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[orchestral fanfare]

 

(LIPSYTE)

Coming up on "Life (Part 2)"-- maybe you're tempted, maybe you're doing it--plastic surgery, what it says about who we are about getting older. And later, Faye Wattleton, the outspoken 60-something feminist who's had a few nips and tucks and isn't afraid to say so. Plus, one baby boomer redefines what it means to be hip. All coming up on "Life (Part 2)."

(woman)

Major funding for "Life (Part 2)" was provided by The Atlantic Philanthropies--engaging many to improve the lives of and achieve health and economic security for older adults. And by MetLife Foundation--celebrating the wisdom, talent, and experience of older adults. MetLife Foundation proudly supports "Life (Part 2)."

 [bass, & plucked strings play in playful rhythm; bright in tone]

(LIPSYTE)

Welcome to "Life (Part 2)." I'm Robert Lipsyte, and I haven't had cosmetic surgery-- yet. A few years ago, the thought of it seemed unnatural, immoral, creepy, unless, of course, you were an actor or a network television anchor.

Since then, several friends of mine have had "work," as they call it. More have had Botox injections. They look better, and they say they feel more confident. And they claim the needle and the knife have saved their jobs.

Who am I to argue with that? Yet, I am uneasy about the relentless marketing of cosmetic procedures. How quick and simple they are, safe and painless. How you owe it to yourself, if not your partner and your boss, to look as young as you can. I sense the next big sell. If you don't smooth your wrinkles, lift your eyes, un-jowl your jaw, renovate your chest, boost your butt, you're simply not trying hard enough to be your best.

Maybe this genie is out of the bottle. Like steroids in sports, we'll have to accept that those who choose not to be enhanced may be operating at a disadvantage. Well, we'll just have to work harder, pump up our personalities and our smarts. But before you go under the knife, wait. Listen to what our cutting-edge panel has to say. You could argue that our obsession with looking younger was born in Hollywood.

Well, Leslie Oren lives and works in the belly of that youth obsessed beast. She is the former Senior Vice President of Publicity and Communication for Fox TV Studios and now runs her own publicity company, Baby grande, and actually openly admits Leslie has had a little work done.

For our generation, no conversation about image and appearance is complete without a feminist perspective. That's why we're delighted to welcome Kathy Rodgers, former President of Legal Momentum, the nation's oldest legal organization devoted to advancing women's rights.

Dr. Gerald Pitman is a leading plastic surgeon in New York City. He's Clinical Professor of Surgery at the New York University School of Medicine, and he's in private practice in New York City.

Welcome all to "Life (Part 2)." We have talked about you long enough. Let's talk about me.

Leslie, take a really good look-- a hypothetical situation--I'm one of your clients, I'm an aging movie star. What work would you suggest for my face?

(LESLIE)

Well, I'll tell you the truth. When I work with a client on a launch of a product or a show, the first thing that we do, you might be surprised to learn, is not look at the face and say, what do they need? My feeling would be, the people who hired you hired you for a reason, and so I don't think I would actually start with your physical appearance, which I think is actually pretty nice.

(LIPSYTE)

I think you've neatly avoided the question, as a publicity agent should do! Now we'll get a medical opinion. What's possible? What's possible? What makes sense?

(DR. PITMAN)

The first thing I would say to you is, do you really need it?

(LIPSYTE)

 Not do I want it?

(DR. PITMAN)

Well, they're not equivalent. But do you really need it for your work? Second thing I would say to you is, if you want to look younger, what have you done to try to help yourself? Are you getting enough sleep, so that you don't look tired? People think they look tired because their eyes are in shadow, but sometimes it's just because they're not getting enough sleep. Plastic surgery is wonderful. It can be transformative. But I would, before jumping into the surgery, I would think first about what you can do for yourself. Have you had work? Would you have work?

(LIPSYTE)

Kathy, it seems to me that it says something about our culture, particularly a Boomer generation of "fix me." Are we not satisfied with ourselves? Have we lost some sense of who we are?

(KATHY)

That's a very interesting question because we have a society in which appearance is something very important to everyone. We discriminate in favor of good-looking people, tall people, slim people, and for the baby boomer, you get this added thing of, we're in a generation where we feel so good, and we feel young, but suddenly we're not looking the way we feel. And so people are saying well, there's something wrong with this.

I think that's true. But I also think that as the Boomers have aged, it always seemed to me that the cool age of the moment was whatever the Boomers happened to be. And so now the Boomers are 50s, 60s, and so they're grappling with my body, my face doesn't look exactly the way it did when I was young, and I'm still feeling young and cool and hip, and I have all these interests, and I want physically to reflect that.

(LIPSYTE)

What are the most common procedures that you are called upon to perform these days?

(GUEST)

Well for the age group we're talking about, baby boomers, it's largely facial rejuvenative. It's things like facelifts, forehead lifts, eyelid operations. In the younger age group, it would be things like breast augmentation and liposuction.

(LIPSYTE)

Would you have work done?

(GUEST)

I don't see the need at this point for the cosmetic surgery. Now, never say "never." It's not as if this were some evil thing. But there's a mega picture here that we're not looking at, which is this obsession with the youth look, and for women this becomes a double problem. Something like more than 90% of women cannot meet the weight and appearance standards that are being presented to us in the media, on the busses that we watch going down the street, and my question is, why aren't a few wrinkles okay? Why aren't a few wrinkles okay?

(LESLIE)

They're absolutely okay, and I...

(LIPSYTE)

You've had Botox.

(LESLIE)

I have. I don't have it now, but I have had it, and I loved it, by the way.

(LIPSYTE)

You at one time, you thought a few wrinkles were not okay.

(GUEST)

Well, there's pressure out there, and the messaging. No matter how expert you are in your field and no matter how strong in the work that you do, your own personal internal work is, I think it's really easy to fall prey to the pressure. I think what we're all afraid of is, the actresses that we see, and we all know them, I see them walking down the street where I live, and we certainly see them on television and in the movies, but they look freakish. They don't look like themselves, and they don't look like anyone we recognize, and that's kind of I think when it takes over too much, and I think it would be nice if certain doctors also would say, you know what? I'm not going there.

(LIPSYTE)

Dr. Pitman, what are your criteria for turning down a prospective patient?

(DR. PITMAN)

That's a good question, Bob. About 10% of the patients that come to the office that seek plastic surgery and want it, I don't operate on for one reason or another. One, I like the patient to be able to articulate what it is that they're in the office for. For instance, Kathy, say you came to the office, [both laugh] in the unlikely event that you were in the office.

We would sit down together, and I would say, please tell me how you would like me to help you. And what I'm looking for is the patient to articulate a featural imperfection, something that bothers them. My neck hangs, my breasts are too small, I'm not comfortable with this. That's fine, and that's a good sign.

If the patient, however, says I'm miserable, I can't stand the way I look. Frequently, that's a sign that it's really not about the physical issues. It's about something else going on. So I look very carefully at that kind of patient. We've been led to believe that the Boomer generation, which is "fix it" mentality, is going to plastic surgeons.

(LIPSYTE)

Are you seeing more people in that late 40 to early 60 group?

(GUEST)

Well, yes, they're the principal consumers of plastic surgery services for 2 reasons. One, they're aging and indeed have changes in their appearance that displease them. It's a sign of their approaching mortality. And two, they frequently have more financial resources than the younger person who's just raising a family, hasn't hit his peak earning years, so yes, they... Who are led to believe that they have a mindset. Since they've been coddled by the Greatest Generation growing up, that things can be fixed, and that they deserve "the best!" There certainly seems to be a comfort level with it that is generational, that when I was a child, it was a big deal, and now it's mainstream.

(LIPSYTE)

So we have a comfort level, like what you were saying about being desensitized. We're going to have another generation that's going to think of it as going to the hairdresser.

(GUEST)

Well, I don't think it's mainstream yet. One thing, plastic surgery is still quite expensive, so it's a narrow slice of the population that can even do this. But plastic surgeons have financing now. You go into offices, and they'll make it easy to do! Well still, it's expensive, and what are people spending their money on? So that puts me on the edge of worrying again because if we over-commercialize this, and we say this is what you have to be, and we make it so "easy" for people to do it, what is the message we're sending?

(GUEST)

I just picked up a paper yesterday and there was a big ad in the paper about, "Invest in yourself--you cannot afford not to." And it was about liposuction.

(LIPSYTE)

Kathy, before you go on, I think the 3 most dangerous words in plastic surgery are "it's just liposuction."

(GUEST)

No, it's surgery, so you want to make sure, not that you really need it, because nobody has to have cosmetic surgery--it's not like having appendicitis, you have to have your appendix taken out. But that you really want it and there aren't alternatives.

That's another thing, Dr. Pitman. As Boomers age, as with any kind of surgery, recovery is slower, possibility of repercussions are greater.

As you get older, particularly into your 60s or 70s, you don't have the same kind of physiologic reserve or ability to recover from a procedure. The biggest determinant of how long it's going to take you to recover, and risk, if you will, is how long the procedure is and how extensive the scope. So older patients, baby boomers, should consider doing less rather than more.

(LIPSYTE)

Well, thank you all for joining us on "Life (Part 2)," and may we all be comfortable in our skins, even if it's a little tighter.

(LIPSYTE)

Faye Wattleton, the feminist activist is not giving up the fight as she enters her 7th decade. She became the first woman to head Planned Parenthood in 1978, and her memoir "Life on the Line" is the story of her 14 years in one of the most controversial jobs in America. These days, Wattleton continues to advocate for poor and minority women as President of the nonprofit Center for the Advancement of Women. I talked to her about reconciling feminism and her cosmetic surgery, and her hopes and fears for the future.

Faye, thanks so much for joining "Life (Part 2)." So here's my problem, Doctor. I've always considered you the most beautiful activist in America...Thank you. ...so I'm torn between asking you the political questions I'm supposed to ask and the beauty tips that our audience really wants.

You were born in 1943. What do you do to keep looking so great?

(FAYE)

Ah! By the way, I don't think that asking about one's appearance or one's beauty is an apolitical question. I think that appearance and how we look and how we feel about ourselves and how we project ourselves to other people is very, very important to us. It's important to our mental well-being, our sense of the way we relate to other people, and so you've asked me a very important question.

I think that one of the reasons that I have maintained a verve for life is that I've not attempted to define my progression in life by age. I simply live my life, and I do what I want to do. And so I don't feel a sense that I'm this age, and so I must behave in this way.

Then I've just really tried to take very good care of myself. I have never smoked, I drink very little. And I also visited the plastic surgeon fairly early in my career. I've spent many years of my life in public life, and early on I realized that looking good was really important to people paying attention to you. And so I visited the plastic surgeon in my mid 40s in order to keep my appearance fresh and interesting as I can. I can't be something that I'm not, but at least to maintain what I have.

(LIPSYTE)

Well, you know, somehow it sounds very political that you're open about the plastic surgery.

(FAYE)

Sounds like you're making a point. Why shouldn't I be open? I mean, we're open about going to the gym. We're open about dying our hair, coloring our hair, coloring over the gray. Anyone who's in their 50s, and they don't have a single wrinkle and they just simply drink lots of water and they have a positive attitude about life is somewhat suspect in my mind. But maybe it's because of my nursing professional background that I see these things much more in clinical terms than in mystical terms. We age! I mean, we do, and each of us ages in a different way and at a different rate, and what we do with that should be left to us, and it should not be defined by other people or be subject to others' approval or disapproval. So I sort of try to live as I see fit. Not as the way other people think I should.

(LIPSYTE)

Yeah. Well, as the surgeon devil's advocate, the idea that you're not allowing the wrinkles, the kind of marks of age, is that ageist? Is that in any way anti-woman, anti-feminist?

(FAYE)

It's not in any way. It's what I feel that I should do. I could also say well, I shouldn't put on lipstick this morning because putting on lipstick might create an image that I'm antifeminist. That everything must be completely natural as biology defines it. That's not the definition of feminism. The definition of feminism is that I am not in any way penalized for the choices that I make because of my gender. Not because of the approval or disapproval of someone else's value system.

(LIPSYTE)

Obviously with that attitude and that kind of positive strength, the way that you reinvented yourself, I want you to kind of take us through 14 years at the center of the most moral, vicious social storm in American life. Then you stepped away. How does a person pushing 50 or even beyond know when it's time, and then what do you do? And should you prepare for it?

(FAYE)

I have really never prepared for a next stage in life. I have lived a life as, and I viewed life as a spectrum. That we're sort of on a journey, to use an overused metaphor, for what we should be doing in the here and now is a preparation for what is to come, and not thinking well, in 5 years this is where I want to be. I have not lived my life on those terms. And so I've never seen myself as a reinvention. I've just simply stepped up to opportunities as they have presented themselves.

I would never have imagined myself to be President of Planned Parenthood. I came from a very humble background of southern immigrant parents, who went to the North to the cities to find a better life, jobs. I think my leadership--the reason that you probably are talking to me 30 years later is because maybe you sensed even in those years when we talked that I was honest about what I engaged in.

I had integrity about leadership, and I think that that's often missing today among leaders because there's a desire to paper over and not to be honest about where we are in life and what our struggles are about.

(LIPSYTE)

Are you talking about the times or younger people?

(FAYE)

 I think the times, I think younger people. Maybe younger people--I have a daughter 30, and she's perhaps more honest than I'd like her to be. I even say to her sometimes, you don't have to tell everything. You don't have to tell your boyfriend every experience you've had. Then I may have been a little bit more forthcoming than maybe I am now. So maybe it is a matter of the times.

(LIPSYTE)

It seems to me, and I have a daughter kind of your daughter's age, that young women who have not come through the struggle of feminism, sometimes tend to take it for granted and don't really quite see the issues.

(FAYE)

Well, If we all take things for granted that we have, that were given to us, and that we grow up with assuming. We take the air we breathe for granted until somebody tells us it's... You're being so evenhanded about this.

(LIPSYTE)

Well, you have to be.

(FAYE)

Why? Because, listen, if my daughter had the same struggles that I had growing up, well, what progress will I have helped her to live in? And so we have to look at where they are today. We fought for those rights. The danger is that we who live in society and who knew what it was like are complacent. It isn't that our daughters are complacent because they haven't had those experiences that brought us to this point. But when we see ourselves going back, then we have to look at our own selves in the mirror and say, it's going back.

(LIPSYTE)

Do you find your generation complacent?

(FAYE)

Absolutely, our data absolutely does show that middle-aged, especially white women, are far more conservative than are their Latina and African American counterparts.

(LIPSYTE)

More so than they used to be?

(FAYE)

More so than they used to be.

(LIPSYTE)

What do you attribute that to?

(FAYE)

 We attribute it to a lot more connection to religious institutions. We have seen that women tell us that they are more engaged in their religious communities, and conservative religious dogma

or doctrines have compelled in a way that the mainstream denominations have not attracted memberships. They speak to everyday life circumstances that people are looking for answers to their daily problems.

(LIPSYTE)

Do you think that we can count on growing wiser as we grow older?

(FAYE)

We do, I think I am wiser. I hope I'm wiser. If I haven't, boy, there's really been a lot of wasted time. I think that with wisdom we gain a better perception of other people's sensitivities, how to be more involved and engage with other people, and that can only come about if you've lived a life, and if you had those experiences and integrated them and internalized them. A lot of people never do. They just simply fluff them off, or they fail to acknowledge them. But I've tried to do better with my life than I might have done if I had just ignored the experiences.

(LIPSYTE)

Are you less afraid?

(FAYE)

That's a very interesting question. I think I may be more afraid as I grow older. As I am reaching the stage in my life when I'm losing friends and relatives, some of them younger than I am, you wonder when you are older, whether people will be there that you had counted on to be in your life and to be your caretakers or the people who care for you and whom you have relied upon in your life.

I even think about what if my daughter predeceases me. I have only one child. What might my old age look like if I live to be as old as my mother at 93 and I'm in the care of strangers? What does that mean?

So I think that there is a degree of vulnerability that we reach at a different stage of life that we may have felt as a child. And these are hard things to plan for. Well, you do the best, and you hope for the best, and you think that things have always managed to work out.

Yes, we may have to suffer a bit, and usually the suffering precedes something that's really a blessing, but will there be a period of your life in which everything is tough as we grow older and sicker and have greater debilities? That is something that I do fear, and I worry about.

(LIPSYTE)

Well thanks for the bad news!

(FAYE)

Well, this is life.

(LIPSYTE)

thanks so much...

(FAYE)

Thank you for having me.

(LIPSYTE)

 ...for joining "Life (Part 2)."

(FAYE)

My pleasure.

(LIPSYTE)

Darryl Pinckney is a regular contributor to "The New York Review of Books." His own books include a novel, "High Cotton" and "Out There: Mavericks of Black Literature." In his youth, Darryl spent a lot of time hanging out late at very hip places in New York City. But like many of us, his idea of a good time has evolved over the years.

(DARRYL)

Once upon a time, the young would put the elderly on rafts and float them out to sea. I think of that when I'm out walking and can't keep up with the younger guy ahead of me simply because my stride no longer has the same elasticity as his. He disappears into the next block, his scalp full of essential oils. Overnight I've become the age of my college students' parents, if not older. One girl in class said, "Molly," and I didn't know that that was slang for a drug. 30 years ago, I would have. In my head, I used to be hip. I had friends who were hip, and I tagged along. But all of a sudden, I can't even stay out late. Just this past New Year's Eve, I heard Patti Smith at the Bowery Ballroom.

She was great, and she's still hip because she has no fear of the young. But a while after midnight, I was desperate to be on my way home to the cozy sounds of my radiators. My hipness card expired a long time ago. I can't speak the night's language anymore.

Downtown, where the condos and restaurants are now, I see the vanished landscape of dark clouds and abandoned corners. I've become an old head who says, "in my day." It's one of the most tiresome things you can be in New York-- formerly hip. Then I must not forget that like everyone, the hip also went out to find someone to stay home with.

Homelife is a consolation of the formerly hip. Staying up late, but not too late, on another New Year's Eve with that someone met one smoky night 20 years ago isn't hip, but it's cool by me.

(LIPSYTE)

And Darryl Pinckney, you're still cool with me. For now, that's it for "Life (Part 2)." Thanks for joining us. I'm Robert Lipsyte. See you next time, older and better.

(WOMAN)

Are you ready for "Life (Part 2)?" Find information, inspiration... All I can tell you is, getting old is not for sissies! and insight on life after 50 on pbs.org.

Thank you!

[laughs]

(WOMAN)

To order "Life (Part 2) on DVD visit us at shopPBS.org or call PBS Home Video at... CC--Armour Captioning & TPT

(WOMAN)

Major funding for "Life (Part 2)" was provided by The Atlantic Philanthropies--engaging many to improve the lives of and achieve health and economic security for older adults. And by MetLife Foundation--celebrating the wisdom, talent, and experience of older adults. MetLife Foundation proudly supports "Life (Part 2)."

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