When I set the table for that woman in the mirror, she wasn’t the guest of honor. She was (gulp) somebody’s mother. My husband and I recently watched the 1965 classic Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn/Sidney Poitier classic Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? on television. Something has happened to me since the last time I saw the movie about ten years ago: instead of identifying with the lovestruck white girl in love with a black man, oh my God, I related to Kathryn Hepburn.
When did that happen? We have a primal urge to imagine ourselves as hero or heroine, the center of our imaginary movie Universe. When did I decide to to relate to a member of the supporting cast… and does this mean that I’m going to settle for a supporting role in LIFE, too? I’m no longer the ingénue, but I sure as heck am not the head-patting type, either. Someone please call Michelle Pfeiffer, Vanessa Williams, Brooke Shields and Goldie Hawn, we’re all going out for drinks and I’m buying. It’s bad enough to be a member of the audience who no longer relates to the juicy roles; I can’t imagine the frustration of actresses who need to ply their art in this twilight zone. When a woman in her prime lands a rare leading movie role these days, it’s as a dowager queen (or Prime Minister).
There is some hope if we women can make it through those hot flashes with our curves and moxy intact: thank you, Helen Mirren. Kudos, Betty White. Do I have to be perceived as ‘losing my groove’ in order to get it back? It’s a stale plot turn for Hollywood producers and performers: women do not to be cast as “the mother.” Skilled actresses of a certain age will sigh, accept the role, then swallow hard and step aside to watch the attention lavished on the blissfully oblivious—and slightly tarty—bombshell lead.
It’s a little pathetic that some women my age take solace because we know the shell will crack and the bomb will drop (along with those mammary glands) sooner than the ingénue might think. We’ll save you a stool at the bar, Hon. Unlike men, who seem to peak in their sex appeal much later (George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Johnny Depp, Hugh Jackman, Tom Cruise (ick), Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth…) it feels as if we women have timers forcibly implanted in our asses at the ripe old age of 25.
Stop looking at real women as though we’re imagining something. Let me tell you, when the ass reaches the point that the gravity alarm goes off, it’s damn near impossible to ignore–and swatting at it only makes it more obvious. We have all seen women try to sit on the alarm, ignore the buzz going off in our backsides and keep on sporting miniskirts and sleeveless tops long after the bell tolls. No harm in that. If you’re offended by Granny in a tank top, there’s plenty of incentive to look the other way. There’s a continuous conveyor belt of sweet young “It Girls” (Wynona Rider, Scarlett Johansen, Debra Winger, that Victoria’s Secret model…) to distract you for oh, about half a decade.
Just because I forget what it’s like to be a tart doesn’t mean I have to be relegated to serving them to sweet young things, does it? I’m going to serve myself something juicy tonight, watch Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner again. This time I’m gonna swoon when Sidney speaks.