Annabelle Gurwitch's Blog: On: Making an Effort

October 30, 2014

What We Are Talking About When We Talk About Her Face

Whether Her face is the visage a famous actress or belongs to a friend you grew up who has had the temerity of suddenly looking younger than you, the semiotic study of the faces of women is one of our favorite national pastimes.
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Share on Twitter
Published on October 30, 2014 05:59

October 29, 2014

What We Are Talking About When We Talk About Her Face

The chatter has died down. There's been a deluge of damning admonitions, something I might term You Go Girl Feminism, and insightful commentary, but will any of the any of the conversation be a prophylactic against future scrutiny of Her Face?



Whether Her face is the visage a famous actress or belongs to a friend you grew up who has had the temerity of suddenly looking younger than you, the semiotic study of the faces of women is one of our favorite national pastimes.



This appears to be true whether we're privileged enough to occupy a front row seat during fashion week or are straining for a gander from the stadium seats on one of the scores of web sites devoted to this kind of mind numbing distraction from the pressing issues of our days.



The first scrutiny comes with a kind of fascinated outrage, tinged with a bit of self -righteous indignation. Picking over, picking at and passing judgment on every feature. "Changing her face lets us know that she doesn't like herself." "Her face represents our inability to comes to terms with the aging process." True? Probably. At least to a certain extent.



With a bit of time comes a deeper contemplation and a galvanizing battle cry: RESIST! "We need to all have the courage to stand up and accept ourselves as we age." "We need to stop submitting to this cutting. It encourages an impossible standard of youthful beauty." It's also a slippery slope. Are nose jobs OK, but face-lifts unacceptable? Lasers good, knives bad? Is the outcry a sign that we're caught in the gripe of collective facial dysmorphia? More truth, no doubt.



It's undeniable that we're confused. We can't be sure of what we are looking at with so many new offerings in the anti-aging marketplace. Cognitive psychologists have shown that we find listening to one half of a cell phone conversation particularly annoying, but eminently engaging. Our brains appear to be hard-wired to try and fill in the blanks in the presence of incomplete auditory information. Perhaps our fascination is merely a function of our brains straining to make sense of what we're seeing.



I have found it irresistible to not only study, but to test drive the latest innovations to hit the market. Once or twice a year, I raid my savings to get my fix from a doctor in Beverly Hills, who has clearly sized me up as the sucker that I am though I'm uncertain of the outcome of any of these (no) cutting edge non-invasive procedures. Here is a short list of offerings I've sampled over the last 10 years and my one-word assessments: Thermage- useless; Ulthera- torturous; Fraxel- dubious; photo facial- scabrous; Botox- monstrous; Juvederm- voluminous; Restylen- capaciously voluminous. Ok, that was two words. I cheated.



On one occasion a doctor said to me, "I have some extra filler. Let me put it in your chin -- you need a bigger chin, like mine," and before I could say, I don't want more chin. I don't like your chin! he had done it. I hated that extra chinnage, which did fade with time, but still. I used to wonder who would let someone experiment on their face and now I know -- me.



I also dye my hair. Is keeping the grey at bay another way we're doing ourselves a disservice? How about something that was hotly debated, receiving over 1,200 reader comments in The New York Times a few years back, whether long hair was acceptable after fifty. It could be argued that all of the interventions that allow us to extend our fertile years are something akin to Botoxing your uterus.



For me, these adventures in "maintenance," as it is often referred, are less motivated by my on- camera appearance as an actress, but primarily because I have seen the future, and by that I mean my mother's beautiful face. I love my mother, who I resemble more and more with each passing year, but I'm not all that crazy about the prospect of getting her gobbler. Not only am I uncertain as to the lengths I will go to stave off my turtleneck years, I'm also uncertain as to what I will be able to afford and therein lies perhaps the heart of the matter. Money. Money gives you choices, though as Barry Schwartz writes in "The Paradox of Choice," too much choice isn't always a good thing.



So what are we talking about when we talk about Her face? Wealth. Her face, whoever that might be at any given moment, is another sign of the growing divide in America between rich and poor and the proof is visible on our skin.



If you see a woman in the media who looks extraordinarily fit, it's likely that she has paid a personal trainer. If you see someone in the media attired in a flattering manner, it's likely that they have hired a stylist. If you see someone extolling the virtues of veganism or locavorism, or how they cook only seasonal organic vegetables with artisanal olive oils, it's likely they aren't working a part-time gig for minimum wage. And if you see someone who seems to be aging very well, in a way that looks natural and effortless but they don't have a gobbler, its likely I have sat next to them on a silk damask sofa in any number of marble floored, wood paneled, dermatologists' waiting rooms just off Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills, California, 90210.
2 likes ·   •  0 comments  •  flag
Share on Twitter
Published on October 29, 2014 09:56

May 1, 2014

Sandwiched

This post was excerpted from I SEE YOU MADE AN EFFORT by Annabelle Gurwitch.



I arrive to find my mother in a state of high anxiety. My parents' home sold within weeks of listing it on the market and they are completely unprepared. My mother is intent on getting rid of everything she owns; if I'd shown up any later, my parents might be sleeping on Tatami mats.



The house has been eerily emptied out. Luckily, the time has passed when her possessions held an appeal for me, as it's come to my attention that my own furniture is aging me. Having a house full of antiques can seem winningly eccentric when you're young, but just the other day I caught sight of myself in a mirror sitting in a rocker from the 1930s and wondered what Grandma Moses was doing hanging out in my living room. Wearing vintage clothes when you are vintage is a double negative. The last thing I need is more old timey-time ephemera, but I feel something I might even call grief in the pit of my stomach.



My mother ushers me into the garage, where card tables are piled with items she wants to pass on to me. It's the kind of clutter the Grey Gardens set designer culled to re-create the dilapidated home of Big and Little Edie. Of the objects I can identify, there are chipped dishes and bowls, moldy books and a miniature Scales of Justice, something everyone's dad had on his desk in the seventies.



That feeling in my stomach is growing into something I might call despair, but what can I do with this stuff? The tradition of preserving family heirlooms such as they are, is something that may disappear in the coming years. A citizen of the digital age, I can't imagine my son will either have room for or want to keep the photographs of relatives whose names have been forgotten, not to mention the other crap I've acquired over the years. Must do a major purge when I get home, I tell myself as my mother and I pack up boxes for either Goodwill or the large Dumpster we've rented.



The object I feel the most affection for turns out to be a brass ashtray from the seventies. It still has ashes in it. Either they've never cleaned it or someone is still smoking. I don't ask. I shove the ashtray, ashes and all, into a brown paper bag to take home with me.



I spend several heated hours convincing my mother not to get rid of her dining room furniture. Even though we've yet to determine where they'll be heading, I tell her it's safe to assume that they won't be living in a yurt and will still need a surface to eat off of and something to sit on.



My parents are completely flummoxed by small details. How do we get the gas turned off? How will we get electricity turned on when we find a new place? How do we get new phone numbers and how will our social security checks find us when we get to wherever it is that we're going? It frightens me to think of them continuing to live on their own. If they don't know these things, how have they been managing their day-to-day affairs and what else are they unsure of that I don't know about? While I'm there, we learn that a condo located nearby has become available for a short-term rental. Even though we still don't know what they can actually afford as none of their finances are in order, they must vacate the house, so my sister and I advise them to take it. My parents react as though we're shipping them off to a senior internment camp. Mom suggests it might be easier if we just leave them on the side of mountaintop.



Each day I make phone calls to utility companies, but if I leave the house for even an hour, I return to find my parents have undone the work I've just completed. It's impossible to convince my parents that they can retain their email addresses. "Dad, your email address has nothing to do with your modem," I tell him. Even my father, who has always been an early adopter, is stumped. "Email comes in through the computer, which is connected to the modem, which farms it out to your phone." "How can it possibly work that way? What if you're not near the modem when you get your emails? What about people who don't own a computer and only have smartphones?" But it's no use. I arrange new phone numbers for them as well, but by the time I arrive back in Los Angeles I learn they've jettisoned them even though I'd already distributed the new ones to our family members and all of their medical providers.



These are the same people some politicians claim would benefit from privatized retirement accounts and a health-care voucher system. If I wasn't convinced of this already, I know these things are all code for "more things my sister and I will need to do for our parents."



I can only hope that my son, who already programs my iPod, will have more patience when he has to do something similar for me. "Mom, the chip embedded in your thumb doesn't need to be reprogrammed when you move!" Where will I be headed when that day comes? With my lackluster savings, probably an elder hostel in Costa Rica.



It's only as I am packing to leave Miami that I fully take in that this is the last time I'll be in my childhood home. The feeling the pit of my stomach has turned to anguish. I frantically call the real estate agent to ask if I can keep the brass knocker on the front door. This fixture, a realistically carved, delicate woman's hand whose nails I once painted black, had always been vaguely disturbing to me in the way that a disembodied limb can seem to a child, but now, I want to hold that hand. Alas, I am told the new owners find the knocker endearingly kitsch and so I shake that hand good-bye forever.



I've got my dirty ashtray in my purse as I roll my overnight bag over the pale coral stone walkway and I can still make out the red wax candle drippings from my Rocky Horror Picture Show party that even repeated steam cleanings couldn't erase. But there's no time to mourn because my son's heading toward his first day of his last year in middle school and I've got back-to- school shopping to do.



This post was excerpted from I SEE YOU MADE AN EFFORT by Annabelle Gurwitch.



annabelle gurwitch
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Share on Twitter
Published on May 01, 2014 03:09

April 30, 2014

How This Woman Is Confronting The Indignities Of Middle Age

I arrive to find my mother in a state of high anxiety. My parents' home sold within weeks of listing it on the market and they are completely unprepared. My mother is intent on getting rid of everything she owns; if I'd shown up any later, my parents might be sleeping on Tatami mats.
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Share on Twitter
Published on April 30, 2014 23:56

March 18, 2014

What Happens When You Recruit Famous Actresses to Read Your Work

I'm heading into the second week of my book tour for I See You Made an Effort: Compliments, Indignities, and Survival Stories from the Edge of 50 and as always, each book tour is its own unique and unusual animal.
One of the first surprises was the event I'd planned to be the big book launch in New York. I'd been invited to launch the book at Second Stage Theatre and had invited a gaggle of well known actresses to perform excerpts from the book and at the same time we were raising money for the theatre- I love a good cause. As the evening approached, actresses fell in and out of the night, some were working, on the wrong coast, had the flu, it was an adrenaline rush, on top of that, it turned out that the evening we picked was night of a thousand benefits on Broadway, so we had Gina Gershon who needed to be shuttled back and forth to and from another event that evening and Tony Award winner Tonya Pinkins who was going to have come after the show started, always a terrifying proposition as you never want to start a show when you cast isn't in the house, nonetheless, that was the deal.
That night as the actresses assembled, I had no idea what to expect, we'd never rehearsed. Gina arrived late, we rushed her backstage and then made a last minute decision to bump her from the opening of the show to second position so she could locate her reading glasses (!!) have a diet coke and relax.
Tony Award winner Alice Ripley took the stage. I'd never met Alice and was standing in the wings after introducing her wondering how she would interpret the chapter When Brown was Going to Be the New Black. When Alice reached the lines about facing the end of your fertility and even if you didn't want to have more children you can experience this as a huge loss, she was weeping. It was one of those moments you can only dream of as a writer, to see your words connect with someone, it was just astounding. It's really surreal when you've spent so much time writing alone in a room and you hear your words being read out loud, I am so grateful to all the actresses who read and the warm reception that night was just the icing on the cake. Tonya Pinkins came on stage and announced that we'd known each other since we were virgins and now were going through menopause together, that brought down the house. She read from the chapter about the assisted suicide I participated in, 828-3886. I was going to read after her, but to be honest, I just didn't think I could follow her, she is such a powerful performer. I'm still not sure I made the right choice.
I'm going to share that I think I spied a pair of spanx under Gina Gershon's glamorous dress, but who cares, when I saw her I thought of that line from When Harry Met Sally- I'll have what she's having- she is making 50 look amazing. I'm sitting a hotel room today in Nashville preparing for an evening at The Nashville Library, hoping that the adorable waiter who served us dinner at City House last night who happened to be a Dinner and a Movie fan will come to the evening they have planned tonight.
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Share on Twitter
Published on March 18, 2014 10:09 Tags: author-blogs

December 30, 2013

Nixed Year's Resolutions

Every year millions of Americans make resolutions. These are essentially to-do lists, most of which never stick, which is why each year I make a to-don't list. It's much easiest and more satisfying. By setting expectations low, I never let myself down, just like our government.
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Share on Twitter
Published on December 30, 2013 02:46

April 5, 2013

A To-Don't List

I'm making my own list of things you know by the time you're 50 and it's got just one item on it.
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Share on Twitter
Published on April 05, 2013 12:08

March 15, 2013

What Marissa Mayer and Shia LaBeouf Can Teach Parents

As my teenage son has told me, he too is relying on telecommuting to realize his current goal in life. He gets lonely in his home office, aka his smelly sock-strewn bedroom as well.
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Share on Twitter
Published on March 15, 2013 08:50

September 6, 2012

Sandwiched

When I hear reporters asking delegates if they think people are energized to re-elect President Obama, I have to think that many of his once fervent supporters, like me, are just a little... tired, that's all. But we will have to find a way to rally.
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Share on Twitter
Published on September 06, 2012 15:07

August 10, 2012

Romney to Release Tax Returns This Neverday

I'd love to be around on that neverday when Mitt Romney releases his tax returns, but for today, I'm just watching the hair.
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Share on Twitter
Published on August 10, 2012 15:47

On: Making an Effort

Annabelle Gurwitch
F##king Fifty was the original title of my forthcoming memoir. I think of this book as a mid-oir, a mid life memoir, I started writing it at 49 and was shooting for the book to come out when I turned ...more
Follow Annabelle Gurwitch's blog with rss.