CAN YOU BE A BOMBSHELL AT 80? Some deep thoughts on beauty from a dubious source.

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Gloria Steinem is often remembered for her undercover work (no pun intended!) as a journalist who posed as a Playboy bunny to (ahem) expose  the exploitative working conditions of women at the Playboy Club in New York. Twenty-nine years old, thin, pretty, and possessed of a winning smile, Steinem had no trouble looking every bit her role.  She would later go on to become one of the most revered and respected influencers in the women’s rights movement. On March 25, Gloria Steinem turned 80. I read about it in the NY Times.

I am easily entertained by the NY Times Style magazine because  the fashions, jewelry, and even the articles are either hilariously excessive or stunningly vapid. Granted, I’m no fashion maven, but I’m also not stupid enough to pay thousands of dollars for this.


Chanel Hula Hoop Bag


So imagine my surprise when I came across an article in  Style magazine on beauty that was – well – beautiful. The author, Andrew O’Hagan, was trying to make the case that when a woman’s experiences can be read on her face, it’s then – and only then – that her true beauty appears.  “Only with stupid men does a woman’s intelligence count against her,” he says.  “But maybe a hundred generations of stupid men have succeeded in convincing women that they’re only as good as the condition of their skin. There has probably never been a period so youth-obsessed as ours: we speak of unlined faces as we once spoke of noble minds…” Some other thoughts to ponder: “True beauty is not built to diminish, but to mature. Sexiness is not a stroke of luck but a movable feast.” “If you are interested in a woman, you are taken with her beauty’s changefulness, its complications, its mysteries, and you come to see how the vagaries of time supply oxygen to the elegance of what she has.” The article was both graceful and eloquent, BUT, being the NY Times Style magazine, it chose photographs of 20-something actresses for the visuals. 

Reading about Gloria Steinem’s 80th birthday reminded me of a visit I made awhile back to see a friend in NYC. It was autumn, and we walked through Rockefeller Center on our way to Bryant Park just a mile away. Displayed in the courtyard were  Rodin sculptures, larger than life, butts hanging out in the October sun. “Are these copies?” I asked one of the security guards. “No,” he answered, “Don’t touch.” Original Rodins within my reach? Could it get any better? Yes, it could.




As we made our way to Bryant Park I heard a familiar voice singing its way above the honks and sirens. Closer, the voice revealed itself as Cyndi Lauper’s: she was giving a free concert in the park. We sat down on the grass and watched her flail and wail all over the stage. “Only in New York can you see classic sculpture and a pop superstar in the same hour,” I said to my friend when the concert concluded. We decided to grab something to eat at the Park’s restaurant – an original idea shared by all the other concert-goers as well.  The line was long, and as we stood in it, I eavesdropped on the conversation taking place behind me, a conversation between several young women  asking an older woman for advice. The advice was surprisingly deep and original and delivered with such humanity I had to turn around and steal a glance at this wisdom-dispensing woman. 

It was Gloria Steinem.

I’ve bumped into celebrities before – I once shared an elevator with Dick Clark – but this was different. This wasn’t a celebrity, this was an icon, a genuine historical figure. I thought of all the words I could say that might hold enough intelligence to be worthy of her hearing them. I turned to Ms. Steinem who saw that I wanted to speak to her and politely paused her conversation with the young ladies. She smiled, waiting. What I planned to say was, “You have made the world I live in now a different and better place for our entire gender. Thank you.” That  dissolved into a sea of stutters until finally I burst out, “I think you’re wonderful!”  Gloria Steinem answered simply, “I think you’re wonderful too.”

And that’s the thing. Gloria Steinem really does think I’m wonderful and she thinks you’re wonderful and that’s why she’s spent her lifetime fighting to make a more humane world for all of us wonderful women. When you look at the face of the 80-year-old Gloria Steinem, you don’t see a woman with wrinkles and gray roots. You see the triumph of a life lived in service of man and womankind, service undertaken with a glad heart and a clean soul and fierce hope for a better world. That’s real beauty, and time — the sneaky thief — can never take that away from her nor can a surgeon’s knife ever improve upon it. O’Hagan says it better than I can: “…Now perhaps we can look at a beautiful woman and know she will be beautiful to the end of her life. She will be different, of course. And yet, like a fine Proustian sentence, she will have gathered time and harvested memory, lived through a million bodily shocks and mental joys and arrived at the perfect embodiment of herself right now.”

Can you be a bombshell at 80?  Hell yes, and the good news it has nothing to do with your looks.


What are your thoughts on ageless beauty?


  1. Ken Caputo said...

    This is one of your most insightful blogs. Imagine running into Gloria Steinem! She IS a timeless beauty and yes, it has more to do with that inner drive and strength to overcome so much. From the male perspective I feel there is beauty at every age. It’s especially evident when you see women who have lived long lives and gone through every imaginable challenge. But the old adage remains true – “beauty is only skin deep.”

    Comment posted on April 25, 2014 at 5:29 pm

  2. Neame said...

    Thank you so much for making the point that “beauty is more than skin deep”. It lies at the core of who a person is, and women, like men, are to be valued for who they are at the heart of their being. But you say it so much better than I…..

    Comment posted on April 29, 2014 at 8:48 pm

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