In praise of older women (or, the Julianne Moore All-Stars)

I was doing a little research a few weeks ago over at, THE site for studying up on the past, present and future of the movies.  I forget exactly what it was I was looking for that day; all I remember is one very surprising little fact that left my jaw hitting the top of my desk.

It was actress Julianne Moore’s birthdate.  December 3, 1960.

It took me a while to get my head around that.  Maude Lebowski is about to turn fifty?  Amber Waves is going to be half a century?!?  I couldn’t believe it.  I checked a recent picture of her — not an airbrushed studio still, just a paparazzi shot — and she still looked like she could spin the Dude’s head, or give Dirk Diggler a lesson or six, or cause Hannibal Lecter to act solicitous and almost civilized.  But there it was: 12/3/60, just over nine years my senior.  Wow.

And yet, as I thought about it, it shouldn’t be all that surprising.  With advances over the last few centuries in disease prevention, nutrition and medical care, not to mention housing and transportation, people with means are not only able to live a lot longer, but also do it in much better shape than their ancestors did.  500 years ago, a woman of what passed for “middle class”  in Europe or the Far East (say, the wife of a merchant) was still likely to be gray and haggard at 35, and dead at 45, due to poor food, little or no medicine, and the difficulties of childbirth and other stressors.  In the United States today, a woman stands an excellent chance of living to see 80 or 90, and be in fairly good shape for almost that long.  We’ve come a long way.

Therefore, logic would dictate, there should be an increasing percentage of ladies who continue to fit our society’s definitions of attractiveness for much longer than was historically normal.  Nor am I the first to observe this phenomenon.  For several years, Bill Simmons,’s The Sports Guy (who, incidentally, is basically my age — he turned 41 on September 25, I do so later this week) started compiling what he calls “the Diane Lane All-Stars” — a list of very attractive women over the age of 40.  (He last updated it in February, just after Heather Graham hit the big 4-0.)  So there’s a precedent here.

But given all of the above advances, setting the bar at 40 seems a little low.  Heck, Diane Lane herself turns 46 next month, and she still occasionally makes her husband (fellow Oscar-nominated thespian Josh Brolin) look like he’s robbing the cradle.  So, with that in mind — and in honor of the blunt-spoken redheaded artiste of The Big Lebowski — I take it up a notch and present to you a veritable cornucopia of well-seasoned beauty, not one member under 50 years of age.  Ladies and gentlemen, the Julianne Moore All-Stars!

(Two notes before we go on.  One, I do not and can not claim that this list is comprehensive; if you know of someone I should’ve included and didn’t, let me know in the space given below.  Two, most of the members of the JMAS work in the movie or television industry, where cosmetic surgery is not uncommon, and I don’t usually have the skill to spot who’s had “some work done” and who hasn’t.  If you happen to have information about whom of this group has gotten a surgeon’s assistance … don’t tell me.  I’d rather live in ignorance in this case.)

On with the lineup, in ascending order of age (with links provided when possible):

Julianne Moore (50) — of course.  If this were an all-star team, she’d bat fourth as the cleanup hitter, right in the heart of the order.

Annette Bening (52) — I still remember the first time I saw her in a film, as the lobbyist-turned-love-interest in The American President.  You remember the scene where Michael Douglas is standing there, getting a little nervous, and Annette comes out of the next room wearing nothing but one of his shirts?  Well, I’ll never forget it.  And not much has changed in the interim.  It’s not hard to see why Warren Beatty gave up “playing the field” and settled down …

(As a side note, earlier this year Annette and Julianne co-starred in The Kids Are All Right, a movie that should have cornered the market on a hypothetical “hey guys, come watch the knockouts in their fifties” category for years to come.  Problem is, in the movie the two of them play a lesbian couple.  I hate Hollywood sometimes.)

Michelle Pfeiffer (52) — if Julianne is the cleanup hitter in this team’s lineup, Michelle bats third — the lineup spot for the all-around best and most consistent hitter.  She’s been catching serious attention going back to, what,1983’s Scarface? — and was still doing so as of last year’s Cheri.  For all the criticisms by some ignorami of her … modest figure, she’s still one of the most attractive ladies around.  A YouTube compilation someone made of whom they consider the most beautiful women over 50 ranked her #1, and I wouldn’t be inclined to disagree,

(The “modest figure” is a running theme of the JMAS — there are a lot of A- and B-cups on this list.  Hollywood seems to always be chasing the latest overflowing decolletage, but I don’t see the point; beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.  And as you get older, there’s gravity to consider as well.  Michelle, and other women of similar build, are likely to still be stopping traffic when today’s top-heavy starlets are needing back braces and/or sagging into their jeans.

My wife, a 34A herself, is nodding and smiling …)

Debra Winger (55) — it’s her smile that always gets me, and perhaps always will.  She could be built like Jabba the Hutt and shave her hair into a Mohawk, and she’d still have that smile.  Formerly the poster child for age discrimination in H’wood (and maybe for actresses who’ve been blackballed for speaking their mind as well), she’s been picking up small roles in recent years, most notably as Anne Hathaway’s in-denial mom in Rachel Getting Married.  Good to have her still around; she’s a treasure.

Emily Yoffe (55) — who?  Emily is better known as “Dear Prudence,” the advice columnist for Slate Magazine and the Washington Post Media Group.  She’s a worthy successor to the likes of Dear Abby, and also a stunning Jewish brunette whose looks are as high-class as her wise tips to readers.  She would probably disagree with my putting her in this group, but I know that when she wrote an article (as part of her other job for Slate, the “Human Guinea Pig”) about a visit to a nudist camp, I couldn’t read it; thoughts of a naked Emily Yoffe would’ve distracted me for weeks.  A man has to know his limitations …

Mary Steenburgen (57) — shame on me, but I had forgotten about Mary until my wife and I had the misfortune of seeing Did You Hear About the Morgans?, an unfunny comedy that we probably wouldn’t have taken a flier on except we enjoy Hugh Grant.  Even Hugh couldn’t save this dog of a film — but watching Mary carry herself like a crown princess through the otherwise forgettable flick was the one highlight.

Pat Benatar (57, 58 next month) — I had such a crush on her in high school, and she looks as great as ever.  If you’re a regular reader here, you know that I once had to decide between attending a progressive dinner my congregation’s young-adults group was throwing and a Pat Benatar concert, and it was a difficult choice.  I’m pretty sure I made the right move, though — I met my wife at the progressive dinner, and even Pat can’t compete with Nina.

(Again, my wife is nodding and smiling …)

Alfre Woodard (58) — often cited as the best actress in Hollywood that almost no one outside Hollywood knows about.  Let me put it this way: every year at the Golden Globes award ceremony, there’s a pretty young lady who is named Miss Golden Globe — always a daughter of someone in the industry, usually starting out as an actress themselves.  This year, it was Alfre’s daughter Mavis Spencer — and as nice-looking as Mavis may be, my initial observation was, “oh, but she’s got nothing on her mom!”

Kathryn Bigelow (59) — who better to run this team than the current Oscar winner for Best Director?  As great as she looks, I don’t know why James Cameron left her.  But then, Cameron was once married to Linda Hamilton and left her too.  Some dudes are never happy.

Sigourney Weaver (61) — still stunning after decades of having to deal with acid-spitting aliens, ghosts, gorilla hunters, office politics, ice storms, devastated planets, egotistical co-stars and on several occasions James Cameron (among other disasters).  Not to mention her classic quote: “In Hollywood, if you are a man and speak your mind openly, you’re considered a man in full. But, if you are a woman and do the same, you’re nothing but an annoying b**ch.”

(Debra Winger is nodding and smiling … actually, almost everyone on this list is nodding and smiling!)

Susan Sarandon (64) — almost left her out, which would have been a gross oversight.  But I got reminded when I received the annual catalog from Heifer International, which allows you to buy livestock and have it sent to poor families in developing nations so they can improve their standard of living.  (Very cool charity.)  There on the cover is Susan in a gray turtleneck, holding the leashes of a pair of llamas and looking quite fetching.  Actually, looking like she could still cause Nuke LaLoosh to lose some sleep.  (Odd note: Mary Steenburgen also works with Heifer International, as does Patricia Heaton, see below.  Coincidence?)

Diane Sawyer (64, 65 later this month) — solid newswoman, and … well, just plain solid.

Jaclyn Smith, Goldie Hawn, Loni Anderson (all 65) — think about that: to use Hugh Romney’s hilarious turn of phrase when he became eligible for Social Security, the government is now basically paying Jaclyn, Goldie and Loni to breathe.  It’s nice to see such a wise use of federal funds, don’t you think?  (I mentioned before a potential “hey guys, come watch the knockouts in their fifties” film category; the prime example of such a movie would I guess be 2002’s The Banger Sisters, starring Goldie and Sarandon as two ex-rock groupies teaming up for one last “comeback tour.”  Haven’t seen it, but I’ve heard it’s hilarious.)

Honorable mentions (because I have to end this list sometime!) go to rocker Joan Jett (52), actresses Kim Delaney, Jennifer Tilly, Angela Bassett and the aforementioned Patricia Heaton (all 52), rock singer/Mrs. John McEnroe Patty Smyth (53), actresses Dana Delany and Sela Ward (both 54), singer Annie Lennox (55), supermodel/Mrs. David Bowie Iman (55), ex-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (56), actress/singer/Wonder Woman Lynda Carter (59), greatest-actress-ever Meryl Streep (61) and Secretary of State/most long-suffering woman alive Hillary Clinton (63).  I considered actresses Kate Jackson (62) and Shelley Duvall (61), but couldn’t find recent pictures; I suspect they probably deserve to be on the list as well.

And lest we forget, there’s still Raquel Welch (70), Sophia Loren (76), Joan Collins and Carol Burnett (both 77) … uncommon women, perhaps, but not that uncommon.  I personally know a lady (whose name I will not relate, as she would be blushing up a storm) who’s in the Burnett/Collins/Loren range both in age and beauty.  She’s not an actress, just a civilian who’s taken good care of herself.

Now you may be wondering what the point of all this is.  Was this just Ray’s excuse for ogling a lot of pictures of older women?  (No, it wasn’t — though I didn’t mind.)  No, I simply wanted to assemble the evidence to support a simple statement: just because one is not young does NOT mean one is not beautiful.

Here in America (an some other places too) there is this pernicious concept that any variation from some ideal of youthfulness is a cause for despair and/or scorn; that only young people can be attractive, and that any hint of beauty disappears upon the arrival of the first gray hair or laugh line.  Which, for as far back as I can recall, I’ve thought to be so much bovine-derived fertilizer (let the reader understand).  What’s wrong with a crow’s foot or a melanin spot?  Or a stretch mark, for that matter?  Or a silver thread among the gold?  Why must our only concept of beauty be eighteen years old and no (or very little) more?  Why not appreciate endurance?  Why not appreciate character?  Who’s sticking up for experience, for crying out loud!

And when it is stuck up for, why is it usually only male experience?  Hey, I’m a guy, and I wouldn’t want to be otherwise, but even I can spot when my gender is getting inappropriately favorable treatment.  Over the years, People Magazine has named 25 “Sexiest Men Alive,” four of whom were 50 or older at the time — Richard Gere (50), Nick Nolte (51), Harrison Ford (56) and Sean Connery (59).  If Connery could be considered the ne plus ultra of sex appeal at that age, why can’t Bigelow?  If Ford, why not Winger?  If Gere, why not Julianne Moore?  If us dudes are allowed to have gray hair and paunches and still be “hot,” why aren’t our wives?  Double standard much?

Seriously, I almost want to make a chain letter out of this — “pass this on to every woman 50 or over that you know, and tell her ‘you’re on the Julianne Moore All-Stars too’!”  It’s not fair that too often we treat ladies as if they’re no longer worthy of admiration once they pass a certain number on the calendar.  It’s not right.

Because, as I said before, beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.  And ages, too.


3 Responses to In praise of older women (or, the Julianne Moore All-Stars)

  1. […] Go here to see the original: In praise of older women (or, the Julianne Moore All-Stars) […]

  2. Emily Yoffe says:

    I’m very flattered to be included in this line-up.

  3. Ray Anselmo says:

    (Picks jaw up off floor.)

    The honor is mine.

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