Well. I love this. Helen Mirren is owning the cover of this magazine, a resplendent septuagenarian, wrapped in the tattooed arm of a faceless person as if to say, “Yes, he adores me, and I’ll allow it because I AM WOMAN.” It doesn’t even matter if it’s a male or female arm, and that’s even better. It’s not about the owner. It’s about the power, which is leaking out of Helen. Her face says, “Maybe it’ll happen, maybe it won’t. But I decide.” Yes, I just grumped about two ladies dripping off The Weeknd on Harper’s Bazaar, but that’s because it told a boring, tired story — Man With Ladies As Accessories — and by contrast this one speaks many more interesting and rare volumes.

From the story:

If there were advice for her younger self, it’d be to say “Fuck off” more and stop being so “bloody polite.” “In those days, you had to,” she says. “It’s hard to explain how difficult it is to overcome the culture. You become a voice in the wilderness. No one wants to listen.”

That’s poignant on a lot of levels. How difficult it is to overcome the culture. A voice in the wilderness that no one seems to hear. There are a lot of people feeling that way now, and even more who have been trying for eons to say, “We have felt that way always.”

Also, Allure is getting a fair bit of mileage out of the anti-“Anti-Aging” campaign.

“Whether we know it or not, [the term is] subtly reinforcing the message that aging is a condition we need to battle […] Repeat after me: Growing older is a wonderful thing because it means that we get a chance, every day, to live a full, happy life.”

When talking about a woman over, say, 40, people tend to add qualifiers: ‘She looks great…for her age’ or ‘She’s beautiful…for an older woman.’ Catch yourself next time and consider what would happen if you just said, ‘She looks great.’ Yes, Americans put youth on a pedestal. But let’s agree that appreciating the dewy rosiness of youth doesn’t mean we become suddenly hideous as years go by.

We discussed this in the comments if a post the other day, where very salient points were made about fetishizing agelessness, and my counterpoint was that I often admire it from the standpoint of it being technically difficult to achieve in a convincing way (see: Cate Blanchett, who SURELY has had work done, but it’s just A+level stuff because it’s impossible to see and she looks exactly the same). I am not going to lie: If someone ever told me I looked ageless, I would be super flattered, much the same way as someone telling me my hair looked nice or that I look fit. I don’t pretend not to have a drop of vanity, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. Moreover, I think you CAN appreciate and compliment someone’s dewy, youthful rosiness without it meaning you find others hideous. And you can take care of your skin, or try to, without treating it like a battlefield or viewing anyone else’s as such; you can appreciate dewy, youthful rosiness, without it meaning that you find lines and older faces to be hideous, because it’s not a zero-sum game. I don’t think it’s fair to tell people they’re shallow for wanting to use a groovy moisturizer that makes them feel a little extra glowy and smooth. Much as smart women can enjoy fluffy subjects, so too can smart and cool and independent women dig on their corrective creams.

But I do hear and understand the objections that celebrities — whom we most publicly and repeatedly compliment in this manner — have access to serums and lotions and procedures most people do not, and nips and tucks so good that they set just as poor an example for the rest of us as Photoshop does. That makes sense to me, as an objection. (Though I honestly have no idea if Cate, for example, has had anyone touch her face but her own SKII-coated finger.) So, given the presumed advantage of anyone playing on that type of field, when does the well-intentioned compliment cross into perpetuating something unfair and unrealistic? And can Allure really keep advertising and writing up lotions and foundation and other products with all the sauciest, sexiest ingredients — and featuring people on its cover who may themselves have chased time in a bottle in various ways — and still reject anti-aging as a label without that being a surface distinction at best? Or is this all sound and no fury? I can’t help wondering if, at the end of the day, this all just says, “It’s totally cool to still do whatever you want to fight aging, as long as you’re not calling it that.”

[Photo: Allure]