Still, I’d been picturing 50 as the year when I’d be done. I’d quit dyeing my hair and donate my high heels; I’d greet the occasional chin hair with a Buddhist master’s zen and treat my body like a place I could exist without apology instead of something akin to a seedy apartment complex, a place I needed to constantly manage and improve, with unruly bits to be waxed and plucked, painted and dyed, trussed in spandex and lifted with underwire.
I have always tried to tell myself that celebrity bodies are a little like art galleries. I can appreciate and be inspired by their beauty. I can acknowledge the time and money that went into their creation. When I’ve finished looking, I can go home, secure in the knowledge that nobody expects my living room to look like that.
Then I saw the meme that made the rounds on Monday. “50 Years Old in 1985,” read one side, with a shot of Rue McClanahan from “Golden Girls,” in period-appropriate feathered hair and a dowdy-looking sweater. “50 Years Old in 2020,” read the other side, with Jennifer Lopez in a silver bodysuit, toned thighs gripping the pole, honeyed locks streaming, and bronzed skin gleaming, looking impossibly … impossible. If Blanche Devereaux is now, through some cruel twist of the worst timeline, on the Not side of Hot or Not, I guess Dorothy Zbornak is completely out of the question. And Dorothy had been my plan all along!
The answer, I think, is to watch these types of performances like a man.
Women watch a 15-minute show featuring elite entertainers and, in some cases, end up feeling bad about ourselves.
Men, meanwhile, watch a three-hour game, played by elite athletes with single-digit body fat, and most won’t feel a single twinge of self-doubt, or miss a single chip from the nacho platter.
Women see inspiration or goals we’ve failed to attain or a pretty stick to beat ourselves up with. We hear a voice (sponsored by Weight Watchers and Revlon and Planet Fitness and Jenny Craig) whispering This can be yours, if you just work hard enough. Men see entertainment, athletes who exist on a different plane than mere mortals. Their inner voice whispers, Are there any more nachos? I don’t even think it would occur to them to feel bad, or try to emulate what they saw.
And so, my fellow Gen X ladies, if you want to be J. Lo, more power to you. If you want to be Blanche, be Blanche. But if it’s always been about Bea Arthur, come sit back here, with me, in your Eileen Fisher tunic and the newish bifocals you haven’t quite mastered. We’ll wait till the crowd goes home, and we’ll dance like nobody’s watching.