Joan Rivers’ Guide to Beauty Under the Knife

Joan Rivers, plastic surgery maven, is sharing her experience in her new book:  Men are Stupid….And They Like Big Boobs: A Woman’s Guide to Beauty Through Plastic Surgery.  Apparently this is a very well researched and useful book; between quips Joan offers sound advice on finding a good plastic surgeon and what to expect in terms of the entire experience.  But in writing this book I suppose we’re meant to see Joan as an aspirational figure.  The message is that with thousands of dollars you too can beat back age and turn your face into a frozen death mask.  Sounds inviting – just my idea of beauty and glamour.

I’ve heard that it’s not the first face lift that turns you into a freak. It’s the subsequent procedures, the second or third lift that delivers that embalmed look, which far from resembling youth, only serves to remind the world that you’re OLD.  You’re on the slippery slope to freak-dom.  Because once you get started, it’s hard to resist maintenance procedures - little touch ups.  Soon the face gets that weird sheen and color that resembles a tanning bed accident.  After too many cosmetic peels your skin becomes parchment thin.  Too many lifts and eyes tilt heavenward, the brow is pulled tight as a drum, and you are left with one expression - perpetual surprise.  This look doesn’t convey dewy-eyed youth, but rather the look of a delusional plastic surgery victim.   And you aren’t fooling anyone.   Hands still look gnarled with popup veins, bones become brittle and joints stiff.  I’ve seen many elderly women at the mall, dressed in cute little tops stretched over dowager’s humps, wearing tight pants over scrawny bird-legs, shuffling along in shoes guaranteed to give them a broken hip, peering into store windows with frozen wide-eyed expressions.   What happened to growing old gracefully?   

I have to wonder why Joan Rivers, a 75 year old woman, would want bee stung lips. Does she feel she isn’t kissable, loveable without them?  In an interview in the January 4 New York Times, Joan Rivers was asked whether most of us want to be loved for who we are not some artificially enhanced version of ourselves.  Her answer: “That will never happen.  Are you out of your mind?”  The follow-up question was – don’t you think you’re loveable?  Her answer: “Let’s see how loveable I’d be if I wasn’t sitting in this penthouse.”  Does she feel the public wouldn’t find her loveable if she looked her age?  She’s in the comedy business so perhaps she’s afraid a woman who looks 75 wouldn’t be considered funny but pitiful.  As it stands now, even though she looks freakish, that’s a funny diversion – especially since she has no problem making jokes about her many procedures.  But still, I find it sad that Joan Rivers, along with many others, feel that to keep their careers alive, they must endure the pain, cost and risk of surgery.  Is looking at lines and wrinkles so repugnant that a plastic mask is preferable?

So, is it possible to keep working and still look your age? Maybe not in this country. But in England there are many examples of working older actors who haven’t succumbed to the temptation to turn themselves into one expression actors.  Here is a partial list:  Judi Dench, 74; Maggie Smith, 74; Julie Christie, 68; Helen Mirren, 63; and Charlotte Rampling, 62.   In this country Susan Sarandon, 62, and Meryl Streep, 59, are aging gracefully.  In fact, this year Meryl has also become a box office star.  So, maybe there is hope that more American actors can love their old faces and we, the public, will applaud them for staying truly beautiful.  

Jan Bina, for In The Trenches Productions, the First Entertainment Website for Women Over 40! Cross-posted on our blog Women Over 40 Rock!

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