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On Beauty and Rejection

I left Chicago with a stack of magazines for the eight-hour flight back to London. The glossy pages were filled with images of smiling women with smooth skins and flawless complexions. Do these faces have their place in everyday reality? Surely I cannot be the Western world’s only woman over 30 who has succumbed to gravity and resisted the lure of Restylane, Botox and other cosmetic “treatments” and surgeries?

Leafing through the magazines I came across pictures of 46-year-old Whitney Houston, who is staging a comeback and has a new album out. She looks fabulous. She looks stunning – not a line to be seen!

In O Magazine, Oprah Winfrey tells her readers how to value themselves and become “empowered”. Oprah is my age – so why, on her publication’s front cover, is she pictured in close-up without a single wrinkle or crease? I looked very closely indeed couldn’t find a single one!

What does “empowerment” really mean? I am wondering, because it seems that youth and facial beauty are requisites for today’s women.

Here is an example: it is an advertisement that played on television while I was in Chicago. The advertiser is a (male) divorce lawyer. The opening scene: a man in bed with a woman. She is snoring. She is supposed to be ugly, too; we know this because we watch him pulling away, getting out of bed and creeping down the stairs, filled with disgust. Then comes the voiceover. It goes something like this:

“If you have a one-night stand, you can make your getaway. But if you are married, it’s not that easy! You need [redacted], divorce attorney.”

So a picture imperfect wife is for divorcing? Really? Does “ugliness” equate to rejection?

Every day women are encouraged to buy into a brainwashed dream of ageless beauty. There are lucrative rewards for those who claim to hold back time.

Sadly it appears that such a view is promoted by women as well as men. We are led on by those who say they are “empowered”, and a match for any man. Oprah and our own Anne Robinson are brilliant clever women who have no need to be frightened by the ageing process. But I think they are: their endorsements of the desire for lineless beauty make a mockery of their strong, “empowered” images.

Then my mind wandered to a brilliant scientist of my acquaintance, who lives Israel. She toils on a kibbutz, growing tropical fruits in the desert north of Eilat. Her work is labour intensive under a relentless sun. The fruits that she grows are used to make drugs at the Haifa Technion, to treat childrens leukaemia.

Her skin? Leather. Her hands? Don’t ask. Her age? Same as mine. She is a truly powerful woman and I am in awe of her. What need has she for botox?

If I had my way, the divorce attorney who authorised the advertisement described above should be sanctioned for professional misconduct. But in a society where even the strongest of women are victims of the beauty myth, he can run it with impunity.

As for me: I left the magazines on the ‘plane. I may have wrinkles – but I also have the guts to keep them right where they are.

The founder of Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known family law solicitors and divorce lawyers. She retired from Stowe Family Law in 2017.

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  1. John Bolch says:

    Can’t see anything wrong with that advert personally…


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