I’ve been thinking a lot about Caitlyn Jenner lately, because who hasn’t? I think there was a law passed somewhere that says we have to.
The first thing that occurred to me was to wonder whether Jenner would apply for admission to college. Mount Holyoke, Smith, Wellesley, Barnard, Mills would welcome an application from Jenner. Alas, as Bruce, Caitlyn graduated from Graceland University (then Graceland College) back in 1973, some forty two years ago.
Which brings me to the second thing that’s occurred to me to puzzle over as I contemplate the changing nature of Jenner’s appearance. It’s not been a transition from man to woman, I think, so much as it has been from man to girl. Jenner is 65 years old, and yet sports the perky, pointy breasts of a well-developed nymphette and lush, shiny locks that post-menopausal women can only but remember fondly.
Where, I wonder, is the faint shadow of a mustache on Jenner’s upper lip? Look closely at any 65-year-old woman and you will see one. Where are the stiff, stray hairs sprouting from Jenner’s chin? Unless relentlessly plucked, these little demons are tormenting reminders one’s womanly body no longer courses with the elixir of youth—estrogen.
Jenner’s passion to look like a woman feels inauthentic to me. What’s with the bare arms? No self-respecting 65-year-old woman goes sleeveless. Look at Helen Mirren. Or Meryl Streep. Or Diane Keaton. Where are the Alfred Dunner elastic waist pants? Where are the comfy Naturalizer slip-ons? The bifocals? The watch with extra-large numbers? As for Jenner’s choice of undergarments, the last time I saw a picture of a 65-year-old woman in anything other than her street clothes was…never.
My mother who was beautiful until the day she died, at age 90, nonetheless used to look in the mirror and sigh, “I don’t feel like this on the inside.” She started saying this when she was around 50 (and very much still hot stuff), even though she was meticulous about her grooming. My mother’s lament is one that I think all of us women of a certain age say to ourselves.
Some of use potions and lotions to forestall the inevitable; others submit to plastic surgery or the injection of toxic substances. But most of us simply accept that the beautiful young women we once were live on inside us, but our outsides reflect the mature women we have become. One would think the young woman residing in the 65-year-old Jenner would recognize this after all those years. I wonder why not.
Those of us who are mothers have stretch marks on our breasts and bellies. Even some us who never had kids have those same wiggly lines. There isn’t a one of us who hasn’t mourned the loss of our once-narrow shoe size as our feet, like our backsides, have spread. Little brown freckles appear overnight on our hands, and no moisturizer can make them go away. After menopause, losing those last five pounds becomes a battle for which there is no victory. Lips and hair thin, though, in a kind of perverse be-careful-what-you-wish-for irony. Skin once taut becomes more flexible, shall we say.
Can we really say in all honesty that Caitlyn Jenner is a 65-year-old woman?