Well, we're all getting older, aren't we? Even if you're still young, trust me -- even YOU are aging, just a little bit, every hour of every day. Now that I'm "of a certain age" I'm looking to women who have blazed the silver trail ahead of me to be my example...both how to age gracefully...and sadly, sometimes as cautionary tales.
What's considered "normal" aging is constantly changing.
In 1969, Anne Bancroft played the notorious older woman Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate. She was a whopping 39 years old at the time. Wow! Times, they are a changing' fast.
It's pretty confusing sometimes. What's appropriate behavior for older women? What's appropriate dress?
Oh, Madonna. You look great, but...please...the words "age" and "appropriate" are evidently not in Madonna's vocabulary at all, let alone used together in the same sentence.
So, if not Madonna, who can we look to for guidance on how to maneuver this minefield?
Here is my list, in order, of the 20 most beautiful famous women aging gracefully. We know that they all watch what they eat, limit smoking and alcohol, take care of their skin and exercise. They probably get massages and maybe get facials and skin treatments. What they don't do is have too much botox or plastic surgery, and they don't try to look 25.
But, there's something deeper. What is it? Watch and learn, ladies. Watch and learn...
20) Billie Jean King, tennis player, age 71
Billie Jean says: "Keep learning. Keep learning how to learn. Stay curious. Be resilient and engaged in life. Keep moving, or it's over. Reinvent yourself on a regular basis."
When I worked in an office, I was amazed how many of my colleagues just sat at their desks and never moved, practically all day. Of course, these ladies were also overweight, depressed and aging prematurely. What I did to prevent this was drink large amounts of water, tea and coffee, which necessitated me to get up and walk (you know where) every 30 minutes or so. Whatever works, baby!
Billie Jean says: "The main thing is to care. Care very hard, even if it is just a game you are playing."
19) Kathy Bates, actress, age 67
Kathy's health tip: "I cut Cokes out of my life. It's so easy to reach for one
for the sugar, but I cut it out."
Her humility and lack of guile is what impresses me. When she showed her zaftig body, full frontal! -- in the movie About Schmidt -- without shame -- well, I was floored. To be so comfortable in ones own skin is, I think, a crucial aspect of aging gracefully.
Kathy doing what I would never -- could never -- do.
18) Martha Stewart, lifestyle icon, age 73
I used to think Martha was your typical Connecticut snob (and maybe she was) but she really impressed me when she handled the whole prison thing with so much grace. I think jail humbled her. Which, in turn, made her stronger.
Martha's anti-aging tips: "Healthy living is an ongoing, ever-evolving project. If you try to overhaul too many aspects of your life at once, you'll find yourself overwhelmed. Instead, pick one small, healthy habit to start practicing today, whether it's drinking more water, walking at lunchtime or attending a weekly yoga class. My favorite workout is lifting weights. I like feeling strong."
17) Annie Liebowitz, photographer, age 65
Annie says: "There's something beautiful about not being in control all the time." She stays youthful and vibrant by using her lens to see the beauty and meaning in the world around her. And, oh yeah, she had a baby at age 51.
I think the act of being a photographer (taking pictures of OTHERS -- not selfies!) is a great way to stay young and to keep perspective. It keeps the emphasis on others and the world around us rather than ourselves.
16) Annie Lennox, singer, age 60
Annie says: "You've really got to have your wits about you. You have to be grounded. I don't aim to be perfect -- an 'icon.' I'm a human being. That's the most important thing."
She also says: "I go out of my way to avoid shopping crowds and extreme consumerism. I hate all that."
15) Jane Goodall, anthropologist, age 81
Not surprisingly, the modest and humble Ms. Goodall does not talk about herself much in interviews. She's much more likely to use the microphone to promote environmentalism, conservation, respect for all life, etc. She has shared some spiritual wisdom, though.
About trees: "The two things I've learned from observing trees are patience and endurance."
On observing nature: "I always try to see the trees outside in any room that I am in, even if it means rearranging the furniture or sitting on the floor. There are always little snippets of nature to watch -- starlings playing in the wind, sparrows seizing crumbs. Even in the inner city, little plants push up bravely through little cracks in walkways or walls."
I've experienced this phenomenon myself. If I'm troubled, I've noticed that if I get out of myself and look UP, look around, take a deep breath and see that despite my trouble, the world continues to spin. The sun rises and falls. Somehow this eases my self-centered unease and helps me to shake off whatever is bothering me at the time, and become one with the earths continuing rhythms.
14) Rosie Perez, actress, age 50
Rosie is especially inspiring because she was a foster child in Brooklyn and was mostly raised by nuns. Rosie says: "If we can't look at the good, bad and the ugly of who we really are, we are never going to progress as people -- ever."
13) Ellen DeGeneres, comedienne, age 57
Ellen on aging: "I don't pay attention to the number of birthdays. It's weird when I say I'm 57. It's just crazy that I'm 57. I feel like a kid!"
12) Jamie Lee Curtis, actress, age 56
Jamie Lee says: "We are all going to age and soften and mellow and transition. All of us, if we are lucky enough to make it through this hard life and into older adulthood. We are in the chain of our ancestors, like it or not. These are truths to be celebrated, and in other countries they are. The term "older and wiser" is actually in play in the world, everywhere but here."
11) Sharon Stone, actress, age 57
Sharon says: "Sometimes I literally have to force myself to sit down and look at myself in the mirror and say: 'You are a lot older, and you don't look the same as you did 30 years ago.'
You can't keep on doing the same hair and makeup and dress the same as you did back then. You have to face the face that you have."
So I guess we can assume we won't see Sharon doing anything like THIS again:
10) Rita Moreno, actress, dancer, age 83
Rita says: "I do a lot of walking, every day. The greatest lesson I ever learned is you don't die from not being liked. You have to be able to get back up, dust yourself off and keep moving forward. I'm a very happy person -- I'm jolly by nature."
9) Whoopie Goldberg, comedienne, age 59
Whoopi says: "Listen, the best advice on aging is this: what's the alternative? The alternative, of course, is death. So I'm happy to deal with aging. I'll take it."
8) Betty White, actress, age 93
Betty advises: "Don't try to be young. Just open your mind. Stay interested in stuff. There are so many things I won't live long enough to find out about, but I'm still curious about them."
Betty's #1 beauty tip: "Get eight hours of sleep a night. Nine if you're ugly."
7) Diane Keaton, actress, age 69
Diane says: "Being over 50 humbles us. Life expands and we see the larger picture. It helps to be engaged and curious. Laughter is the best medicine."
And if all else fails...
"Well, la, di, da. Laaa diiiii da."
6) Diane Sawyer, journalist, age 69
Diane says: "The one lesson I learned in life is there is no substitute for paying attention. I've always found a cure for the blues is wandering into something unknown, and resting there, before coming back to whatever weight you were carrying."
5) Dara Torres, swimmer, age 48
When asked if it freaks her out that she's the oldest Olympic swimmer ever, she says: "Oh, no. It's an honor."
In my current work as a camp nurse up here in the mountains, I'm often the oldest staff member. Like Dara, this doesn't depress me. It inspires me. Being around healthy, optimistic young people is a gift -- a privilege. They keep me young, and hopefully on occasion a bit of my hard earned wisdom might rub off on them.
She also says: "I love challenges, and I love to have fun."
4) Oprah Winfrey, lifestyle icon, age 61
Oprah says: "You CAN have it all. Just not all at once."
What impresses me about Oprah is she's really gone through some humiliating weight yo-yo's under the glare of the public eye, yet she never gives up. She is willing to laugh at herself (or WITH herself), dust herself off and try again. She is committed to help to make the world a better place via her magazine and her amazingly inspirational and beautiful TV programs like Super Soul Sunday.
Oprah also says: "Surround yourself with people who are going to lift you higher." And: "The right to choose your own path is a sacred privilege. Use it."
3) Halle Berry, actress, age 48
This beauty rubs pure Vitamin C onto her face before applying moisturizer, so...(CRASH! That's the sound of me dropping the laptop, jumping into the car, speeding to Whole foods to buy a giant jug of pure Vitamin C oil)...OK, I'm back.
I'll have what she's having, is all I can say.
2) Cheryl Crowe, musician, age 53
Cheryl says: "I don't spend a lot of time looking in the mirror.
So, as far as I know, I look 24, which is how I feel." She adds: "I don't spend a lot of time thinking about regrets because there's nothing I can do about them."
1) Meryl Streep, actress, age 66
Meryl, like most of the women on this list, exercises (she swims up to a mile 2-3 times a week), watches what she eats (mostly organic) and takes care of her skin. "At awards shows I get free creams in the gift bags and I usually just slather on one of those until it's gone," she says.
"It is well that the earth is round and we can't see too far ahead," Meryl points out. But then she says: "It's impossible to be spoiled if you do your own ironing," and finally she admits that despite all of her success: "I'm all over the place."
What sets all of these women apart, I think, is their sense of joy and humility. They make music and they dance and laugh and they never give up on love, or life. Their beauty goes way beyond skin deep. The most inspirational thing about all of this is you and I can age beautifully, no matter what we LOOK like.
True beauty really does come from within. And that's something we can all aim for.