Discover more from How Not to F*ck Up Your Face
plus, the HNTFUYF world tour
That little ❤️ button above says, “Tap me, please!” (And I say, “Thank you!”)
After last week’s somewhat downer of a post, I want to start off with what looks like a celebration—an unusual one, for sure—of women in their 70s and 80s. Several posts ago I mentioned TikTok’s Coastal Grandmothers phenomenon, which encourages women of all ages to enjoy the cozy aesthetic of screenwriter and director Nancy Meyers’ middle-aged heroines (think of Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give).
Then, Dame Helen Mirren, that 76-year-old icon of ballsiness, appeared on the cover of People magazine’s 2022 Beautiful issue with the coverline, “Don’t Call It Beauty, Call It Swagger,” an interesting choice that potentially undercuts the progressive nature of a woman her age representing beauty in 2022. But it turns out the line is from Mirren herself, so it’s more indicative of her personal feelings about aging and attractiveness than the magazine editors’. I’m consequently feeling more generous about it because I think what “swagger” might refer to is agency—as in when women feel attractive, they feel as if they have agency (or that they’re empowered, a word I refuse to use except trapped in parenthesis). The problem, of course, is that this particular kind of agency still relies on our culture’s limited paradigm of what’s beautiful, which leaves a lot of women not swaggering, but rather creeping warily and unhappily around the perimeters. Still, a 76-year-old woman on the cover of a mainstream magazine’s beauty issue? This-just-in: 74-year-old Maye Musk poses as a covergirl on a Sports Illustrated 2022 Swimsuit issue. Two slightly wrinkled thumbs up.
And how about 80-year-old Martha Stewart, homemaker and former inmate extraordinaire, on TikTok selling Clé de Peau face cream. As she pats on serum and cream while steaming her face over a large pot of…magic brew?...she cheekily winks and tells us, “It’s a good thing.” On my iPhone, her skin looks plump and radiant, and I’m long past guessing what kind of work she’s had done. (She claims she looks the way she does because she drinks her homemade green juice every day.) According to a story in the New York Times, one of Stewart’s videos has garnered nearly 50 million views. Stepping away from the damaging fantasy of looking like you’re 50 when you’re 80—because you drink a green juice—I’m amused that the always-entertaining Martha is continuing to share her special kind of sorcery into her domestic dotage.
Have you seen the final season of Grace and Frankie with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin? I highly recommend it, as the show portrays in the most loving way imaginable the joys and the terrors (granted, in a certain privileged economic group) of reaching mature old age. Both Fonda and Tomlin are in their 80s and both display the expectable signs of aging—this in spite of Fonda’s considerable face work, which she has mentioned IRL, sometimes ruefully. I’ve been fascinated by her choices for a long time. I love the way both she and Tomlin look, though their appearance is far less important than their intensely inhabited characters. This is a show about two old women very much in love—with life and with each other—and it’s more honest and true than almost anything else I’ve seen on TV.
Is a celebration of Grandmother culture a passing fad? I don’t think so; the more we Baby Boomers develop into mature old age, the more of it we’ll see. Which means more templates for how to clamber up that steep rocky track to Nowhere, as the writer Jan Morris put it. And maybe, eventually, it also means a culture less likely to discount the contributions of its oldest people and more likely to recognize and even respect them.
🇯🇵 🗻 🎎
One more moment before we leave the Grandmother department. If you read these posts regularly, you know my four-year-old granddaughter, M, lives with her parents (my son and daughter-in-law) in Tokyo. At the start of the pandemic, Japan closed its borders to tourists and has kept them closed, which means I haven’t been with my family for two and a half years. Because
I’m such a terrific Grammie Japan recently began offering special visas to second-degree relatives, I’m able to visit them now. So HNTFUYF will be dispatched from Tokyo for the next several months. I’m not sure that will mean anything profound in terms of content, but you might expect a few more references to good babies and bad babies, and the adventures of Monkey-Monkey. Post-pandemic travel anxiety has already kicked in: I feel a little like one of those toddlers on the Japanese show Old Enough!, leaving home alone for the first time with only a shopping list and a vague sense of where I’m going and what I’m supposed to be doing.
But I will, as always, continue to try to serve up the best philosophical and practical advice for you—and anyone else who has ever looked into a mirror.
Book Club News, ICYMI
Though I’ve been a latecomer to audiobooks, once I discovered them I couldn’t get enough. I borrow them from the public library, but as I’ve mentioned before, sometimes the library steals them back before I can finish. So I'm happy to share I'm partnering with Chirp to launch an audiobook club of biographies and memoirs called “Unfiltered Women.” Two things: It’s free to subscribe and Chirp offers great deals. Plus, you obviously get to keep the book to listen to at your leisure.
Full transparency: At this point, I’m choosing not to receive payback for sign-ups, but I do hope to get the benefit of introducing HNTFUYF to Chirp subscribers.
Here’s how it works. Every other month I’ll announce a new book club pick that we’ll listen to together. You’ll have a chance to share your thoughts on the book a few weeks later and hear what other readers thought, too. My first pick is the memoir Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton. I often encourage you to quit objectifying yourself and to instead turn your attention outward, where there’s so much to be appreciated. Hamilton is not only a master of extreme attentiveness, but also a gifted chronicler of what she sees—and she sees...everything. It’s enormous fun to follow her path from spunky kid and lover-of-backyard-barbeques to the founder of what was one of the most beloved restaurants in the world. Delicious reading.
To get started, go to chirpbooks.com/val and press FOLLOW to join my club. (Again, it’s free and there is NO commitment.) There, for a limited time, you can buy Blood, Bones & Butter for only $5.99, including a 50% discount with code VAL50.
Val Asks You
Don’t be shy! What’s your most vexing or intractable appearance issue? Send your beauty-related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. If I don’t have a good answer, I’ll find someone who does.
HNTFUYF, a Payola-Free Zone
Readers, a few of you have wondered aloud to me if I get a cut from sales when I mention a product. I do not. I only mention products I’d like to buy myself, and therefore think you might like, too. I share this so you know my recommendations are offered without obligation. The only financial contributions I receive from these posts are from those of you—thank you!—who have generously subscribed. All posts and the archive are free; there’s no paywall.