Ms. Spar’s article is dismaying on a number of counts. Most importantly, she sends a curious message to Barnard students, many of whom chose the school because of its commitment to educating women to be independent thinkers forging their own paths through a complex world.
When I entered Barnard in 1963, freshmen were subjected to naked posture pictures. (Just Google “naked posture pictures at women’s colleges” to read about the bogus science behind this) and taught how to get into a sports car in a pencil-thin skirt without putting our tushes in the air in an unladylike way. Within a couple of months, the college gave us copies of the hot-off-the-presses “Feminine Mystique” and had a lecturer speak about having our babies and our careers, too. The times were a-changin’ very rapidly.
Furthermore, Ms. Spar’s is a problem, perhaps, for folks who go to white wine kiss-kiss parties. For many of the rest of us, age brings a welcome opportunity to opt out of the youth-oriented, body-perfection vision of beauty. When I go to the theater in Santa Monica, Calif., I’m the only woman of my age with gray hair. In Cambridge, Mass., at 70, I look pretty much like the rest of my age mates.
The dilemma is not between beauty and age, but between conformity and the confidence to be one’s self.