Monday, March 03, 2014

The Cool Girl's Grown Up Counterpart: The POW (Perfect Older Woman)

This weekend, a lot of us were reading this Jennifer Lawrence and the History of Cool Girls article, part of the great J-Law backlash (because a girl who likes herself and basically doesn't give a shit what you think MUST BE DESTROYED!). In a nutshell, the defining quality of the Cool Girl is that she gets permission to do whatever the fuck she wants because she's also hot -- effortlessly hot. That's important. Step a half-degree away from hotness, or put any effort into looking good, or have a single moment of insecurity, and you're fucked.

It seems, after watching last night's Oscars, that the real kick to the tits about this whole Cool Girl bullshit is that it NEVER ENDS. The same double bind that makes the Cool Girl an impossible equation seems to hold true for older women as well. Kim Novak and Goldie Hawn were both trash talked for appearing to have aged less than naturally; yet at the same time, Hollywood offers no love to older women who let themselves look like real human women.

Blogger Self-Styled Siren sums it up perfectly:

I have been simmering for years now over the hateful mockery of actresses and how they cope with aging. If they got naturally old and abandon diets, like June Squibb, they're "letting themselves go." If they work too hard at staying beautiful, like Goldie Hawn and Kim Novak, they're silly cows who can't perceive how ridiculous they look. ENOUGH.

You can, and should, read the rest of her piece here.

So I've decided it's time to coin a new term: the POW (Perfect Older Woman). Even though she's over fifty, her face is unlined. Her hair is perfectly coiffed, not gray (but it can be perfect silver), and her teeth are white and straight. She has no liver spots, and is fit as a fiddle. But she doesn't try. Oh no. She's just naturally perfect, all the time. Why, aren't you?

So remember, ladies: when you're young, be the Cool Girl and eat all you want and never put any effort into your personal appearance, but still be skinny and gorgeous. When you're older, be the Perfect Older Woman and look fantastic but never have surgery. Okay, those are the rules. Go!

In the words of Ron Burgundy, what a load of HORSE PISS.

There is no such thing as a Perfect Older Woman, nor should there be. I feel very lucky to have grown up in the era of The Golden Girls and Murder She Wrote, when I could turn on the TV and see kickass older women living, working, and looking exactly as they chose. I definitely internalized these influences, and have always seen older women as role models. In fact, the Girls (Dorothy, Blanche, Ma, Rose) and J.B. Fletcher are the patron saints of Spinster Aunt, and always have been. When I started this blog, I chose the name to reflect my admiration of women who were utterly independent and absolutely their own mistresses. In reality, this has nothing to do with actual age or marital status, or even gender. Spinsterism is a state of mind. My point is this:

Watching these shows, I always thought that whether you chose to doll yourself up to go flirt with sailors at the Rusty Anchor, or wear comfy sweaters for reminiscing about St. Olaf, or rock your rattan handbag every day, or swathe yourself in flowing garments and slouchy boots for your Jeopardy! appearance, or even don a sensible raincoat and boots for stalking killers in Cabot Cove, what you wore and how you looked should be up to you. That there was no ideal or "Perfect Older Woman" and that there is no right way to age. Even with all these awesome positive influences, I am still hella terrified and anxious about aging, and I am still helplessly furious at the rampant sexist idiocy that creates monsters like the mythical P.O.W. But whenever I get too upset, I return to my 80s TV heroines and it makes it a little better.

I certainly hope young girls nowadays will invest in a couple box sets of these shows so that in twenty or thirty years when some hack shits on Cate Blanchett or Sandra Bullock for looking too young or not young enough, they will be able to call bullshit and get back to doing something more important than worrying about how they or anyone else looks (they should also watch Vertigo and Private Benjamin posthaste if they haven't done so already, and give Goldie and Kim the respect they deserve). Of course, in twenty or thirty years, Cate and Sandy B. will run Hollywood and this won't even be a thing anymore, right?

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