My Spanx pantyhose are killing me. I can’t breathe. The long sleeves on my sweater are too tight. The pink cashmere scarf my daughter Bonny gave me at Passover is wound high around my neck, to hide the jowls. I love my four-inch-high heels but worry as soon as I stand, that I’ll fall and break a hip. Please God. Not now. Here I am 76 and I want to be a movie star and things are just starting to happen. Dreams come true at any age.
I’m in the makeup chair at a television studio on Montgomery Street in San Francisco. I’m going to be on a national network show to plug my latest novel, “The Viagra Diaries.” The show will be televised by satellite. It’s 6:30 a.m. The makeup artist is no more than 20. She has gorgeous red hair that swings like silk, and a perfectly made-up face. She’s pressing a thick sponge of pale cover-up on my face.
“I don’t wear cover-up anymore,” I say, trying not to sound anxious.
‘’You should. You have lines, red marks and brown spots.’’
“I think makeup makes me look older.‘’
‘’Look!” she snaps. “This is national TV. We want our guests to look young.’’
“Been there. Done that. I’m 76 and I feel young.’’
“They say 70 is the new 56,” she says in a baby tone, as if appeasing my age.
“Seventy-six is the new 76,” I say.
She lines my lips with a red pencil, filling in with white gloss, like those “Housewives of Beverly Hills” wear. I hate it. Hate the look. It’s OK if you’re a 20-year-old Victoria’s Secret model, but I look like death warmed over. I’m beside myself.
“Maybe a dark lipstick? I look pale.’’
“I’m done,” she snaps, spraying my hair with Aqua Net.
“I don’t use spray — it makes my hair sticky. ‘’
”Your hair is thin!” she shouts, exasperated. “You need it. It’s too early in the morning to argue. Don’t be a diva.’’
The door opens. A twentysomething introduces himself as “Jimmy, with an e.” He’s the line producer. “We’re ready. Follow me.”
I follow him into a pitch-black room with one huge ray of white light and wires curling over the floor like snakes, stumbling on my Joan Crawford-style platform heels.
“Sit there.’’ He points to a wobbly blue deck chair set in the middle of the room. “I have to mic you,” he says. He lifts my black sweater and clips a microphone on the neckline. Then he gives me tiny earplugs. “Look at the red light at the end of the room. That’s the satellite. When you hear music in your ear and a buzz, the host will introduce you.”
I blink. My eyes hurt. The lights are blinding and I don’t see a tiny red light. Music suddenly blasts in my ears and a woman is reporting a blizzard in New York. Where’s the buzz? Elevator music. A booming voice introduces me as “Barbara Books, here to discuss her views on ageism.“ Another female guest, the author of a book on how to stay young forever, pontificates that after 40 the sexual drive is over.
“Age is your state of mind!’’ I insist. “Ageism is a disease in our country. Why do we have to inject ourselves with Botox, have balloon fake faces? What’s wrong with looking your age? “
Silence. I am cut off. What happened?
The door opens. The producer walks in. He looks furious. “You sounded angry! The networks do not want to hear about age! ‘’ He removes my mic and leads me to a room with the monitor recording the show. When I see myself I’m shocked. Who is that woman with the lined white face, white pale lips, too-shadowed eyes and stupid hair?
I rush outside to the waiting limo that the network has sent. It is near morning but dark straggles along the pushing daylight.
I can’t wait to wash off the makeup. My Spanx are killing me and my feet hurt. I remove the scarf wrapped to my chin and open the window, breathing in the fog. For sure the fountain of youth is inside us. And what’s wrong with looking your age? n