Growing Too “Fonda” Plastic Surgery: Refreshing Without Regretting
By Vivian Diller Ph.D., Author of Face It: What Women Really Feel as Their Looks Change
Jane Fonda, stunning at 72, recently confessed to another round of plastic surgery. With mixed emotions, she said, “I got tired of not looking like how I feel.” On her blog she went on to admit, “I wish I’d been brave enough not to do anything.” Just a couple of years ago, Fonda had sworn off more such alterations. But clearly her resolve wore down as she exclaimed “Jowels Away!”
Far from feeling victorious, however, Fonda’s means of dealing with looking older seemed to evoke feelings of failure. Did she believe she failed in her own eyes or in the eyes of her admirers? Whether in the public realm or not, how we deal with our aging appearance is not a skin-deep issue. When we become aware that our looks are changing — what I call the “oh-oh” moment — it stirs up conflicted emotions that run deeper that most women ever expected. And when we are confronted with this dilemma, the choice is not simply, “to do or not to do.” It’s more like “to be or not to become” one of those women who give in, give up. In short, it is a moral and political choice few of us really expected to be facing, and subsequently spend little time talking about.
When British actress Helen Mirren openly shared her thoughts about going under the knife, women all around the world had strong reactions. Some were relieved — even Helen thinks about cosmetic surgery! Some were disappointed — no not her too! Most seemed to react as if her very consideration had let down an entire generation of women hoping she would be one of the last holdouts, the European version of Meryl Streep. She said, “if I wasn’t on camera, I would have done it years ago, I’d think about it even more if I was in a different profession . . . it’s the full-on for me. Suck it all up, tie it up and cut it all off.”
We used to wonder, “does she or doesn’t she?” a question no longer asked since dying our hair is as routine as getting a facial or pedicure. Now the question is, “has she or hasn’t she?” as if some hidden secret might be lurking behind the refreshed face we see on our friends and peers. The problem is, many of us have not yet resolved our confused and conflicted feelings about what I call the “Beauty Paradox” — two incompatible messages women have grown up with about this issue. Can we be true to ourselves and yet put effort toward not looking our age? Can we be proud of our accumulated wisdom and years of experience, yet try to keep those years from showing on our faces? In other words, can we allow ourselves to age naturally, but choose to take advantage of some of the options available to us to help us look better?
The key word, I believe, is choice. As I wrote in my book, Face It, I do not judge or condemn what women decide to do — cosmetic or otherwise — as long as they are making thoughtful choices. Women already find too many ways to be self-critical and competitive with each other to add to their arsenal. Instead, we need to join together to create a new sisterhood that is supportive of the challenges we face at this particular time in history. We are living longer with more and more options — cosmetic and medical — that women can take advantage of. I talk to many who want to mesh the way they look with how they feel as they age. In my practice as a therapist, I often hear thoughts like, “I feel better than I have ever before, but I don’t like what I see.” “I am in better shape, happier, more productive, but when I look at myself in the mirror, I look tired, sad, not like myself.” So, this is our challenge: to find a way to achieve this internal/external harmony, starting on the inside and moving to the outside — leaving us feeling good without the guilt, refreshed without regret.
We have to do internal AND external work, individually and together. The internal work requires going through the six steps described in Face It. These include removing emotional masks, listening to internal dialogues and looking into our personal histories for clues to finding more satisfying solutions about our aging issues. The external work requires taking good care of ourselves, our bodies, our skin, our bones. It means getting good nutrition and sleep to support our ever increasing long and vital lives. Then, comes the larger piece of this message. We owe it to ourselves and to the next generation to join together to redefine what it means to feel and look attractive. Internally, we have to let go of an old self-image that is rigidly connected to youth, making room for one that has flexibility to change. Once that work is done, how you care for yourself doesn’t have to feel like a failure.
Jane Fonda has been admired through many of her incarnations. Now, as she talks bluntly about the conflicted feelings raised by an aging appearance, perhaps we can respect her for the courage she shows by being so forthright about an issue confronting us all. Let’s give her and ourselves a break; this was not our mother’s dilemma. We have to support one another on a journey we didn’t expect to take, striving to feel and look our best for many, many years to come.
© 2010 Vivian Diller Ph.D., author of Face It: What Women Really Feel as Their Looks Change
FACE IT: What Women Really Feel As Their Looks Change by Vivian Diller, Ph.D, with Jill Muir-Sukenick, Ph.D. and edited by Michele Willens is a psychological guide to help women deal with the emotions brought on by their changing appearances. As models turned psychotherapists, Diller and Sukenick have had the opportunity to examine the world of beauty from two very different vantage points. This unique perspective helped them develop a six-step program that begins with recognizing “uh-oh” moments that reveal the reality of changing looks, goes on to identify the masks used to cover deeper issues, defines the role beauty plays in a woman’s life, and ends with bidding adieu to old definitions of beauty so women can enjoy their appearance — at any age!