Truth and Beauty, Part 1

Glenda, you left us too soon!

Eighty-seven is nowheresville…you should have lasted another ten years.

Reading Glenda Jackson’s obituary, seeing the clips from recent movies, past the sadness and regret I felt for her loss, I must confess to having been riveted by her wrinkles.

I admit I pay more attention to wrinkles than I used to…

Glenda Jackson’s obits emphasized she was very much her own person. Remember she left the movies, ran for Parliament from the Labour party, and for twenty-three years represented the intelligentsia of Hampstead (Wiki says that London borough had more millionaires than any constituency in the Kingdom).

In Glenda’s obit for The New York Times,* Ben Brantley wrote: “In 2019, she did Lear on Broadway, in a reconceived production tricked out with an abundance of postmodern conceits that might have smothered a less assertive star. Jackson cut through the surrounding flash like a buzz saw, throwing herself against the wall of old age and mortality until it seemed to crumble into unanswerable darkness.”

That makes my mouth water…wish someone’d say that of me…

Since watching the BBC series, Downton Abbey, in my mind I’ve associated the wrinkles of aging with another sublime English actress, Maggie Smith. Did you see Downton and did you note that the woman who began her film career as Miss Jean Brodie in her prime was not just rivuleted but channeled with wrinkles? At first glance I was shocked. Then every time the camera moved in close to Violet Crawley, I was entranced, quietly cheered, You go, girl!

Then later in the series, did you see the sad thing, the dismaying thing when the also-once-sublime Shirley MacLaine entered as Martha Levinson, an aged American bitch? Lordy, La MacLaine has been so tucked and stitched she could barely open her mouth to murmur her lines…can’t imagine how she manages to eat. It was not just sad, it was embarrassing. Appalling. (And now I find she’s just one year older than I.)

As a proponent of natural beauty, obsessing about wrinkles as I’ve been doing, I’ve come to feel we wear our true faces as badges…insignias… passes: Yes, it’s me…here I am, it’s what I’ve been given, how it’s worked out–so far…

“Easy for you to say, Sylvia.”

Why would you say that? Easy it isn’t. Do I have wrinkles? What do you think put this subject into my head, the sudden awareness of freckles?

I’d never noticed the wrinkles around my mouth until a couple of months ago.

Each morning after I’ve made Bill’s coffee and Cameron’s and my tea I swiftly patch on my face–I want to spare my resident gentlemen an unsettling sight at the start of their day. My darling husband says I’m beautiful as I am, don’t need make-up, but that’s because, sadly, he suffers from macular degeneration and can’t SEE my face. Others see my face and I want it to be as pleasing as can be. But I pay no attention as I smooth on the creamy coverage, brush on a warmth of blush, wave mascara over my thinning lashes. I don’t like to bother with eyebrows (I have none to speak of anymore), but a young woman whose taste I regard told me I need eyebrows so most mornings I draw on what I think of as Rutie’s eyebrows…that’s it.

But it wasn’t of a morning I discovered my wrinkles. It was a late afternoon when friends were coming for supper and I had to do a repair job. In our bathroom, light bounced in from the sunny garden and, lifting my hand mirror to powder my nose, Oh no! YOU’RE KIDDING ME! WHAT’S HAPPENED? I never saw that before! I put down the mirror in shock.

How long had they been there?

No idea.

Recently when Bill was teaching his course on Hitchcock, we found a present-day interview with Eva Marie Saint, so sleek co-starring with Cary Grant in North by Northwest. Lord ‘a mercy, the lower half of the brave woman’s face was chiseled with wrinkles. I was fascinated. Of course the wrinkles had come on gradually and Eva Marie Saint had the resources to do something about them. But Eva Marie didn’t. As didn’t Maggie. Nor Glenda. Beautiful women, inside and out. Eva Marie was born on The Fourth of July (also my mother’s birthday), 1924. She will achieve her centenary next July. Blessings on you, dear lady.

Blessings on the women in this world wearing their well-earned wrinkles in the spirit of the merit badges they are.

Ah well, coming down off my high horse, I’ll say wrinkles may be merit badges, but they can be distracting. Since they’re in the warp and weft of aging, the only alternatives are to abolish them, the Shirley MacLaine route, which–to my mind–far from being more attractive, is grotesque. Maybe there are plastic surgeons who can lift and tuck aging skin with a deft hand, make the face look years younger. Maybe there are creams that can do it. But most of us have no option but to live with Nature’s naughty joke without paying attention, and with grace.

I’d love to know how long mine have been there…and how many more are coming…

After all, and for a mercy, wrinkles are not functional…and unlike arthritis, aren’t a handicap, don’t hurt.


The New York Times, June 15, 2023: “An Appraisal ~ Glenda Jackson, an Unnervingly Energizing Presence at Every Age”

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