anne mikolay 2012 120On October 20th, actress Renee Zellweger arrived at the 2014 Elle Women in Hollywood awards with a new face. As a result of very obvious plastic surgery, the perky, adorable star of Bridget Jones Diary and Oscar winner (Best Supporting Actress, Cold Mountain, 2003) is now unrecognizable. The 45 year old celebrity, like many of her peers who have gone under the knife, denies the surgery and blames any changes in her face on inevitable aging. Despite her explanation, the media is debating whether Zellweger's face now diminishes her charm and likability, going so far as to speculate whether her appearance presents an insurmountable roadblock in the making of the proposed Bridget Jones Diary III. While some people might find the debate (tagged by the media as “Face Gate”) over Zellweger's alleged plastic surgery amusing, I'm not laughing. Face Gate clearly illustrates how shallow our society has become.

Why would an attractive woman like Renee Zellweger feel the need to “improve” her face with plastic surgery? The answer is obvious. Hollywood, like the rest of America, values youth over age. We are encouraged to find the fountain of youth, forestall the aging process, and do everything we can to hide advancing years. Our society devalues older generations; little wonder actresses like Zellweger buckle under the pressure to look young, be young. The message is clear: if you're not young and attractive, you're not desirable. Nobody wants you. Not the workplace. Not Wall Street. Not Hollywood. When you hit middle-age, you're encouraged to recapture the brass ring and turn back time any way you can. For celebrities with deep pockets, that means dipping into the fountain of youth via plastic surgery, a drastic measure to remain current, to please society. Ask Zellweger, Meg Ryan, Michael Learned, Marie Osmond, Cher, and a host of others. When the deed is done, what does society do? We turn around and joke about celebrities' “new” faces, chastise them in the media, critique their unnatural perfection. Why would an attractive woman like Renee Zellweger feel the need to “improve” her face with plastic surgery? Because society made her feel that way.

Say what you want about Face Gate, but everyone (myself included) who has ever purchased a hair color kit is equally guilty of attempting to stop the hands of time. Thus, you have 60 year old women with unnaturally jet-black hair, old ladies stiffly coiffed like their 1950s selves, middle aged men with toupees that don't match their wrinkled skin, females over forty wearing high heels and tight jeans well beyond the age when such attire is “fashionable”, and a growing class of people who don't realize that these efforts to hide advancing age are nothing more than red flags proclaiming their insecurities.

Aging is a catch-22 situation. We're all fighting a battle that can't be won. Bottom line: do what makes you feel good about yourself. If you are happy being sixty with jet-black hair, go for it. If you feel more confident in a toupee, so be it. And if a celebrity, like Renee Zellweger, wants plastic surgery, what difference does it make to the rest of us?  That being said, however, I like to think Sophia Loren got it right when she said, “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”