By Mary Gulivindala

“There’s a reason why 40, 50 and 60 don’t look the way they used to, and it’s not because of feminism or better living through exercise. It’s because of hair dye…”——-Nora Ephron.

I’m in the middle of reading Nora Ephron’s “I FEEL BAD ABOUT MY NECK AND OTHER THOUGHTS ON BEING A WOMAN.” We all have baggage, and this book sums up some of Nora’s. Nora, who died June 26 at the age of 71, hated her neck and getting old. While reading the book, I started to feel bummed out. I’m in denial that I am “middle aged” I’m 46. I have a touch of stiffness in my big left toe and my right thumb, both work-induced.

I’m not losing weight as quickly as I used to, and I have to pull printed materials back from my face to read. I get tired more quickly, but that’s because I’m uber-woman. I don’t look it, or perhaps I’m in denial about that, too. These aren’t symptoms of middle age; it’s my lifestyle choices. Oh, and I forget things, like words. I’ve given up remembering street names. I rationalize that I really don’t need to remember useless information, so why memorize it?

I watched an episode of The Oprah Show on aging. Her guest was Sophia Loren, Oscar winner, international movie star, iconic sex symbol and still a knockout today at age 78. For Sophia, getting old in the public eyes is ghastly. Imagine being an international sex symbol and getting old. I’m sure she has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); who wouldn’t? Talent she had, but vavavavoom opened doors wide open for her. She knew she was beautiful and used it to her advantage. A very smart women, but who noticed that? Perhaps only her banker.

Humble me was a dancer. People don’t understand that unless I say showgirl. My looks were a big part of my success in an industry built around beauty, smoke and mirrors. That’s not to lessen my talent, but I certainly got jobs over girls that were better dancers. Why? Because of looks. I had them, and they didn’t. Thanks, mom and dad! I have PTSD too. Show business is set up to hurt your feelings.

I’ve never had to work at looking good until now, and I don’t like it. I’m starting to see lines, not wrinkles, on my face. Wrinkles are for old people; I just sunbathe too much. If a fortune teller read my forehead 20 years ago, she would have said, “Stay out of the sun; you’re a narcissist who can’t afford Botox.” I wouldn’t have listened anyway; I was young!

I now have crows feet, those lines around your eyes that fan out. I must have been asleep on the beach when a crow landed on my face and left its talon prints; maybe it was a seagull. When I cry, the tears don’t run down my face; they roll into the lagoon my lines have made until I cock my head and they roll out. I try not to cry; it makes my mascara run.

In the summer I wear my hair pulled back in a ponytail. It’s usually wet from either sweating or swimming, and it looks and feels good off my face and neck. Of course I wear awesome sun glasses. Accessories make all the difference. I love my ponytail because it is simple. Wet it down, pull it back, hair spray until it’s invisibly hard as a helmet, and I’m good for a few days.

Bangs are my Fall and Winter “look.” I’m a product of my history, and you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Yikes, did I just admit that? In Europe bangs are known as fringe. They can be ragged or ruffled, spiked up with hair gel or swept to one side or the other, so there are options. The great thing about bangs is that they cover my forehead and give me an edgy look, stylish. They cover flaws like lines, but they are time-consuming. My bangs require a blow out with a hair dryer and a flat-iron so they stay “in place.”

Bangs create a “hairstyle,” and hairstyles are expensive so I cut my hair myself. I cut my hair, my son’s hair and my dog Henri’s hair. When our hair gets unruly, I take it to the salon. Now that summer is over, my hair is as dry as hay. It’s time for follicle surgery and to get yelled at by my hairdresser for neglect during my hairstyle consultation. Which brings me to Botox.

I’m pro-Botox; in earlier years I was a champion of Botox. I started using Botox before I needed Botox; my excuse was it was preventative. At first I had to get injections every three to four months, but eventually it spread out to about every seven months. My theory was it trained my face muscles not to move, you know, muscle memory. I am pro-plastic surgery as well. If you want your face done, New York is the place to go. For body work, LA is my suggestion. Call me, I know people.

I had really gotten used to the convenience of my ponytail, but I’m a creature of habit. I sat on the fence about how to cut my hair. Easy or edgy, bangs or Botox, bangs or Botox, easy or edgy? What do you think I chose? Bangs, not Botox. I wish I could say that I chose bangs because “I’m beautiful just the way I am” or “ It is a waste of money; why put poison in your face” and all the other medical and righteous arguments people who oppose Botox have, which are valid. But I can’t. The truth is I’m vain, and I can’t afford Botox or its upkeep. If I could, I would . I’d be at my medi-spa paralyzing my facial muscles right this minute. I will age gracefully, but I will go down with a fight. For today I have champagne taste but a beer budget. I have to use what I got, and today that’s bangs. I’m an honest work in progress!

In memory of Nora Ephron, best known for her romantic comedies and nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay): for Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally…, and Sleepless in Seattle. Her last film was Julie & Julia.