Reflections on my mother’s face

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 3, 2005

My mother turned 80 last week. Eight decades look good on her.

As the photographs on display at her party showed, she was a lovely young woman.

And as the photos I took at the celebration showed, Mama is a lovely older woman.

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She would be the first to tell you she doesn’t look just like she did 50 years ago; after all, if she hadn’t changed a least a little, we’d all be expecting to find a portrait in the farm house’s attic, a la Oscar Wilde’s infamous Dorian Gray.

Real people who haven’t sold their souls to the devil (or owe it to the friendly neighborhood plastic surgeon) do, in fact, grow older.

I like real faces like my mother’s – real in the sense they haven’t been endlessly touched by the surgeon’s scalpel, nipped, tucked, tweaked and implanted beyond reason.

Real faces have character; they have laugh lines, little crinkles around their eyes, brows that furrow when they are worried or deep in thought. Real faces show expression – surprise, joy, anger, sorrow, and pleasure.

Thankfully, in this neck of the woods, we see more real faces than the folks on, say, that bizarre planet known as Hollywood. I do realize there is tremendous pressure on celebrities to maintain their looks in front of the camera, especially for females.

Somehow it’s O.K. for Clint Eastwood’s face to look like a much-folded map, but I doubt an actress with an equally time worn visage would rate a starring role (except, perhaps, in a horror movie).

It’s hard to find well-known actresses to play &uot;real&uot; older characters these days, I hear. I watched part of a television movie based on &uot;Blessings&uot;, a favorite book of mine by Anna Quindlen. Mary Tyler Moore, long one of my favorite television personalities, was cast as the elderly hermit-like central figure of the story.

What a travesty. This truly talented, award-winning actress’s face has become completely immobile due to one too many lifts.

There are physically beautiful people who destroy their looks over time by indulging in too much &uot;riotous living&uot; – too many cigarettes, too much booze, drugs and food. Illness robs still others of their former good looks.

It always seems a shame when such things happen; it’s like watching a once magnificent old house fall into dilapidation and disrepair.

However, the spectacle of women like Joan Rivers, Cher and countless other

celebrities transforming their interesting faces into soulless masks is equally unsettling.

Still, some people manage, as my mom has, to grow older gracefully, and that is a beautiful thing to me.

In this plastic, shallow world, it’s good to know it can still be done.

Angie Long is the lifestyles reporter for the Greenville Advocate and can be reached at 383-9302, ext. 132 or via email at