Tuesday, August 30, 2011

No Holds Barred

by Blair Sabol

I wanted to be inspired by Jane Fonda's aging secrets. I wanted her new book Prime Time: Love, Health, Sex, Fitness, Friendship, Spirit–Making the Most of All of Your Life to change mine. But in the end even Jane Fonda couldn't shed any more light on the inevitable decrepitude.

After all Bette Davis originated it best with her "Aging isn't for sissies" line. Even Hallmark has its "life's a bitch and then you die" cards.

My current read.
My next read.
So what does Jane say? Journaling, meditating, eating better, exercising, getting laid, vibrating, lubricating and "put a smile on your face."

WHAT? We didn't need Jane Fonda for THAT. I wanted to know what real drugs she takes (what anti depressants or diet pills if any), how she gets out of bed in the morning when she can't. But Jane always can. She always had her Dad's toughness and resiliency and coldness. I would have preferred less diet "tricks" and more how she mended her ways with her family. What's her REAL story on her own aging? (maybe she doesn't really have one). Not the PR hype.

For that true story I will need to go to Patty Bosworth's Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman. This was just published this week and no doubt Jane wanted her "Primetime" to get out ahead of Bosworth. For now I'll stick to "Primetime." Although I am wondering why.

I'm all for Jane's optimism. It's her reality that doesn't connect. Most of us elders and aging boomers are so medicated we can't get laid. And sex isn't even THE issue (it is with Jane). Getting out of bed and standing vertical IS!!! Jane professes to have a good attitude about it all and that's important. But growing old is messy and much bigger than a good attitude.

"You can't fool Mother Nature" and time will have its way with you. Nowadays no one honors aging for what it is: the beginning of the end. Jane should know it is no joyous "Primetime" but a challenging "Endgame." And it is meant to be. You can't make aging "hot" It is not meant to be.

Unfortunately our culture hasn't found a way to package and brand aging. So we dismiss it and demean it and try to make it all "youthful" again. "Anti aging" is the current buzz word, and that is a ridiculous concept.

Suzanne Somers tried to do this before Fonda. Both women were sex symbols and both made a lot of money (in their "previous lives") exercising and thigh mastering. Remember Jane's "feel the burn" and "no pain no gain"? Well, many of us "Fonda Followers" got "the burn" and felt "the pain" and now have new body parts to prove it.
Jane and Suzanne, young and "Prime Time."
Somers and Fonda are out there saying they have a handle on aging but they don't because they still yearn for youth. Isn't the whole point that "you can't go home again" and you shouldn't. Jane got her face done (Suzanne Somers obviously did something plastic to hers) and she's now on a whole new kick exercising for elders, madly facebooking, and non stop "tasking." This is to be commended ... for her! But truth be told we all must go through aging on our own. There are no real mentors or "specialists" for this "passage" including Gail Sheehy.

Acceptance might be a good opening moment. But aging is far too individual a process not to mention what our genes and environment have to say about it all. Obviously eating better and exercising is a must, but bad things happen to good people along the way like Parkinsons, Alzheimers, Cancer and Dementia. Do we put on a "Fonda happy face" during all that? Really?
There are no real mentors or "specialists" for this "passage" including Gail Sheehy.
I applaud Jane and her high stepping attitude on all this because SHE can. Luckily she has the money and the celebrity to get the best plastic surgeon and to get the best joint replacements. However she grazes over the high cost of most horrendous nursing homes or the booming cost of elder healthcare. And frankly when you speak of aging ... the buck has to stop right there. This has nothing to do with "life reviews" or journaling (Jane's suggested "bandaids"). Most people won't be able to "age gracefully" because they can't afford it! Geriatric medicine is not a popular field.

Jane didn't mention how awful ERs are to most of the elderly. Or that nursing homes are not an option and that living with children is way too destructive. She does mention that depression runs on both sides of her family but mentions nothing having to do with herself. She confesses that she was bulimic, "male complected," and had an uneasy time with her kids. But NOW she's back into movies, doing exercise tapes and of course has "newfound intimacy." What tough road has SHE been down? She still seems "driven" (is that good or bad?) and though disturbed by her own perfection-driven famous father Henry, she seems most like him. The more you try to change the more you stay the same.

On the other hand she does outstanding fundraising for Eve Ensler's V- Day, Georgia Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention and Sisterhood is Global Institute. My problem with Jane's" Primetime" is her need to "fix" aging and not acknowledge it as the mystery that it is. She is still "trying to get it right" with the "right tools." I think everyone is responsible for their "own tools." Are we really meant to get "back on track" as we age. What "track"? Isn't it time to give it up or at least revamp. NOT look or act like we did at 30 or 40 (we have the recent hideous rash of "cougars" to prove THAT point). Shouldn't we get "quiet" and do whatever we can to survive? Aren't some of us meant to "get off the stage" to let the next group in. Face it, there is no cure all to aging except ... "BRING IT ON!!!" Whatever "it" is.

By the way Jane mentions one study by a "Dr. Stone" who did a poll (who were these people polled?) saying that more people at 50 and over start to feel happier, less stressful, worried or angry. Apparently Jane feels this way herself. No longer "concerned with the problems of youth ... they have a newfound joyful perspective."If that is true why is geriatric depression and suicide on the rise. I am not sure of Jane's overall book "research."

Apparently Fonda was a big believer in taking testesterone to improve your sex life. That was a fad some years ago and many of my women friends tried it. It made them angry, aggressive and overly sexual to the point they wanted to have sex with everyone and ended up humping doorknobs. They gave it up. So did Jane. No mention of doorknobs just that it gave her acne.

At one time Somers promoted natural Hormone Replacement Therapy as a youth elixir. It also had its "moment." Now it remains controversial and questionable by many women and gynecologists I know. HRT is tricky and way too personal to be "merchandised" (as Somers tried promoting ) on a shopping network. And speaking of shopping networks, QVC may have rejected selling Jane's book not because she used to be "Hanoi Jane" (the reason released in the press) but because the book says nothing new. I would have rather she wrote another real memoir, instead we have another celebrity "How to" book.

Gloria Steinem.
Bella Abzug.
But nobody pushes it better than Jane. Even though in the end she is still addicted to perfection (face lifts) and though professes the joys of being alone and "quiet time" and no longer "male complected" is back on the road with many appearances, non-stop travel and in another relationship. Many old people suffer from loneliness, loss of purpose, and no money. Jane always had money, "people" and a successful career. No contest. Game over.

Later the same week as Jane's book publicity broke Gloria Steinem (also in her 70s) appeared promoting her HBO documentary: "Gloria: In her Own Words." It was a decent tribute and at least Gloria totally accepts her own aging. Of course she would. "I don't mind aging. Death is something else." She seems at peace with her looks and her reality.

Actually never mind Gloria I wish her dear pal Bella Abzug were around today to comment on all this and more. My concern about Gloria is how strangely irrelevant she seems today. We live in an era of Kim Kardashian, sex tapes and girls getting more money by escorting Tiger Woods around for an hour than getting real jobs. She managed to answer to that graciously wishing the next generation well: "I am a different generation. They shouldn't listen to me. They should listen to themselves and find out who they are." Thank God Gloria gets it!!!

Forget aging, staying relevant and current after 70 is tough. It is worse if you were beautiful and had a huge ego. It's hard to let go. Cher keeps coming back for a tired reprise while Tina Turner has actually "retired." At least we are left with our fond memories. When do you shut up and disappear for a loftier place? What's wrong with the question "whatever happened to?"

Only Debbie Reynolds continues with performance gusto and never stops touring in every market she can. Maybe that is her secret to her longevity. Continued hard work. She looks terrific while daughter Carrie struggled to lose 60 pounds via Jenny Craig and did odd things to her face in THAT process. Debbie remains flawless. Or howabout Joan Rivers who uses her aging as blue material for her hilarious act ...

Speaking of aging authetically. Last week a real Redwood fell in Hollywood. Edie Wasserman died at 95. I met her for the first time last year and was incredibly impressed with her incisiveness, her wit and her strength. She could hardly see and was wheelchair bound but she didn't miss a trick.
Lew and Edie Wasserman.
At the time she admitted to me life was challenging for her but she loved staying politically current and involved in her Motion Picture and Television Retirement Home. She raised millions for both passions. I asked her about aging and she valiantly retorted with; "Horrendous.

But I keep putting one foot in front of the other. What else can I do?" She was not just a "Hollywood wife" to her famous studio head husband Lew Wasserman. She was an outspoken force to be reckoned with. She and her husband were "instrumental in remaking LA from a cowtown to a cosmopolitan city." She was her own woman to her core. Her passing was the end of a Hollywood era.
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