Welcome to the latest phase!

I've been blogging for several years at http://www.lauraainsworth.com/, and it's great to be entering a new realm. But you'll still find tons of archive posts on plastic surgery, Botox, diet books and other hilariously depressing topics at the original site under "Laura's Diary," along with pics, videos from my shows, sound clips and more. Go over there and poke around!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Trophy Wives: They're FOR THE CHILDREN!!

When I was a very little girl, just trying to figure things out, I developed numerous misconceptions about the way the world works. Here are just a few of them:

For some reason, I thought wars lasted about four years, and then whoever was “ahead” was declared the winner.

I thought that once a woman was married and had sex one time, her body went through some sort of transformation that made her capable of – surprise ! -- automatically becoming pregnant at any moment. (Whew! Glad that one wasn’t true.)

I thought that old people made grammatical errors as part of a kind of “old person’s accent.” In other words, that was just the way old people talked. (This must have been because we lived in a semi-rural area with lots of older people who hadn’t had much education.)

And I thought that the husband was always older than the wife, usually by one or two years. (After all, my daddy was about 1 ½ years older than my mommy.)

On that last one, I turned out to be almost right! The typical husband is indeed older than the wife, though there can be much more of an age difference than my parents had. Ashton and Demi aside, why is it that most unions happen to fall into this pattern? Why are most variations regarded with curiosity? Researchers at Vienna University were wondering the same thing, and now they say that men have evolved to seek younger women to maximize their chances of reproducing, while women seek slightly older men.

In examining people who had changed partners after having their first child, they found that women looked for men with more resources and status, so they chose someone a little older than themselves. Men picked someone younger than their first partner. (Really???) Researchers also found that a couple were most likely to have a greater number of children if the man was about six years older than the woman. Their conclusion: the age difference is a trait acquired through evolution by both men and women to help create more children.

Question: how come so many men will say that their ideal woman looks 18 and is on the pill?

Men seem to have a curious dichotomy between what their evolution-programmed loins tell them and what their conscious minds do. (We could have a discussion right now about the special gift many men have of compartmentalizing EVERYTHING IN THEIR LIVES, but I’ll save that for a future rant.) Here are their loins, whispering to the men, “We must make babies…we must make babies…as many babies as possible…” (Men also tend to quantify everything, don’t they?)

And, except in the case of rap musicians, here also are their conscious minds, warning, “We must not make babies…no babies…too much commitment…too much child support…”

You’d think that, consciously, the man would be on the prowl for an attractive babe who’s coming to the end of her childbearing years. But the loins still win out. This is why humans – with the possible exception of the Europeans and Japanese -- are still being fruitful and multiplying even though the world’s population is over 5 billion and counting! It also explains the staggering backlog of child support cases.

On the other hand, loins can be fooled. The right sexy clothes and strategically-designed lingerie can enhance a woman’s curves and help create the bountiful breasts and youthful proportions that suggest fertility. If the breasts still aren’t bountiful, a plastic surgeon can transform them, and virtually everything else, to suggest that this woman is a genetically-perfect baby machine. Everything from body lotions to hair thickeners to lip plumpers is designed to create the lusciousness associated with a young, fertile hottie.

Thus, the loins are satisfied. Still, the conscious mind, completely at odds with the loins but helpless to oppose them, always makes sure the man is carrying condoms.


The other day, I wrote about the pressure on Asian girls to have their eyes “westernized” through plastic surgery. Well, last night I saw “Never Perfect,” the documentary about a woman who must decide whether “to crease or not to crease.” I hope you’ll look for my commentary in tomorrow’s blog!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Have You Heard? Baby Boomers Are "Aging!"

As we hear over and over in the news every day, the baby boomers are "AGING." Here's the Aging Baby Boomer Story Of The Day:

Orthopedic surgeons in New York report that they are seeing a growing number of baby boomers who suffer such severe knee pain and other discomforts that they can't even walk up stairs any more. (Related Aging Baby Boomer Story: the trend towards all-on-one-floor living.)

The arthritic finger points to one person: Jane Fonda! Whether you're a flower child who admired her anti-war protests during Vietnam or a patriot who condemned her for them, Jane has brought you all together in communal misery. She is to blame for your creaky joints and limited range of motion.

As the reasoning goes, those wildly popular aerobics videos she made in the '80s caused people to plunge into high-impact exercise, pounding their joints on three-tiered steps. (Of course, today, we know better; we pound our joints on treadmills.) Some of today's sore, arthritic baby boomers have blamed Jane for their pain, although I'm thinking it might just be related to a lack of circulation caused by too-tight leg warmers.

I wonder if their knees hurt more when it rains. Of course, even if the weather is a factor, sufferers will still insist that the pain in rain is mainly caused by Jane.

Jane herself might tell you that those videos were too extreme. She has said that at the time she made them, she was suffering from an eating disorder; it appears she had what we might call an "exercise addiction" as well. Over the years, she's softened her look considerably.

Of course, Jane can say from personal experience that it's easier on the knees to just sit on the turret of a communist anti-aircraft gun, yet even that can cause strain in the lower back.


This story appears just as more studies tell us that people of all ages are getting fatter and fatter and will eventually pop after finally eating one too many chicken wings. Mississippi - ironically, the home of the most beauty pageant winners - is the fattest state of all. Hardly anyone seems capable of pushing away from the table any more, let alone exercising. What on earth happened to change "Let's Get Physical" to "Let's Get Liposuction"? When did "lean and mean" become "gross and adipose"?

It seems that this problem will only get worse until people can't get through their front doors to go get more food. Of course, there's always delivery. But when even the Dominos drivers are no longer able to fit into their cars, obesity will be halted in its tracks.

By the way, the State Fair Of Texas opens in a few weeks - I happen to live in Dallas, home of the fair - and the news is full of all the deep fried fattiness that's going to be served up. Here are this year's Seven Deadly Sins: fried Frito pie, fried guacamole, fried peach cobbler on a stick, fried sweet potato pie, fried banana pudding, fried cookie dough, and the most talked about, the deep fried latte. This is a fried pastry topped with cappuccino ice cream, caramel sauce, whipped cream and instant coffee powder.

Of course, the deep fried latte is at its best when served with a donut.

To my relief, my husband has said he won't be eating this overpriced glob of sugar, fat and fried gunk at the fair. But only because he doesn't like coffee.

Great news for everyone who eats it: the oil it's fried in is TRANS-FAT FREE!

Coincidentally, today's "Oprah" featured her favorite physician, Dr. Oz, talking about how to eat healthy. He first looked at portion control, comparing today's typical serving sizes with those from 20 years ago. No wonder our clothes are straining at the seams! We're used to seeing supersized food, and if, as our moms used to say, our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, we solve that problem by gradually stretching our stomachs.

Dr. Oz then looked at the bad ingredients in processed foods: sugar, trans-fats (hydrogenated oils), high fructose corn syrup, enriched products (this means they've been refined), and saturated fats "from four-legged animals." He cleaned out one woman's fridge and pantry, taught her how to read a nutrition label and put her on a "diet makeover" that dramatically changed her appearance, health and outlook. Dr. Oz's regimen was similar to Dr. Perricone's; he had this woman throwing out her "fake," sugary, artery-clogging processed foods and eating salmon, olive oil and fresh vegetables instead. After a few months on this program, she seemed like a different - and much happier -- person.

(This might be a good time to mention that taking fish oil often works wonders on those joints ravaged by Jane Fonda's exercise routines.)

You may wonder why I'm spending so much time talking about weight; isn't this blog about age and looking young? Yes, but when I say that "age is the last big culturally-acceptable bias," I'm talking about the age one is and the age one looks. We associate a slim, healthy body with youth. With few exceptions, a woman who carries extra weight is judged to be considerably older than she would if she were slender and fit. She's dubbed "matronly" and placed in the same category with women who have wrinkles or gray hair. (Of course, it's also possible to go too far the other way; the starving, sinewy, anorexic look - think Victoria Beckham - is unhealthy, unflattering and extremely aging.) Yes, the overall issue here is age and ageism, but I consider age, beauty and weight to be just different sides of the same three-sided coin.


Well, enough on that weighty subject. Here's still more on "aging rockers."

According to the Reuters news service, German music fans are being subjected this year to a deluge of older acts from America: Aerosmith, Genesis, The Stones, The Who, Black Sabbath, Lou Reed, Meat Loaf, the Police, and more. Critics admit that some are still making good music but say that others should give it up and retire. They say Peter Gabriel needed a TelePrompter to remember the words to his own songs, and one critic complains that Ozzy Osbourne kept screaming, "I can't (bleeping) hear you!" over and over. He writes, "You felt like shouting back, 'Buy a (bleep) hearing aid, and maybe you'll realize you're singing everything off-key!"

Of course, younger singers don't sing off-key; the tracks they lip-synch to are always perfectly in tune. And you know, that critic wasn't being fair; Ozzy couldn't hear the audience not because his ears are shot but because there wasn't one.

Fans were especially upset that Steven Tyler of Aerosmith had lost his boyish good looks.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Better Loving Through Science

No long essays today, just two silly news items and a video from my show, "My Ship Has Sailed."

First up, a team of obviously very lonely mathematicians at Cambridge University determined that Jessica Alba has the perfect sexy wiggle when she walks. They claim they calculated that what makes a woman sway when she walks is the ratio of hips to waist size, and the perfect ratio for a sexy walk is 0.7. (This just gets more and more scientific as it goes along.) That would be, for instance, 36 inch hips and a 25 inch waist. Marilyn Monroe was very close with a 0.69 ratio, but after a no-doubt intensive study of photos of Jessica Alba on the Internet, the mathematicians said Alba is a perfect 0.7.

Okay, so explain Beyonce.

I have a feeling there is much more to learn in this vital field of study, such as the impact on the walk caused by the length of the legs or the height of the stiletto heels; but that would require advanced calculus and possibly quantum mechanics, so they'll need a few more years to work on it.


Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that Viagra not only improves a man's sexual performance, it can also boost levels of oxytocin, the so-called "cuddle chemical" produced by the brain that promotes bonding and romantic feelings. They say this means Viagra not only can help men get erections but also make them more loving.

This must be why gobbling all that Viagra has made Hugh Hefner stop sleeping with five girlfriends and bond to only three. And they're all virtually identical, so it's practically like he's monogamous!


Finally, speaking of all the ways that science has enhanced our attractiveness, I thought I'd share this with you so newcomers can learn what I'm all about. It's a clip from one of my live performances of "My Ship Has Sailed," a song I wrote that marries a popular melody to the names of some of the many, many anti-aging products that promise us the glow of eternal youth. Enjoy!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Review The Show, Not The Age of the Band...Or the Crowd!

(This is a recent post from my long-running blog at LauraAinsworth.com. This subject annoys me so much, I want to shout it from the top of every possible mountain, so forgive me if you already read it over there. It bears repeating.)

Here's a pet peeve that many undoubtedly share: the "boomer rock" concert review that dwells as much on the aging fans in the audience as it does on the band.

And when it does talk about the band, it not only tells us how young or old the music seems now, but also how well or poorly the band members have aged. The critic apparently expects them to look like their own grandparents, and sometimes they fulfill that expectation. If they do, he smugly points this out to us, and if they don't, he speaks of them as if they're shocking freaks of nature.

Example (and inspiration for today's blog): the review of Patty Smyth's concert in the August 17 edition of The Dallas Morning News, written by staff critic Mario Tarradell. Mr. Tarradell simply cannot believe that Patty Smyth, at 50, can look so youthful! He writes, "She's almost criminal, that Patty Smyth...(after 23 years) the New York native looks and sounds as if not a day has gone by. Surely she's made a devious plot for eternal youth with somebody."

And, "Ms. Smyth sang with such joyful abandon. She may be 50, but she moves like she's 30."

Overall, it was a glowing review of both her and her band, Scandal, and she should feel complimented and proud. At the same time, is it not possible to compliment a 50-year-old woman on her performance without giving the back of one's hand to the idea of being 50? What was he expecting, for her to hobble out on her artificial knees and try to recreate some approximation of her former glory?

How does a 30-year-old move, by the way? I've seen many who couldn't dance a lick and some who could hardly get up from a reclining chair. That goes for some 10-year-olds, too.

And the idea that a performer has to make some sort of pact with Satan to remain attractive and current really chafes me. You see, this is why, as a performer, I don't tell people my age. I don't want people telling me I look great on stage "for my age." I don't want them to have "the number" in their heads constantly and to be filtering everything I say through their idea of what a person "that age" is. People do this. It's a culturally-acceptable bias. I'm sick of it, and I refuse to play the numbers game.

A female performer doesn't have to be very old to get sucked into it. I've heard disparaging age-related comments about the Dixie Chicks (in their 30s, aren't they?) and the Spice Girls (likewise?), among many others. Forget Madonna; these are the new old ladies of pop music. It's the rare review of Sheryl Crow that doesn't make an issue of her age (early 40s, I think). She looks great not because of any pact with Beelzebub but because she takes good care of herself and follows the advice of Dr. Perricone, as do I.

Here's one more example of ageist music criticism, another review from The Dallas Morning News, this one by staff writer Mike Daniel on August 13. Now, we have to stipulate that Rush goes back a long time; indeed, the review tells us that Rush is 39 years old. Not the musicians, the band. So, of course, the audience is going to be all grown up. Some - not me - call them "baby boomers," or just "boomers."

Mr. Daniel writes: "Baby boomers dominating the crowd of 15,000 at Smirnoff Music Centre on Saturday night may not have looked broad-minded, but in spirit and action, they were."

Jeez, another backhanded compliment. You wouldn't have thought people their age would be broad-minded.

Mr. Daniel, please tell me, what does a broad-minded person look like? Do you assume he's the young, edgy-looking guy? I'm thinking he might look more like Drew Carey.

Mr. Daniel goes on: "Guitarist Alex Lifeson looked the most like he's in his mid-50s (all members are, in fact, there), but sonically, he was the most distant from it."

Another backhanded compliment. He doesn't look as well-preserved as the other band members, but his playing, in contrast, sounded like that OF A YOUNGER PERSON. The quality of the performance, once again, is associated with some arbitrary age in the critic's head.

If the guy were of a really advanced age or had come back from some debilitating neuromuscular disease or something, I could see relating the quality of his playing to that. Tony Bennett's singing prowess at 80 does amaze, because it's rare; there are simply not many fabulous 80-year-old tenors around. But critics need to stop talking about musicians over 35 or so as if they're making their last stop before checking in at the nursing home.

I'm sure these critics think of themselves as extremely broad-minded people, but they're just showing some age-old prejudices.

At least they look broad-minded.

(BTW, to see how music critics ought to handle this issue, check out what Patrick Williams had to say about Rush in the Calendar section of the Dallas Observer. Kudos to him!)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Nightclubs And Other Foreign Cultures

If ageism is so much a part of our culture that it simply doesn't seem all that bad, check out a few nightclub reviews and see how they hit you. These reviews, in addition to rating the quality of the sound system, the strength of the drinks and the general vibe, typically go on to describe the clientele in terms of looks, fashion sense and, of course, age. This is necessary so that people can be with others at the same level of coolness. If a club "skews old," it's automatically less hip. In fact, its hipness rating varies inversely with the average age of the patrons - the lower the age, the higher the rating.

I've just learned that this attitude may be primarily an American phenomenon. The following excerpt from a review by Lesley Tellez of a downtown Dallas club called the Mambo Café speaks volumes:

"This isn't strictly a young person's club - we saw patrons who looked like they could be 60. That's common in Latin cultures..."

See, it has to be explained to us that in some places, older people actually go dancing in nightclubs patronized by younger people! Who woulda thunk it? Normally, we just wouldn't expect to see that. We're talking about one o'clock in the morning here, and it's common knowledge that everybody over about 35 is asleep by nine. Strange, those Latinos! If you're a non-Latino in your 20s, and you're uncomfortable with seeing 60-year-old couples dancing, you've been duly warned.

I've experienced a little of this prejudice myself as a performer in nightclubs, not towards myself, but towards some of the older members of my audience. Of course, my philosophy is to do a show that's enjoyed by people of all ages, especially women, but one club manager told me she hoped My Ship Has Sailed wouldn't "skew too old." She explained that most of their acts draw a younger crowd, and older people - particularly older women - don't drink. (The bar is their main source of revenue.) I'm not sure where she got this notion; maybe she hasn't shared a Happy Hour with some of the "older" women I know, but that was her perception.

And, wouldn't you know, that particular night's performance was attended by a huge crowd of Red Hats. They were a fantastic audience, but the manager had to notice that they brought the average age up considerably. She told me afterwards that most of them ordered iced tea.

The rest asked for water.


Let's move on to another cultural issue, this one involving Asian women.

The Asian Film Festival, going on in Dallas from the 23rd to the 30th of August, features the premiere (Wed., 7:30, Magnolia Theatre) of a documentary by Regina Park called "Never Perfect," which examines the struggle of a young Vietnamese woman as she decides whether or not to get blepharoplasty, or eyelid plastic surgery.

This apparently is a huge issue for Asian girls, but one that hasn't often been discussed. After the screening, a panel discussion will be held on "beauty and the Asian woman." According to Ms. Park, "there is a question why more and more women subject themselves to time-consuming, expensive and sometimes painful processes in their quest for physical perfection. Yet this constant striving to reach a beauty ideal to accompany their other academic, career, material and personal achievements is steeped in a profoundly fundamental question of identity and is not simply a matter of an individual's personal aesthetic choice."

The film's main character has been told by her mother that she can't be beautiful without bigger eyes. How very sad. (I do think that, even within their wider culture, the biggest message girls around the world get about their own attractiveness is from their mothers.) This girl has grown up in the United States, with the American image of beauty all around her, but she also is proud of her Vietnamese heritage. What to do?

I don't know what she decides, but I'll try to get to the screening - and the discussion - next Wednesday to find out.

The ironic thing, to me, is that I think the "Asian" eye is exotic and lovely. Many, many Western people agree. I know men who think a petite Asian woman with almond eyes and straight, black hair is more beautiful than a tall, blue-eyed American blonde. An Asian woman, even here in America, does not have to have 'the crease" to be considered beautiful. This is something that has become an issue within the Asian community.

The other irony, as a personal note: my grandmother on my father's side had eyelids without creases; she was of German descent and my mom called it "the Germanic eye." My dad's eyelids were a little puffy, too; as he got older, he probably could have benefited from very conservative eyelid surgery, just to see better. When I was a kid, I thought maybe I'd grow up to have "the Germanic eye," too, and I really didn't want it, not because it isn't pretty - it certainly can be; consider Ava Gardner - but mostly because I just didn't want to mimic that particular grandmother in any way (long story). As luck would have it, though, my eyes developed such well-defined lids and such a deep crease that the other day, a makeup artist highlighted the crease to de-emphasize it.

It seemed I had too much crease.


Finally, here's a cool item from the news....

Mike Flynt got into a fight and was kicked off the football team of Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas, before his senior year in 1971. He's regretted it ever since, even as he became a strength and conditioning coach and invented the Powerbase training system. He's now 59, in great shape (I can vouch for strength training as being one of the best age-fighting methods), and he's convinced his wife to move back to Alpine, where he is about to become the oldest college football player on record.

Former teammates told him he's an idiot and will get killed, and his wife said she feels like she's married to Peter Pan (that can be creepy; ask Lisa Marie Presley). But Flynt, a man after my own heart, believes that age is just a number. He has a surprisingly tight end, and unlike many men his age, is not an extremely wide receiver. He said he wants to show others that with the right physical training, you're only as old as you feel.

Until you get killed.

Anyway, I say three cheers for Mike Flynt! Let's all hope he isn't sacked by a bunch of 300-pound 20-year-olds, which can make you feel about 110.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Numbers Game

Okay, so many of us are playing "the numbers game." We think, "I'm 43, but if I use this product and do this and this and dress like this, I can pass for 38." Of course, the 38-year-old is thinking, "I'm 38, but I can pass for 29." Those of you who are single take this strategy into the dating arena.

But what about online dating? What if a prospective date isn't looking at you in person, but only in a digitized photo, which can be enhanced in any number of ways? Do you go ahead and give your correct age, or do you fudge it?

A recent article in the New York Post (sorry, can’t find it online) addresses the issue of age and online dating. Stacy Kravetz, author of The Dating Race: An Undercover Report from the Front Lines of Modern-Day Romance, explains why age is even more important in the online world: "Online dating only magnifies the issue, because we're given the option of pre-selecting for all the characteristics we find important, including age. And we get all this information about a potential date before we've even decided whether to meet them. So age becomes even more important, because we're using it as a criterion before a date, rather than a piece of information we learn on the date itself."

It seems to me that, in a way, online dating is similar to the idea of "designer babies." Chances are overwhelming that once her baby is born, a mother is going to love that baby exactly the same whether it has dark hair, red hair or blond. But if she has the chance to pre-select her baby's hair color, she most likely will choose blond hair...along with big blue eyes, fair skin and a tall, slender build. People looking for a mate do the same thing with characteristics such as age.

In the old-fashioned, face-to-face world, youthfulness will definitely be assessed, but there's at least a chance for something to "click" -- maybe it's pheromones, or a quick sense of humor -- and for the couple to start getting to know each other before the question, "How old are you?" is asked.

So, online dating is very different from the other kind. The New York Post article asks several online daters how they cope with the age issue. For example, when asked how many years she shaves off her age, 38-year-old Cozette says this:

"I delete four years. It's closer to the age most people guess I am, and it's closer to the age I feel."

Interestingly, she goes on to say, "When I posted my real age, I didn't get any emails for the first two months. Not one. So I changed it to 34 and within days I had literally hundreds of responses. So far, no one has ever questioned it."

We learn from this that 34 is okay, but that 38 is too old, even though a 38-year-old is dating people who are fine with her just as she is, as long as they think she's 34. Four little years can apparently be a very big deal.

Debbie, 53, answers, "I say I'm 47 because that's around the age I'm looking for in a date. I've had a lot more emails since I adjusted my age. Now people I'm interested in - and the ones who are interested in me - are actually finding me."

Has she considered that many of the men who find her are also 53 but passing for 47? Does she realize that when she says, "That's around the age I'm looking for in a date," she's doing the same thing the men are? Is the meaninglessness of "the number" starting to sink in?

Fifty-year-old Pamela reduces her age by three years. "We all discount our ages - you have to since people are using age ranges as part of their search criteria. If you're fit, attractive and hoping to meet the same, you have to lower your age."

I can understand why she doesn't want to say she's 50. We can talk all we want about 50 being "the new 30," but that's only true if you pass for 30. One 50-year-old single friend of mine told me she sits with her dates over coffee and watches the expression in their eyes change when she tells them she's 50. These are men her own age and up. It seems to be something about the sound of the word, and the weight people give to it when they say it. I'm reminded of Molly Shannon's horrifying comedy sketch on "Saturday Night Live," in which she plays the frazzled, potbellied lady in the red jumpsuit who screams, "I'M FIFTY YEARS OLD! FIFTY! FIFTY YEARS OLD!"

Rita Rudner told me she's writing a book about turning 50 called "I'm Filthy," which is as close as she can come to saying the word. And I've heard from many women that once people know you're 50, it's all about how old you are. If you look great, you look great "for 50" or "for someone your age."

If you're proud of your age and want to tell it, fine. I'm proud of mine, but I still don't tell it, simply because I refuse to play along with the stupid "numbers game." (Hey, I'm proud of my fabulous bod, too, but I don't walk down the street naked.) In fact, I've come to believe that when a woman insists on telling you her age within thirty seconds of meeting her, it's for one of two reasons. Either she looks considerably older than she really is and doesn't want you to think she's that old, or she looks considerably younger than most women her age and is fishing for compliments. It also suggests to me that she's been reading too many issues of More magazine and is absolutely obsessed with the whole age thing.

As the model in a current commercial for Roc skin products says, "When you look ten years younger than you are, you're proud to tell your age." How confused a message is that??


And now, a little something from the news:

Dawn Brooke of Guernsey, England, set a new world record by giving birth to a son at 59, becoming the oldest known natural mother who got pregnant without fertility treatment or any drugs (does that include Viagra?) Brooke gave birth in 1997, and her son is now 10, but she and her husband Raymond kept it quiet until now to shield him from publicity. Raymond, who was 64 when his wife got pregnant at 59, said they're overjoyed to have their son, but the pregnancy was unplanned and came as a shock to them both. And, I'll bet, to their grandchildren.

This is all very heartwarming, but we all know it’s just not natural for men in their 60s to be impregnating women in their 50s. According to all the showbiz news outlets, men in their 60s are supposed to be impregnating women in their 20s.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

"Age Of Love": Relive The Madness

If you suffered through NBC's "Age of Love," the ageism-soaked "Bachelor" rip-off, or if you missed it and wondered what it was all about, my pointed and detailed recaps of all the episodes are now combined onto one page at my website. A good way to learn quickly what my show, "My Ship Has Sailed," and my philosophy on aging and ageism are all about is to pour yourself a stiff drink and click away...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


I wonder if there's anyone reading this who has not yet started receiving those catalogs -- obviously targeted to women 35-plus -- with names like "Time For Me," "My Time" and "It's Long Past Time To Take A Little Time For Myself, Dammit!"

They feature dreamy bedding, exotic caftans and novel accessories. They also hawk a numbing array of anti-aging treatments, with ridiculously unlikely before-and-after pictures of eyes, lips and jawlines; a variety of Spandex figure-tamers; easy-fitting shoes and padded shoe inserts; lacy incontinence briefs (these do look pretty sexy!); and even some very creative and colorful vibrators.

The message: you're getting older by the minute, every square inch of your face and neck needs serious and targeted help, your body's starting to fall apart, you have a bladder control problem, and you're probably alone.

I've seen some comforter sets and a few long, imported skirts that were really pretty, but I have to wonder: if I actually order anything from one of these catalogs, what other mailing lists will I be put on? Even now, for some reason, I'm on the mailing list for the Lane Bryant catalog, when I'm so skinny that friends are always trying to feed me. I called and asked them to remove me from the list, and they said they would, but they never did, so I just keep tossing it in the trash. Another poor tree lost its life for nothing.

But the main reason I don't order from those catalogs is my enormous skepticism regarding many of the products they sell. I know that those creams that "eliminate cellulite" and "erase spider veins" absolutely do not work, so why should I believe the claims made about any of the other products, and why should I respect the company enough to buy anything at all, even a duvet cover?

You know, as I turn the pages and examine those anti-aging "cures," which I'm sure many women believe in and buy (and when the latest one doesn't work, try another one), I wonder how a publication such as this might be viewed in 20 years or so. People will probably roll their eyes at the phony claims, virtually all of them by then conclusively proven false. They might consider today's examples of snake-oil-in-a-jar the same way we look at the skin treatments, female cures and other "medicinals" in the 1905 Sears catalog, or even in the 1694 manual, "The Ladies Dictionary: being a General Entertainment for the Fair Sex," an edition of which is going on the auction block on September 11, according to Britain's Daily Mail.

This book, described by book specialist Matthew Haley as "the Cosmopolitan magazine of its day," devotes much of its content to beauty advice. I'm not sure how much of this relates to anti-aging, as the average life expectancy in the 17th Century was probably about 35, but women had the same concerns about weight, flabby flesh and rough skin.

Regarding weight, being too skinny was ill-advised, as one can probably discern from the full-figured portraits of the day. I love the way this is expressed in the book: "Bodies that are very Lean and Scragged, we must own, cannot be very Comely. It is a contrary Extream to Corpulency and the Parties Face always seems to carry Lent in it." You'd think they'd been looking at a picture of Victoria Beckham! Poor starving little wretch. But instead of feeding her, I'll bet Victoria's friends are having a contest to see who can be the most scragged.

Plumpness was in fashion in the 1600s, but even then, there was such a thing as "too fat." (In other words, they'd think Kirstie Alley used to be too fat, but is perfect now.) To lose weight quickly, women were advised to bathe in claret wine infused with wormwood, calamint, chamomile, sage and squinath (the flowers of a kind of rush). Now, before you laugh, think of all those lavish spa treatments that are supposed to banish inches, remove cellulite, etc. They're incredibly expensive - a "series" of them is always prescribed -- and are very relaxing but do nothing to solve the cellulite problem! You may feel smoother and perhaps a little energized for a time, but your cellulite has NOT gone away. I'll bet those 17th Century women felt better after bathing in claret, too, especially if they drank a little of it. Before adding the wormwood, of course.

Today's spas offer an array of "mineral" baths and facials. A dermatologist will tell you (as she told me) that the skin does not absorb minerals. As for "flushing toxins out of the body," those treatments don't do that, either. If you want to get rid of toxins, try eating purer food in the first place and drinking a lot of water. And, remember, many bottled waters are really just tap water. "PWS" on the label means "public water source." In twenty years, people will regard old bottles of Aquafina as quaint, humorous collectibles.

Well, back to the 17th Century. Women in those days had the same concerns we do about "wobbly bits" - those flabby or saggy areas. They were told to apply "to the place that Languishes, or does not equally Thrive" a disgusting mixture of chicken and goose grease, pine, rosin, pitch and turpentine, mixed in an earthenware pot. Then, they were to wait until it hardened into a plaster. This might take all afternoon; maybe girlfriends would meet for "plaster" parties, drink a little claret, and sign each others' casts!

Of course, this procedure did nothing but make the woman smell like rancid fat and gasoline, compounding her lack of attractiveness to the opposite sex. If Juliet's nurse had treated her with this, Romeo would've stayed far, far away.

The book also describes a similar remedy for breasts: "Breasts hanging down or large; how to make them Plump and Round." No plastic surgery necessary - and in 1694, going under the knife was not a good idea!

Science has come a long way in the past 300 years or so, but in many ways, our wishes keep us willfully mired in the ignorant past. Some of the priciest spa treatments and face creams offered today are no more "anti-aging" than goose grease was in the days of yore. If you really want to feel better and soften those fine lines, take a walk, enjoy some wild salmon and fresh vegetables, read a good book, and drink a little claret.

Or if you just want to feel better, drink a lot of claret.


Since this is the first post at the new place, I'd like to invite my fellow late-bloomers to surf over to my website, LauraAinsworth.com, and check out some of the previous posts. Recent ones have included manically detailed, episode-by-episode disembowelings of NBC's "Age Of Love;" a rip on one of my biggest pet peeves (rock critics who review the age of the audience rather than the music); and much more, including comments on hundreds of provocative and/or hilarious stories related to anti-aging potions, beauty products, fashion, plastic surgery addiction and all the other colorful aspects of this age- and looks-obsessed circus parade we call Modern Life.