It Isn’t Pretty

05.19.14

Diane Keaton Refuses to Give In to Aging

At 68, the actress is dealing with the effects of aging—changing hair color, memory loss, retirement notices, and even an ‘old person’ voice. But they won’t stop her!

Cher once said, “There is only value to having the look you have when you are young and no value to the look you have when you are older.” Who can argue with Cher? She’s not wrong. But she’s not right, either. What she is, is right for herself. Diana Vreeland claimed she approved of plastic surgery, noting that none of her friends could understand why she hadn’t had it done herself. But, Vreeland added, she had her own reasons.

What were her reasons? I know what they were. They were hers. All of us over sixty-five have our reasons. I respect Cher’s choices as much as I respect mine.

I tell myself I’m free to do whatever the hell I want with my body. Why not? I may be a caricature of my former self; I’m still wearing wide-belted plaid coats, horn-rimmed glasses, and turtlenecks in the summertime. So what? Nobody cares but me. I don’t see anything wrong with face-lifts or Botox or fillers. They just erase the hidden battle scars. I intend to wear mine, sort of. At least that’s what I say to myself.

Every one of us is going through bodily decline. We’re less active. We have wrinkles and liver spots. Most of us, I would venture to say, have tried to remedy these unsightly problems. And why not? Our hair color has changed from black, brown, red, and yellow to gray and white all over. In most cases that, too, has been rectified—with the exception of Michael Douglas, who is one silver-haired fox. I am a sorry example of the truth that women, as well as men, are losing their hair. Not only do we have reduced circulatory system function but we’re losing lung capacity, too. It’s all pretty tragic. Our immune systems are shutting down, and I don’t know about anyone else, but there are changes in my vocal cords that seem to be producing a strange “old person” voice, which I hate worse than my envy of Michael Douglas’s hair. Every one of us has a heightened risk of injury from falls, hearing loss, diminished eyesight, and, yes, as if I didn’t know it, we all have reduced mental abilities, too. Thanks for nothing.

Every day I wake up, at least so far. Every day I wash my face in front of a mirror. And every day for the last few years I have a little chat with myself. “Okay, Diane… your hands still wash your face. You can still feel hot water. See’s Candies peanut brittle is still your favorite dessert. The wild parrots on the telephone wire outside your bathroom still sing to you every morning, and just like them, you’re still a live animal. Be grateful for what you have, you big jerk.”

“Who cares if the U.S. government has proclaimed us old? We’re not letting go.”

That said, it’s still hard to wrap my mind around the fact that I’m a post-World War II demographic. I’m one of 76 million American children born between 1946 and 1964. That’s right, I’m a baby boomer.

Major corporate boards require us to resign at sixty-five. Yet 42 percent of us are delaying retirement. Some 25 percent of us claim we’ll never retire, and all of us refuse to acknowledge our coming demise. You can be sure that Steven Spielberg, Sly Stallone, and Rob Reiner at sixty-six; Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler, Steve Martin, and Cher at sixty-seven; sixty-eighty-year-old Michael Douglas; Joni Mitchell, Sam Shepard, and Robert De Niro at sixty-nine; David Geffen and Harrison Ford at seventy; Paul McCartney at seventy-one; Al Pacino at seventy-three; seventy-six-year-old Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, and Robert Redford; and, finally, seventy-seven-year-old Woody Allen are not retiring. Who cares if the U.S. government has proclaimed us old? We’re not letting go. This past year the Social Security Administration informed me that my retirement age was sixty-six. I tell myself not to feel bad because my life expectancy is eighty-six, which means I have nineteen more years of life. I’ll tell you one thing: I’m going to try to make the best of those nineteen years.

From the book, Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty by Diane Keaton. Copyright © 2014 by Diane Keaton. Reprinted by arrangement with Random House. All rights reserved.