Video Faces Idea of Female Beauty

Strolling along Santa Monica’s busy beachside promenade with my 19-year-old daughter, it was hard to ignore the constant top-to-bottom appraising looks from males of all ages. But most striking of all was the realization that they were looking only at her. I was invisible.

I hate our ubiquitous youth-worshipping culture and have always detested the superficiality of any appearance-based value system. Yet, I admit I felt a tad miffed as the glances passed me by. It has always been difficult for women to ignore the cultural trends to look “good”—whatever that currently means. But Joan Levinson, co-producer (with Wendy Oser and Beverley Spencer) of the documentary “Let’s Face It: Women Explore Their Aging Faces,” thinks this is all grist for self-exploration and discussion.

During the 26-minute video, seven women ages 48 to 63 exchange feelings and thoughts about how advancing age affects their looks. They cover a lot: ambivalence over wrinkles, eye bags, double chins and bigger bellies; yearnings for younger appearances; and the troubling discord between looking old on the outside and feeling young on the inside. Most admit to using makeup (and these are Berkeley women); and one, a cancer survivor, finally divulges she is glad to have had plastic surgery on her face.

The producers hope the video will be used as a focal point for group discussions. They suggest watching the film with family or friends, or perhaps a book club, church group, sports pals or retirement community. They invision it in academic settings as part of women’s studies, psychology or gerontology programs. Their web site (www.letsfaceit.tv) offers guidelines and questions to consider following a viewing.

The film is a gem. I bought my own copy and also had the pleasure of meeting Levinson, a feisty 76-year-old who recently climbed Mount Rainier. “The film is funny and deep and it works,” she said. “We are all mosaics of past and present experiences, talents, contributions, influences and struggles. Some choose cosmetics and surgery; some do not.

“There is no right way to cope with the beauty,” she continued. “Our only message is: be true to yourself and talk honestly with each other. I hope the film can be a sort of conscious raising in this way.”

Lately, my daughter has been complaining about all the “guys trying to pick me up.” I give her further advice on ignoring them and staying safe, a lecture on the value of using her good brain to contribute to society… and I breathe a sigh of relief that I am not 19 and beautiful.

To buy the film, contact Bare Face Productions, 1439 Santa Fe Ave., Berkeley, CA 94702, (510) 526-5075 or go to the web site.