In the latest Lenny Letter (which is run by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner) Jewish actress Amanda Peet wrote an honest essay about how she deals with the pressure of wanting to appear as young as possible in Hollywood–and how this makes her feel as a mom.
The 44-year-old mom started the essay off comparing herself to her sister, who is a doctor and associate dean of clinical education at a teaching hospital who has embraced her gray hair–while Peet describes how she has not–and in many ways, can’t if she wants “to remain a gainfully employed” actress. Peet describes how the beauty standard in Hollywood just reinforces the pressure to have surgery:
“Recently, I was told I was ineligible for a movie because I wasn’t “current” enough. I’m constantly pushed out by younger talent, like Alicia Vikander. You might think,Wait, she’s 27 and a gorgeous movie star, and you’re 44 and a low-tier, TV-mom-type; you’re not in the same ballpark.
But she is squeezing me out. She’s in the hot center and I’m on the remote perimeter. The train has left the station and I’m one of those moronic stragglers running alongside with her purse caught in the door. Everyone’s looking at me like, Let go, you bullheaded old hag! There’s no room for you.
What stands out to me the most, however, is the fact that she is concerned about what her daughters will think of her as she gets older, and what kind of example she’s leading by–especially one where appearance is important in the workplace:
“My two young daughters are growing up smack in the heart of America’s youth-obsessed beauty culture. They think watching me spend hours in hair and makeup is normal, and that it’s an integral part of my “work.” They’re learning that, in my chosen field, employability is based on looks.
Another frightening scenario is that one or both of my daughters will do as I did in my youth: go to college, take Feminist Texts and Theory, and stop shaving their legs and armpits. As hard-core feminists, they’ll write me off.”
It’s at once refreshing to see Peet, a successful actress and writer, be so candid about her fears. It is also depressing to see how women are still pigeon-holed into roles they don’t want to be in, yet find themselves in. It’s not just Hollywood, either–it can be found in any career or relationship. But Peet also realizes that if she lets herself accept aging–both physically and emotionally–she’ll be the better for it–and so will her daughters:
Botox or no Botox, we shouldn’t feel bitter, because we’re ALL going to look like shit. Every last one of us. Even Alicia Vikander. (Sorry, Alicia.) And the up-and-comer who’s on deck after her, and so on and so forth until the end of time.”
I hope Peet continues to write more personal essays that will inspire other women to open up about their struggles.