4.27.12 Letting Yourself Go

Laura 790 xxx
photo by george billard
"She's really let herself go." When I hear someone say that about a woman—usually in a pitying or disdainful tone—it gets my hackles up. First of all, how often have you heard this said about a man? And secondly, shouldn't letting yourself go be a good thing? Doesn't it sound wonderfully liberating? Turns out it means she's no longer living up to the stringent standards of female beauty. She doesn't tweeze her eyebrows, wear lipstick, starve her body into submission or dye her hair. She's "showing her age." To be perfectly honest, I'm usually quite careful about the pictures I post of myself, but today I deliberately chose one in which I'm not wearing a speck of makeup and in which, frankly, I look like what I am: a happy 49-year old who doesn't smoke or sunbathe, and who gets Botox a couple of times a year. Yep, full disclosure.
Vintage 790 xxx
photo by José Rodríguez Santalices, circa 1982
As the years have gone by, I've let go of the eyeliner, the brown hair and the multiple piercings, but I've also let go of the drama and the confusion and the self-doubt. Middle age is kind of great, especially if you decide to embrace it. (But the Botox? you ask. What can I say? I'm a woman of contradictions.)
Jamielee 790 xxx
from more magazine
There are so few women in the public eye willing to represent themselves in an authentic way. Meryl Streep comes to mind. And Jamie Lee Curtis. A few years back she went out of her way to debunk the myth of physical perfection we see every day in the media. She did a shoot for More magazine where she posed first in her underwear, unadorned and unretouched, and then after a glamorizing 3-hour session with wardrobe, hair and makeup pros. Read the whole piece, here. I adore her. These days she's not even coloring her hair any more. (We used to see the same colorist at Fred Segal in LA!)
Girls 790 xxx
some girls
Have you been watching Girls? You can watch the entire first episode, here. It's the new HBO show produced by Judd Apatow, starring—and directed by—25-year-old Lena Dunham. The daughter of two New York artists, she attended the exclusive Saint Ann's School in Brooklyn before graduating from Oberlin and making a film, Tiny Furniture, that caused quite a stir on the indie circuit. It's definitely worth watching. Lena's work is so honest, raw and true, not to mention incredibly smart and funny. (It bears little comparison to Sex and the City, despite what people have been saying.) She comes across as totally unselfconscious, never shying away from unflattering shots or awkward situations. She's real. And she gives me hope for the next generation of women coming up. They're really letting themselves go.


I love your honesty so much. It's one of the many reasons why I became a fan when I first glimpsed your work. I am finding that as I narrow in on 42, I am settling so comfortably. You remember how everyone used to say that your 30s were so wonderful? I was waiting and waiting for it, but it never came. I have just recently been noticing this wonderful, very new, feeling of ease in my life, in particular with regards of how people see me. Especially men, which is odd because if you knew me IRL you wouldn't think I ever gave a damn! That feeling has seemingly melted away. And not having that extra anxious weight feels really good. Didn't Cate Blanchett recently do a cover sans makeup? And I just became acquainted with Girls. I don't have cable, but intend to watch that episode on line. It looks great.
Julia on April 27, 2012 at 3:47 am —
What a refreshing article to read. You're right, men are never judged the same way as women are and it irritates me no end. BTW you look amazing for 39, let alone 49.
The Hungry Mum on April 27, 2012 at 3:48 am —
Thanks, Julia. Right back at you. Let me know how you like "Girls."
laura on April 27, 2012 at 3:55 am —
I'm just going to say thank you, THM, and not deflect that compliment as I am wont to do. Come back any time. ;-)
laura on April 27, 2012 at 3:56 am —
Love this piece!
Jonathan Sapers on April 27, 2012 at 4:00 am —
Great post. My mom decided to go gray, while all her friends in India carefully dyed their hair jet black. She's turning 70 this year, and looks great, and youthful, while her friends just look like old ladies with black hair!! As a man, that was liberating for me when my beard started turning gray- instead of shaving, I just followed her lead and let it show. You're right, in this sexist society, men 'mature' and women 'age', but men have their anxieties, too! So not only do I applaud your post, I will echo THM and say that you look great- it's not just a beautiful color, but a larger statement about your level of confidence and ease!
Amin Ahmad on April 27, 2012 at 5:47 am —
Your realness and honesty are heartening in this airbrushed culture. Thank you!
Claiborne on April 27, 2012 at 6:49 am —
seriously? that's what you look like without makeup? you look radiant! and as much as i love nyc, i definitely think the standards here are out of control.
nikki on April 27, 2012 at 8:40 am —
Thanks, Nikki. I think things are pretty bad all over--ever been to LA?!
laura on April 27, 2012 at 5:30 pm —
Claiborne, I've got my days. Thanks for checking in. xo
laura on April 27, 2012 at 5:31 pm —
Thanks, Amin, for reminding me that men are in this, too. xo
laura on April 27, 2012 at 5:32 pm —
Yea, another male voice of support!!
laura on April 27, 2012 at 5:32 pm —
How much more one-with-the earth can a girl be than to tango with the world's most powerful microscopic toxin? Botulinum toxin Is bio-identical, after all. And, for your foodie audience, the word is derived from the Latin, botulus, or "sausage". You are my hero in every way!
Jennie on April 27, 2012 at 7:28 pm —
Thanks, Dr. Jennie! But why is the word for poison derived from the one for sausage?
laura on April 28, 2012 at 5:30 am —
Why I love Cher, and why my refrain is (often) Where is Cher when we need her? Doesn't matter what you do as long as it is just for you and hurts no one. . I am not for cutting- except hair- dyeing, or injecting - but love my sunglasses, fragrance, hats and lipsticks as props in the guise that carries me on the streets. This is NYC - we have to play along a bit. Not on the farm anymore. I remember the days of not shaving or tweezing.....ah! They will surely return! Give me a couple more decades.... You are always exquisitely gorgeous. Thanks for the tip - will watch Girls.
anne on April 28, 2012 at 3:42 pm —
I guess you're right, Anne, though "hurts no one" is debatable. There is always the larger issue of what we might be perpetuating by bowing to societal pressures. Though there's no question in my mind that looking good and feeling good are always intertwined. xoxo
laura on April 28, 2012 at 4:37 pm —
You are so right - that is a tired phrase anyhow. There is barely a breath to take without hurting someone is some way. Hard to navigate it all. Our new commitment is to buy nothing from Amazon.com- this in response to an article in Mother Jones abut sweat shop conditions in their fulfillment factories. It never ends! xx
anne on April 29, 2012 at 5:51 am —
Oh no—really?! I buy so much through Amazon. That is so depressing.
laura on April 29, 2012 at 5:56 am —
Amen sister! Episode 3 tonight - can't wait!
gina on April 29, 2012 at 6:44 am —
I had to do a double take when I saw your photo, Laura. I have the same ring you are wearing on your middle finger!! Think I bought it in the 70's. I am embarrassed to say that I can't recall the symbolism. Do you? Tao, or American Indian?
Susan Kallenbach on April 29, 2012 at 7:42 am —
Susan, I believe it's a Zuni Indian ring that represents the sun father. I, too, got mine in the 70s!
laura on April 29, 2012 at 8:46 am —