Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pretty in Pink in Post-Menopause

The other day, I had lunch with a former coworker I hadn't seen in more than ten years. As we greeted with a warm hug, I told him "You look exactly the same!" So, of course, he had to say that to me too.

But, I don't.

I am starting to go grey, and I am too lazy or too cheap (or too both) to do anything about it. My hair, cropped short as always, isn't aging in an even salt-and-pepper way either. No, always the drama queen, I have one of those Cruella DeVil localized, high contrast streaks. It's working its way from my right temple back. Lovely.

And, then there's the additional weight. When he last saw me, I was a fairly trim 40-year old. Now, I've gained ten years and with that comes a mellow maturity and some additional baggage — mainly around my middle. Suffice it to say, I like to eat muffin tops, not wear them. Yet there we are.

(Fear not gentle reader, I'm on a strict new year's resolution diet. And, we all know how well those work.)

Still, I may be older, I may be greyer, I may be ... er ... pleasingly plumper, but I have much to be thankful for. One major thing for which I count my blessings on a continual basis is how my daughter is turning out. Oh sure, she's a teenager and often she's sullen, moody, stubborn, disrespectful (did I mention she's a teenager?). But, I certainly derive satisfaction from all of her good qualities — y'know, the ones she exhibits to everyone except her loving mother.

My daughter and her peers are coming of age in a world that recognizes the power of youth and unashamedly markets to it. So, while I watched a handful of TV shows with my family (M*A*S*H comes to mind), these girls have entire networks devoted to their entertainment. ABC Family, for example (one of my daughter's favorites) boasts Pretty Little Liars, Switched at Birth, The Lying Game and The Secret Life of the American Teenager. 

Which brings me to the point of this post.

Yes, I have aged, but at least I haven't had to do it in the oh-so-critical public eye. The middle-aged mom of Secret Life's central character is played by Molly Ringwald.

How is that even possible? 

She looks really good for a woman her age. Really really good. Unfortunately, the world still and forever will think of her as the lovable, but slightly nerdy, girl from such classic 80s movies as Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink and Breakfast Club. Unlike her fellow brat-packers, she wasn't in St. Elmo's Fire, a rather whiny and thoroughly unbelievable story of a bunch of recent college grads kind of, sort of getting their sh*t together as grownups. (Hollywood legend has it that the tepid script was turned down by multiple studios. One executive described the ensemble of characters as "the most loathsome humans I have ever read on the page.") Yikes.

Still, the project attracted an A-list of then hot young things: Demi Moore, Ally Sheedy, Rob Lowe. So where was Molly through all this? Maybe she had better advisors (or better taste) than her cohorts. Maybe she was already committed to a better movie. Maybe the powers that be wanted to freeze-frame her as a perpetual teen. I think we all did. Real-life girls idolized her, dressed and pouted their puffy lips like her. She was a household name at a very young age. And then suddenly she was gone.

Or so it seemed. It's not as though Ringwald truly dropped off the face. After turning down the leads in Pretty Woman and Ghost (can you imagine?), she relocated to France where she continued to act in film and on stage. She's also appeared on Broadway.

And now, she's back and once again well-known amongst high school girls because of The Secret Life of the American Teenager. But, she's not the title's teenager and she has no secrets (well, none worth knowing if you ask the show's young audience). She is ... the MOM.

One day when my own American teenager was watching ABC Family, I felt compelled to point Ringwald out. "She was in these great movies in the 80s," I explained, "You would love them!" My daughter, to her credit and despite many other similar yet epic fails on my part, agreed to try some of those alleged greats.

I started with Sixteen Candles (my personal Molly favorite). It was exactly exactly, I mean exactly, as I remembered it. Those outfits, that adolescent angst. So deliciously dated.  Suffice it to say, it did not translate. My daughter's review was succinct: "Hated it." Okay, then. I think I may have pushed Pretty in Pink next, but we didn't make it all the way through. I abandoned ship before we ever got to The Breakfast Club.

So, where did we end up? Teen entertainment has changed pretty dramatically. I will never instill a love of the big 80s in my millennial generation daughter (although the new Carrie Diaries may be my best shot). Still, watching iconic teens turn into graceful grownups helps me know I'm not alone in this.

And whether she gets it or not, there's a very good chance that my girl will one day be a middle-aged mom herself, complete with her own tempestuous teen ... and muffin top.

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