIN COMFORTABLE IN OUR SKIN UNLIKE THESE INSECURE HAGS!!!"

So I was a bit put off by this article.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:33 PM on October 21, 2010


Gah. I always though Isabella Rosellini's quote about being BEAUTIFUL was the most accurate.

ACK!!! I lost a word.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:35 PM on October 21, 2010


This is a timely article for me as I head for my 25th high school reunion next week. I feel like I will have primped myself silly for it with a cut and color (purple, thanks), a manicure/pedicure, and maybe axing my eyebrows. Porizkova's description of plastic surgery and Botox and so on makes me realize that as vain as I am, I may be shocked by the vanity treatments some of my peers put themselves through. None of that stuff ever occurred to me--which makes me less virtuous than scared of going under the knife or needle--but I'll be shocked if nobody has.

I don't disagree with a lot of the criticisms about a supermodel complaining about the loss of beauty when she's still freaking gorgeous, but I enjoyed reading the article and was glad I did.
posted by immlass at 2:38 PM on October 21, 2010


Metafilter: an armless refugee drinking dysentary-laden water and subsisting on plumpy'nut.
posted by jquinby at 2:40 PM on October 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


I sometimes wish I were beautiful, even if only for a while. Then I realized that I don't have to worry about people liking me only for my looks -- if someone likes me, it's probably for another, more lasting reason.

Sometimes I have to remind myself of this, though.
posted by theredpen at 2:43 PM on October 21, 2010


My mom was quite young when I was born, and was always pretty enough (still is, really) that my friends and acquaintances would comment on her attractiveness after they met her for the first time.

I was talking to her once about how grown-up and pretty my younger sister was getting, and Mom said something like:
It's weird to walk down the street with her now, because heads are turning, but they're turning for her, not me.
It was the beginning of a really interesting conversation about aging, life priorities, etc. and one of the first times my mother and I talked like two grownups.

I get hincandenza's point, but to me, Ms. Porizkova's article is a graceful and honest exploration of the same emotions present in that conversation with my mom. It's hard not to like her, in light of that similarity.
posted by richyoung at 2:50 PM on October 21, 2010 [8 favorites]


liza: i think hincandenza missed the point: Porizkova actually acknowledges that as an aging "beautiful woman" her ego makes her weak. getting comfortable with aging isnt something that comes easy for her. it's a daily struggle and it's exactly why she's jealous of women like Jamie Lee Curtis.

she look up to JLC because she can see herself ending up like Madonna. After all, a woman who hasn't contemplated seriously Botox or fillers wouldnt havent gone to the lenghts of describing their pitfalls as she did.
Actually, thanks for sharing that- you are right that I am probably missing the point. Now that you mentioned that, I re-read especially the footnote/blurb about the author at the end of the article, and it does seem to imply she hasn't overcome superficiality with the wisdom of age, but rather that she continues to struggle with it in part because it was such a part of her life for so long. And that this is the revenge of the ugly ones: that desperation to retain her youth and flawless skin and pertness more than people who let it go a long, long time ago.

I still don't know that she's the best messenger- she's not an acid-scarred PGOAT after all- but when you phrase it that way, I think I understand better what she's really talking about. At least as an abstract concept, since it's one I'll never deal with. :)
posted by hincandenza at 2:54 PM on October 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


The Japanese theater practitioner Zeami Motokiyo wrote extensively about the performance aesthetics of No drama. One of the major aesthetic concepts he addresses is yugen.

Yugen is a word that is somewhat challenging to define and is most often described by metaphor. The two metaphors I'm most familiar with are "it is moonlight reflected on a pan of water" and "it is an eldery lady pining for her lost beauty." There are some other similar definitions at the link above.

I've taken this to suggest that yugen describes a hint of something beautiful or profound as viewed through something that apparently lacks that beauty. It doesn't, of course, just have to be physical beauty - it could be the beauty of nature or kindness or what have you.

Jamie Lee Curtis, to some small degree, seems like an American celebrity embodiment of this concept for me. When I look at her, I can see the beauty that she was in her youth shining strong through the (admittedly still very attractive) woman she is now. Its almost as if true beauty is only revealed in some certain people once layers of surface beauty have faded or melted away.

Zeami has a lot to say about the nature of beauty on stage and comes to the conclusion that true artistic beauty (and he uses the word Hana or flower to describe this) in a performer only truly blooms once they have lost the "false" beauty of youth.

Perhaps those that desperately cling on to that false youthful beauty - and in the process, start to look more and more "false" - are losing their chance to ever attain genuine beauty. In its own way, its kind of tragic for them - in seeking to hold on to beauty, they are gradually drifting further and further from it.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:56 PM on October 21, 2010 [12 favorites]



Metafilter: an armless refugee drinking dysentary-laden water and subsisting on plumpy'nut.


And here I assumed that we were a remarkably privileged bunch. :D
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:56 PM on October 21, 2010


Joe Beese: Just as there are only 4 people who fully understand what it was like to be a Beatle, there are very few women - Elizabeth Wurtzel not among them - who have experienced the Beauty Trip on the scale Porizkova has. For that reason alone, I would find anything she says on the subject of intense interest - even if she were not able to write about it as effectively as she does
Boy, I really hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there are only 2 people who fully understand what it was like to be a Beatle.

<pedantic>Tense matters</pedantic>
posted by hincandenza at 2:58 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


found missing: If that were the case, people who have been treated well would be good people, by and large
Venn diagram fail!
posted by hincandenza at 3:00 PM on October 21, 2010


cause and effect fail?
posted by found missing at 3:02 PM on October 21, 2010


I wouldn't mind at all aging into a weathered, grizzled old guy -- I mean, you look at Kris Kristofferson, Sam Elliott, Edward James Olmos, right? These guys have character, the kind you've gotta build up over time. So no, I'd be cool with aging.

...I mean. Not right now, of course.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:03 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't mind at all aging into a weathered, grizzled old guy -- I mean, you look at Kris Kristofferson, Sam Elliott, Edward James Olmos, right? These guys have character, the kind you've gotta build up over time. So no, I'd be cool with aging.

The key is adolescent acne, stress, and substance abuse.
posted by jonmc at 3:05 PM on October 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


"The key is adolescent acne, stress, and substance abuse."

Sweet! All I need is a coke habit now and I've got it in the bag! Oh, wait.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:13 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eh, liquor and junk food worked fine for me.
posted by jonmc at 3:14 PM on October 21, 2010


I have had beautiful friends ever since I was a teenager - really beautiful girls and women who do more than turn heads, they have inspired creativity in others or been able to accomplish much because they had the privilege of beauty. And all of them have been very good people but extremely insecure, often for good reason. Whether its being used up and spit out by certain men, or dealing with the incomprehensible jealousies and cruelties of other women (and I have seen this firsthand, how jealous other people can be, it's not just a myth the pretty people tell themselves). I am used to being the "fat friend", the third wheel, the chaperon, the funny one, whatever.

I think in some ways knowing that I could never compete with them on the physical level has made it easier for me. I don't have to have the extensive makeup routines, I don't have to spend the hours and money doing my hair, I don't have to panic at the very notion of leaving the house looking less than perfect, because it doesn't make much difference in how people treat me. The worst is how my friends have considered themselves to be unintelligent because that is how others treat them. It really hurts when they can be so tentative about expressing a deep thought, because I know when it's just us that they are very intelligent and have helped me in so many ways. While I feel invisible to most of the world, I do not feel invisible to my friends, even though they are very good-looking.

Last weekend I went to the wedding of my best friend, who is one of the more beautiful people I have ever known (and, like Paulina, she married someone who is very...odd, geeky, and not traditionally handsome in any way shape or form). Before the ceremony she was photographed and I lost my breath looking at her. Her natural beauty was accentuated by her happiness. But I really lost it when she was walking down the aisle and she just broke down crying, not those pretty tears, but real blubbering. Instantly one of my favorite memories. Her best moment was one of her ugliest.
posted by Danila at 3:19 PM on October 21, 2010 [18 favorites]


Boy, I really hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there are only 2 people who fully understand what it was like to be a Beatle.

Pete Best is still alive, although he sort of missed the definitive Beatles experiences. And Jimmie Nicol is still kicking around, and he actually experienced the height of Beatlemania as a fill-in for Ringo.

I'd mention Clarence Walker, but he's so angry about the subject.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:21 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm going to pretend that John and George's consciousness endures on some other plane of existence where they can communicate with each other, jam on Little Richard songs, and bicker about royalty splits.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:33 PM on October 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Boy, I really hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there are only 2 people who fully understand what it was like to be a Beatle.

Gregor Samsa and... ?
posted by GuyZero at 3:46 PM on October 21, 2010 [15 favorites]


I wouldn't mind at all aging into a weathered, grizzled old guy -- I mean, you look at Kris Kristofferson, Sam Elliott...

kittens for breakfast,

You just made me idly check Elliott's d.o.b (I've always wanted to bump into him on the trail!) and - I'm surprised - it's August 9, 1944 - which makes him just a year older than the still gorgeous Helen Mirren (born 26 July 1945).

I'd assumed he was quite a bit older than that - but had magically, unfairly, retained a grizzled sexiness!

(Kristofferson was born June 22, 1936)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 3:49 PM on October 21, 2010


I remember seeing an interview with her back when she was all the rage. She was talking about how weird it is to be judged by your face, and she said (I'm paraphrasing here, obviously) "It doesn't mean anything. It's just the distance between [she points to her eyes and nose] here and here. It's just math!" I loved that. She clearly found it ridiculous even at the time.

And I see her point here. It must suck to have something so pointless be assigned so much value. You know you don't deserve it, and yet people pay you ridiculous amounts of money for it. And then it goes away and you miss it, even though you knew it was stupid in the first place.
posted by stefanie at 3:55 PM on October 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


It must suck to have something so pointless be assigned so much value.

Yeah. I'm sure she cried into her huge pile of cash.
posted by jonmc at 3:57 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


It sucks to be invisible because you’re not attractive, but being everyone’s beautiful trophy is also a kind of invisibility. In some ways it’s worse because no-one believes you when you tell them you feel invisible. Even your invisibility is invisible.
posted by AlsoMike at 4:18 PM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, in the new Tron movie, I swear to God Jeff Bridges looks not a day older than when he filmed the last one.

I assume his appearance in Crazy Heart was created using the magic of screen make up. Or that it was actually Kris Kristofferson playing the role.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:18 PM on October 21, 2010


It sucks to be invisible because you’re not attractive, but being everyone’s beautiful trophy is also a kind of invisibility. In some ways it’s worse because no-one believes you when you tell them you feel invisible. Even your invisibility is invisible.
posted by AlsoMike at 7:18 PM


I can't see this comment.
posted by jonmc at 4:21 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


And Jimmie Nicol is still kicking around, and he actually experienced the height of Beatlemania as a fill-in for Ringo.

The height of Beatlemania? Pfffft. That was nothing compared to the swirling, heady days of fame and glory with The Spotnicks!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:32 PM on October 21, 2010


Wow. I'm really surprised, and a bit dismayed, by all the hating on the pretty girl.
I for one really enjoyed reading this, as well as her previous writings. I love the fact that she was gobsmacked that Mary-Kate Olsen knew who she was and stood up for her against the ladies' room attendant. And bits like this just endear her to me even more:

Little girls were looking up to me, sending me letters, wanting me to know that they wanted to be just like me. All because of the way I looked. I was young. I was beautiful. I was rich because other people thought so. That I smoked like a chimney, drank most men under the table, and swore like a truck-driver was not immediately apparent from my magazine pages, nor was the fact that I was also an arrogant asshole. Youth is a bad time to be given loads of money and no rules. With my arrogance of youth came the conviction that my success was well-deserved. If people thought I was a bad example to the little girls that idolized me, they could fuck off. Responsibility and obligations were as unpalatable and pointless to me as raw cabbage and wheatgrass juice.

But, if you glorify a fifteen-year-old because she fits into sample size clothing and has the sort of bones that reflect light, what else can you expect?.


At least she realizes that it was all bullshit. That goes a long way in my book.
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 4:42 PM on October 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


Or this one:

I'm not trying for sympathy here; I am well-aware that a woman in my position has as much right to self-pity as a gluttonous man who has just consumed a pound of caviar and now whines about a heartburn. But the heartburn still burns, if you know what I'm saying.
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 4:45 PM on October 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Here in my early thirties, handsome men make me flinch like a raised hand. I prefer the face that shows what's inside, if what's inside is both strange and likeable. Hell, Charlie Brooker called himself "a heartbroken carnival mask hurriedly moulded from surgically extracted stomach fat and stretched across a damaged, despondent hubcap," but I wouldn't say no to him. Then again, I'm a woman, and we're socialized from early on to see the beauty within men -- which is, I dare say, a remnant of the times we didn't get to choose them.

I was an absolutely ravishing teenage girl, and I say it matter-of-factly because I had no idea. I was convinced I was a collection of fat and pustules, and that everyone who said otherwise was trying to flatter something out of me. It was only years later that I looked back at old pictures and realized this wasn't so. Now I try to hold onto what I have, but it's a slippery rope, and I will fall soon. In some of us, vanity is not the wish to remain young forever, but to have been young once.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:51 PM on October 21, 2010 [9 favorites]


> Wow. I'm really surprised, and a bit dismayed, by all the hating on the pretty girl.

I don't think there's been any hating on her. There have been a few people saying they wish she wouldn't talk about the subject because they feel it comes with poor grace from her, no matter how thoughtful she is about it, but that's not the same. It's also very much a minority opinion in the thread. If anything, I'm pleased there's so little of it.
posted by languagehat at 4:56 PM on October 21, 2010


Pete Best is still alive, although he sort of missed the definitive Beatles experiences.

I went to see Pete Best at a booksigning in the mid-80s. He definitely was still feeling wounded about his circumstances, at least at that point.
posted by toodleydoodley at 4:56 PM on October 21, 2010


In some of us, vanity is not the wish to remain young forever, but to have been young once.

I was young once. I wasn't good at it.
posted by jonmc at 5:02 PM on October 21, 2010


I was young once. I wasn't good at it.

Not many of us were.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:14 PM on October 21, 2010


(about Madonna):

It's easy to forget that she was a trailblazer and that many of the current younger cadre of singers and stars are basically retreading and re-retreading stuff that she did with far more oomph and sassiness 20 years ago.

I think Madonna's obsession with youth stems from the fact that her reputation as a "maverick" was mostly a lie; she wasn't a trailblazer in anything except rehashing and (slightly) updating old female stereotypes with a sly wink that seemed to imply irony or something - something which ultimately wasn't there. Bosnians and Hungarians share a saying: cheap meat makes thin gravy. But still, lots of people eat at McDonald's every day. I suppose it's about effort - it's too time-consuming to find a more complex and delicious and nutritious meal, even if the cost is the same. The situation's similar with Madonna. She got lucky and made it and was just wise enough to occasionally alter her image enough to convey a 'sense' of change, innovation and uniqueness, without ever actually taking real chances. It's like how every now and then McDonald's will come out with Shamrock Shakes or something. She's smart enough to know it, and that must really make for a tense psychology. It shows on her face.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:19 PM on October 21, 2010 [10 favorites]



I was reluctant to favorite hincandenza's post for fear of being categorized as one of metafilter's ugly ones. Then I peeked at my reflection. Sheesh. Wait til you all reach 73. Course gettin here takes considerable luck.
posted by notreally at 5:24 PM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Youth makes everyone beautiful - yes, everyone - but almost none of us realize it at the time, because of course we grade ourselves on the basis of our peers. And those that do realize it are not always the best people as a result.

Sorry, this article just hit me pretty hard. I'm turning 30 on Tuesday, and it's been a weird week of reflection and trying to get my life back in order after three years of what may well have been a costly and confidence-shattering mistake (law school.) But part of that is learning/realizing how blessed and privileged my life has been, even if I've rarely understood it as such.

I'm not bad looking. I'm not great-looking, but I've got a weird sort of face that can look in different lights and moments like either David Cross or a white version of Prince. I'm short, but not so much that it's too much of an issue. I grew up unpopular in Houston and, like Paulina, made do by being the smart, funny kid. When I moved to Oklahoma at fifteen, I was atrociously awkward around girls and then, when I moved to New York for college, it took me forever to get laid and even then it wasn't really ever a good situation. I was smart and funny, but that wasn't enough.

When I went to Law School things got even worse. I chose the Georgetown after coming off of the wait-list, and my 1L grades sucked, preventing me from finding employment even now, even after I turned it around half-way through. And I am single, having failed to hold down any relationship despite my best efforts.

That's one version of the story, anyway. The one I tell myself when I'm feeling self-pitying.

When I'm feeling happy and confidant, I tell myself the other version. The one where I, a geeky drama kid, was dating the cheerleader during senior year of high school. The one where I was getting numbers from and in one instance dating movie starlets during college, even if it didn't lead to anything. The one where I laugh at myself for not understanding that many of the women I had life-threatening crushes on were throwing themselves at me and that I was just too nervous and stupid to understand it.

This is the version where I remember that I was working kick-ass jobs, even if they didn't pay very well, with illustrious people who filled my life with the only currency I really care about in the long-term - stories. The version where I ended relationships with astoundingly beautiful, intelligent women because of petty things I can't even remember now.

And that's the thing about looking back over my life. When the ships were down, I hated myself and figured that I was worthless and deserved nothing more than my sad lot. But when things were going well, I also thought, "Hey! I totally deserve this! I have earned all of this and the right to be cocky about it!" David Cross one moment, white Prince the next. And so it goes.

Our perspective on ourselves and the choices we have made is almost fully determined by how we are feeling in any one given moment. Perhaps wisdom allows one to see past the moment and judge things more fairly. I don't know yet. I am not (yet) wise.

Anyway, I think Paulina did a fantastic job of showing what truly matters, and explaining that she, herself, doesn't fully understand it yet either.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:27 PM on October 21, 2010 [21 favorites]


Anyway, I think Paulina did a fantastic job of showing what truly matters, and explaining that she, herself, doesn't fully understand it yet either.

Funny you say "fantastic". I was just waiting for you to finish before I went to flag this.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:42 PM on October 21, 2010


Hah! Got you all beat. The other night this gal and her fella' walked into the restaurant and fan-boy here just about toppled over getting them to a nice table. I opted for low key suckyness and after a fine bit of curry she wandered over, flashed the smile that doomed me in my youth to going goofy for anybody resembling her, and gave me a couple tickets to the show.
Her voice still picks up the neck hairs, the new band craft songs fit to hum the next day and the lyrics are intimate, but the lesson in this? if you're looking to maintain that stripped-down lean appeal, go vegan[exepting young Welshmen] and keep playing the guitar.
posted by qinn at 5:52 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Madonna is starting to resemble the Madame puppet.
posted by bwg at 5:53 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, in the new Tron movie, I swear to God Jeff Bridges looks not a day older than when he filmed the last one.

That's on purpose. There are two Jeff Bridgeses in the movie: the real, old Jeff Bridges, and CG young Jeff Bridges.
posted by zsazsa at 6:15 PM on October 21, 2010


Madonna is starting to resemble the Madame puppet

Madonna's hands
posted by Joe Beese at 6:48 PM on October 21, 2010


I'm a guy, and I was never handsome, but I have to say I bit on her comment about how stupid she was to wish for her first wrinkle. I swore I would never dye my hair or pull out the gray strands -- but now that they are creeping in, I kinda feel stupid too.

Still never gonna dye or tweeze, though.
posted by PsychoTherapist at 7:00 PM on October 21, 2010


Thirty years after the head on the pillow, I am at the Paris Airport, Orly. Next to me, a French youth; he is wearing a T-shirt with Jack's face on it. I ask if he has read Jack. Yes, he has read one book--have I read him? I said that I had; in fact, I'd known him. The boy was stunned, as if I had said that I'd known Rimbaud. Did he really look like this? He patted his thin chest. I was tactful. Yes, he did for a time, and that's all that's necessary, to look like that--to be like that--for a time, as time is an eminence most famous for running out on all of us. - Gore Vidal, Palimpsest
posted by Joe Beese at 7:02 PM on October 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


I enjoyed the article. It was insightful, well-written and short. But I wish she hadn't taken so many potshots at Madonna. I like Madonna.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 7:08 PM on October 21, 2010


I think Madonna's obsession with youth stems from the fact that her reputation as a "maverick" was mostly a lie; she wasn't a trailblazer in anything except rehashing and (slightly) updating old female stereotypes with a sly wink that seemed to imply irony or something - something which ultimately wasn't there.

I know what you're saying, and I know it's now trendy to bash her and dismiss her, because she's on a downslope. But I still say that she was a trailblazer. I know that she was never really as original or as iconoclastic as she portrayed herself as being, or as her publicity machine did. But part of the whole point was that what we thought was there wasn't really there. I'm not sure what the "real chances" are that she didn't take, but the sly winks and the subversions of expectation were not necessarily bad things in and of themselves, and the authenticity and straightforwardness that she disdained are not necessarily virtues in and of themselves. I don't consider myself a Madonna idolater by any stretch, but you don't have to be a worshipper to acknowledge her impact.

Or maybe it's just that the gay genes in me that disdained appreciating her when she was at her peak for fear of seeming a stereotype have asserted themselves in my old age.
posted by blucevalo at 7:53 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


But it's also the only gift that does NOT keep on giving. It usually blossoms at an age where you're least equipped to handle its benefits and rewards and instead take it all for granted, and by the time you start understanding the value of it, it slowly trickles away.

I think adults always found me pretty when I was in my teens and early twenties, but people from my own peer group started only commenting on it when I got into my thirties. I learned how to smile more and "use" my facial expressions. I get more attention now.
posted by anniecat at 9:11 PM on October 21, 2010


What people who aren't incredibly ugly don't understand is how much you become twisted and warped by your ugliness, how much the petty slights, the body language, the lifetime of going untouched, unloved, unwanted, and recoiled from don't lead to you being the kind of loving, wonderful person we all wish we were. They lead to being a wretch.

This is not true. I spent the majority of my life living that exact life. It's different now. I don't know if it's because it's true about men aging well (I'm 40 now) or if all the rest of my life experiences have made me interesting enough to counter my looks. Or if I'm actually really good looking and never realized it. And even If I had the face of Brad Pitt, I still have this belly and the man-boobs that have been there since I was 12, and somehow managed to resist whatever diet and exercise i've thrown at them. And I don't know who's gonna win the race between the gray hairs and the receding hairline, but I know they're both giving it their all. One thing I do know is that when people don't like me they see those things. And when they really don't like me they comment on those things. And it reinforces that belief in the back of my head that I am indeed a horrid wretch that no one will ever love.

But when people do like me, the notice that I have very broad shoulders. And dimples in my cheeks when I smile. And I'm funny as hell when I want to be. I dress well, and am comfortable rich or poor. I've spent a lot of time around both without being either, and I guess that makes me "interesting". Despite a sometimes crippling amount of social anxiety, i've discovered that I genuinely enjoy getting people to tell me their stories, and that makes people like me. And when people like me they tend not to notice the flaws that are so glaring when I look in the mirror. And they comment on things that reinforce the belief in the back of my head that I am indeed sexier than Brad Pitt on his best day.

I don't know what people see when they look at me. I've been the boy that girls in Jr. High cried and stormed out of the room when forced to pair up with me, and the heartbroken adult who women could never see "in that way". But I've also been chatted up by models, and have had loving relationships with amazing women, some smart, some beautiful, and on a few lucky occasions, both smart and beautiful.

And I don't say any of this to imply any sort of ugly duckling becomes a swan story. Like, I said, I don't know what people see when they see me. And I don't care. I try real hard not to define myself along those lines. Sometimes that's easy, sometimes it's hard as hell. But the lesson I take from it, and what this supermodel seems to be saying, and what I would say to anyone who sees their looks as being a hindrance in any way is the same quote from my favorite movie of all time, and I know a lot of you know this one...

"Life's like a movie, write your own ending..."
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:02 PM on October 21, 2010 [8 favorites]


Well, I'm probably opening up a whole can of worms here, but it seems to me there are a couple of "well I'm an ugly man and it's really no big deal" and wow, I dunno what society you live in, but at least having lived in California most of my life, there is a HUGE difference in how being ugly impacts you as a man vs. how being ugly impacts you as a woman.

I mean, I am glad that you've grown past, or perhaps stronger from ugliness, but I doubt your experience is in any way shape or form what an ugly woman has to go through.

If there is any singular trait that affects how most people treat you as a woman, it is hands down, your physical attractiveness. With men, it is a whole different ballgame--attractiveness is a factor, but not the whole enchilada like it is for women.

I'm not trying to discount male experience here...just saying I don't think it is quite equivalent. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 10:55 PM on October 21, 2010 [4 favorites]



I'm not trying to discount male experience here...just saying I don't think it is quite equivalent. Please correct me if I'm wrong.


I'd go further, and say that (for straight men) it's not just not equivalent, but almost entirely different, and it gets more so as one ages. The constant scrutiny and judgment that women face is extraordinary; as a man, people just seem amazed if I can maintain a minimal level of personal hygiene and perhaps remember to zip up my fly once in a while.
posted by Forktine at 11:09 PM on October 21, 2010


You can also see a recent interview with her on 'One on One' from Al Jazeera. She comes across very well.
posted by knapah at 4:32 AM on October 22, 2010


Well, I'm probably opening up a whole can of worms here, but it seems to me there are a couple of "well I'm an ugly man and it's really no big deal" and wow, I dunno what society you live in, but at least having lived in California most of my life, there is a HUGE difference in how being ugly impacts you as a man vs. how being ugly impacts you as a woman.

But are you making the mistake of judging the men by the same standards as the women? Female attractiveness is (to make a sweeping generalisation) mostly about youthfulness, facial regularity and slenderness. These aren't irrelevant to male attractiveness, but men are judged much more on a whole range of other physical attributes: baldness, scrawniness, particular types of weakness of facial features (especially the chin), ethnic background, breadth of shoulders, strength etc.. And of course height. I've known plenty of guys who reflexively assume that they'll be regarded with contempt by some men and almost all women because they're unusually short (and remember that men are much more likely to be treated as ridiculous if they try to conceal any of the defects they picked up in the genetic lottery, by wearing a wig, raised heels, any form of makeup etc).

A man who would be regarded as attractive according to the standards applied to women could be the opposite when judged as a man, and vice versa. Viewed in that light I'm not sure that the difference is all that huge (but then, I've never lived in California).
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 6:02 AM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Female attractiveness is (to make a sweeping generalisation) mostly about youthfulness, facial regularity and slenderness.

Not according to Tommy Johnson...

Cryin', big fat mama,
meat shakin' on her bone
Cryin', big fat mama, lord,
meat shakin' on her bone
Every time she shake it, lord
skinny woman lose her home...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:11 AM on October 22, 2010


A timely companion piece:

Why Can’t Middle-Aged Women Have Long Hair?
posted by alms at 7:35 AM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


being everyone’s beautiful trophy is also a kind of invisibility

As a former stunner, I agree with that. A beautiful woman is a screen that other people project on. What others think she is often has nothing to do with her.

Why Can’t Middle-Aged Women Have Long Hair?

That article made me laugh because it hit so close to home. My mother would love nothing more than to see me chop off my waist-length hair, which is just starting to turn into an Emmylou Harris style silver mane.
posted by LynstHolin at 7:57 AM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a middlin' looking girl, I've always been quick to mock other women's desperate fight against aging and quest for eternal beauty. I'm looking forward to being a wise old crone, it seems like a more appropriate role for me than young ingenue. The article made me realize why that's so easy for me to say. Since I've never been able to rely entirely on looks, I'm not losing much.
I seriously doubt I will be so gracefully accepting when it comes to losing those other faculties that I do rely on, like my memory, mental acumen, or pop cultural relevance.
posted by Freyja at 10:51 AM on October 22, 2010


I'm confused - why can't middle-aged women have long hair? Is there some sort of rule I'm unaware of?
posted by GuyZero at 11:51 AM on October 22, 2010


I thought it quite rude that she named names in her piece. It is mean to judge the different ways that people cope with their aging appearances. Some people can let their inner beauty shine through and age gracefully. Some people panic and use botox and fillers. Does that mean that the people who choose to use chemicals/surgery deserve to be pointed and called out? I don't think so. It seems like she is just trying to make herself feel better. More power to you if you have the inner strength and poise to age without doing anything to yourself, but you are not any less deserving of basic consideration if you don't feel like you are strong enough to do that.
posted by 200burritos at 1:08 PM on October 22, 2010


Some people panic and use botox and fillers. Does that mean that the people who choose to use chemicals/surgery deserve to be pointed and called out?

I think the point she is making is that if you are a woman in the public eye for your looks, and you are saying things like, "I exercise and drink lots of water!" When really what you have been doing to look younger is botox and surgery, then yes, you should be open about it. Or, if you prefer, you deserve to be "called out".

And I think it's a good thing to "out" these people because women are already fed this diet of photoshopped and airbrushed images of impossible standards and made to feel like we need to measure up to them. So the more openness, the better, imo.
posted by misha at 2:31 PM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought it quite rude that she named names in her piece. It is mean to judge the different ways that people cope with their aging appearances. Some people can let their inner beauty shine through and age gracefully. Some people panic and use botox and fillers. Does that mean that the people who choose to use chemicals/surgery deserve to be pointed and called out? I don't think so.

Come on, seriously? She wasn't talking about some anonymous soccer mom there, but Madonna, whose career is based in large part on her appearance, and who has spends lots of time discussing "how she stays so youthful" and offering up advice for women that will almost certainly not work as well as it appears to have worked for her. The reason it (things she mentions: yoga, diet, exercise) won't make you look like Madonna is that she purposefully neglects admission of the factors which really do the heavy lifting for her, such as botox and cosmetic surgery.

In essence, she lies. And for all her "sisters doin' it for themselves" blather and "powerful woman" positioning, she deliberately presents a false and unrealistic idea of "natural" beauty. She makes money from it, too. It's interesting that Jamie Lee Curtis, who has spent most of her adult life just being herself - an unpretentious actress and mother - is probably a much more effective feminist model, just by being herself in an industry based so much in image.

If you want to become a "life artist" and you live life as a public figure who regularly seeking media exposure (often creating false "controversy" to receive even more attention) . . . then expect to be called out on your bullshit. She has opened the door to this public criticism all by herself.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 2:45 PM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm mostly familiar with Porizkova from when she was a judge on America's Next Top model. She was the anti-Tyra. They are both beautiful women but Paulina was also gracious, intelligent, stylish (as opposed to styled), self-effacing, and married to one of my favorite rock stars ever (and of course Tyra hated her and kicked her off). She seems like such a perfect person so it's kind of jarring to read about her lack of self-confidence. If Paulina Porizkova is insecure, then I am most assuredly and permanently fucked in the department of ever feeling okay about myself and might as well give up.
posted by Jess the Mess at 2:59 PM on October 22, 2010


Viewed in that light I'm not sure that the difference is all that huge

I can cite several examples of the difference being huge.

1) you don't often hear someone criticize a famous man for being an "ugly asshole" or "ugly jerk". You will hear "ugly bitch" used for any number of famous females.

2) shortness, baldness, etc. in a man can be mitigated by financial success or high status, or a great personality or sense of humor, allowing him to find several willing mates. I don't think there is a mitigating factor for women.

3) there are many young women who are attracted to older guys, and often times signs of age are actually what makes those guys attractive. I am sure there are a few guys who are turned on by women with gray hair, but I don't think they make up even a small percentage of young women who are turned on by men with gray hair.

Having said that, it's not easy for men either, not at all. But to say the difference is slight is a bit of a stretch, I feel.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 3:00 PM on October 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


@misha and Dee Xtrovert, I think that it is wrong to demonize individual women who have been forced into a position by a system that they cannot control. I am 'serious' when I say that many women are in-between a rock and a hard place. She COULD NOT maintain the cultural relevance that she has without the lengths she has gone to. You're mad that she lies? What else is she supposed to do!? If she told the truth, how would you feel? Madonna is damned if she does and damned if she doesn't. If it is important for women to be honest about the lengths they go to for 'beauty' maintenance, it is important for the public not to judge based on appearance OR the lengths they've gone to.

It is wrong to call women out for their insecurities. Just because they are public figures doesn't mean that Porizkova can body snark on them. She's in a position of power and should be leading by example. Listing the procedures she'd had was a good step, but making examples of other women cheapens her message. She doesn't need to talk about Madonna or Demi Moore or Nicole Kidman. She needs to talk about the root cause of it all.


Also, Jaime Lee Curtis HAS had surgery/botox and has talked frequently about it. Does it make it ok to do it if we talk about it?
posted by 200burritos at 6:59 PM on October 22, 2010


200burritos, I'm not saying it ISN'T okay to have botox or surgery. I'm just saying that pointing out public figures who have done it who are, in fact, lying and saying they haven't, is not victimizing anyone, it's just asking them to be honest so that they don't perpetuate the system you yourself say they have been caught up in.

She COULD NOT maintain the cultural relevance that she has without the lengths she has gone to. You're mad that she lies? What else is she supposed to do!? If she told the truth, how would you feel?

Don't know why you think I'm mad. I also don't know why you get so incensed at the idea that Madonna just be honest about what she's had done. And if she told the truth, I'd feel like, "Good for her!" So, sorry, I really don't get where you are going with that argument at all.
posted by misha at 7:33 PM on October 22, 2010


I think that it is wrong to demonize individual women who have been forced into a position by a system that they cannot control. I am 'serious' when I say that many women are in-between a rock and a hard place. She COULD NOT maintain the cultural relevance that she has without the lengths she has gone to. You're mad that she lies? What else is she supposed to do!? If she told the truth, how would you feel? Madonna is damned if she does and damned if she doesn't. If it isimp orr women to be honest about the lengths they go to for 'beauty' maintenance, it is important for the public not to judge based on appearance OR the lengths they've gone to.

What planet are you on? I don't think you've thought through any of this.

First of all, she could simply shut her mouth about what she's had done . . . she doesn't need to lie. Many others very famous celebrities have cosmetic surgery et al and simply never discussed it. Madonna has purposely gone on television and spoken with the press about how drinking lots of water and doing yoga are what keeps her young, while her interviewers would probably rather have talked about other things. She's put this into the public eye all by herself . . . it's absurd that you perceive her as being "forced" into anything by a system she admits choosing to take part in.

Second, she could follow the path of Cher or Dolly Parton, who've both had similarly giant careers (and both for much longer than Madonna) and simply admit the truth. No one has taken either of those artists to task for it. If anything, it's probably enhanced the esteem in which both are held. They've copped to it, had a laugh and moved on. People admire that honesty, humour and grace.

But most importantly, Madonna has based her career in perpetuating the sorts of stereotypes that put women between a "rock and a hard place". In essence, she has allowed herself to be questioned about her own physical appearance by making it a pervasive and continual part of everything she does. She's a victim of nothing but her own actions.

It is wrong to call women out for their insecurities. Just because they are public figures doesn't mean that Porizkova can body snark on them. She's in a position of power and should be leading by example. Listing the procedures she'd had was a good step, but making examples of other women cheapens her message. She doesn't need to talk about Madonna or Demi Moore or Nicole Kidman. She needs to talk about the root cause of it all.

One of the root causes of "it all" is denial of the natural process of ageing. Another is denial of the steps one has or might take to stave off the effects of natural ageing. Yet another is gleefully taking part in the perpetuation of ridiculous notions of beauty and ageing. Still another is overtly catering to sexist notions of beauty and femininity in order to boost one's career or pocketbook. Madonna is guilty of all of these. There are many successful and "culturally relevant" women who are not, or have garnered the wisdom and honesty to speak plainly about them . . . like Jamie Lee Curtis, for instance. Or hey, the Slits, who actually fought this system and were far more creative and original than Madonna as well.

Also, Jaime Lee Curtis HAS had surgery/botox and has talked frequently about it. Does it make it ok to do it if we talk about it?

Absolutely! She's also talked about how sad it is that our cultural ideas of beauty make such treatments so desirable for women. Her honesty - in contrast to Madonna's - makes possible a dialogue that may one day change these ridiculous motions. In this sense, JLC is far more progressive than Madonna, who ultimately comes across as consistently loyal to antiquated ideas of womanhood and fundamentally conservative. I remember talking to a woman about Jack Kerouac, whom she adored, and how the main problem that she had with him was that women, to him, were either saints (his mother) or whores (more or less everyone else). A brief recollection of Madonna's oeuvre displays a similarly old-fashioned dichotomy - corm "Like A Virgin" to "Sex" and beyond. I suppose the ultimate reason Madonna became so popular was that she wrapped archaic ideas in the packaging of "lite" revolution and pseudo-relevance. But any way you look at it, she opened the doors to these sorts of discussions about herself.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:31 AM on October 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


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