When channel surfing, my remote control occasionally stops working as it hits the E! channel (is that its correct name? The one with all the celebrities). Last week I watched parts of a count-down of “100 biggest celebrity blunders”, the sort where third-rate “comedians” deliver their fourth-rate “humorous” commentary.
Among the celeb blunderers was Farah Fawcett. In her day, Farrah Fawcett-Majors (as she was then) was the postergirl for unattainable beauty. Presumably not a few late ’70s magazines showcasing the beautiful Farrah were disposed off when pages depicting her could no longer be opened after perusal by teenage boys. Personally I preferred Jaclyn Smith, as far as the angels under Chuck’s command were concerned (and I’d happily have plumbed for Kate Jackson as my Mom).
So Farrah Fawcett blundered on the E! screen, looking quite stunning for a woman in her late 50s. The permanently startled look on her face — one that was evident when she, Jaclyn and Kate appeared last year on the Emmy awards show — suggests that she had a facelift, or four. That aside, she looked great. Until she raised her hands. Like the great Bill Withers, I remember my Grandma’s hands. My grandma was 71 when I was born, and died at 85. My grandma’s hands looked better than those used for gesticulative purposes by Farrah Fawcett. To be fair, though, my grandma’s visage never matched the splendour of Farah’s.
Conventional wisdom has it that it is not the face of a woman that gives away her age — even less so in the age of nipping & tucking — but her hands. Farrah Fawcett therefore is about 78 years old.
Which brings me to Smokey Robinson. One of a trio of R&B legends performing at this week’s Grammies (the others were Lionel Richie and, erm, veteran soulster Chris Brown), Smokey’s apparent face lift was an obvious botch job – the term plastic surgery rarely seemed more literal. His eyelids were fixed in a half-open state, his facial expression was set as though in a state of rigor mortis. The poor man could barely move his mouth for the purpose of singing. And what would he sing but the cruelly mocking words: “Baby take a good look at my face”. The rigid half-smile looked indeed out of place.
At this point I must confess that I share with Farrah and Smokey the attribute of a certain vanity, in as far as that I am, at the age of 40, acutely aware that my good looks are slowly but inexorably fading. I am conscious of the wrinkles around my eyes and detect the onset of drooping jowls. So I use facial cleaners, I moisturize regularly and liberally, regretting only that I did not begin a preventative beauty regimen when I was in my 20s, and hoping that my aggressive metrosexuality might delay the signs of ageing just a little bit longer. Nevertheless, my looks will decline as I career towards my mid-40s, my 50s, my 60s. And looking old, I will yet almost certainly feel as I do today, wondering what I will be when I grow up.
When I hit the age of (perceived) ugliness, I cannot promise that I will outrightly dismiss the option of plastic surgery. The prohibitive costs of nip/tuck aside — and the obvious conclusion that, as Smokey’s old pals The Temptations so persuasively argued, beauty is only skin deep — there is one central deterrent to having cosmetic surgery. I would fear that I might turn out like poor Smokey Robinson and Farrah Fawcett, the subject of at least one blogger’s pitying insolence.
The idea with cosmetic surgery is that people aren’t supposed to notice that the retention of a youthful appearance is contrived. Sometimes it works. Joan Collins, even at the age of 92 (I’m having a wild guess here), looks decades younger than her possibly forged birth certificate would suggest. But when cosmetic surgery does go wrong, the loss of dignity is multifarious: not only do you look a bit stupid, but you look a bit stupid for advertising your vanity. And a bit more stupid for your narcissistic decision having gone wrong.
That is too much of a risk to take. I will not throw out the moisturizers and facial scrubs just yet, but else I shall do like the frighteningly ugly Keith Richard: don’t give a fuck and feel comfortable in my rugged, weathered skin.