Joan Rivers on Aging

From Don't Count the Candles

From Don’t Count the Candles

Self help books are a guilty pleasure of mine. I enjoy the illusion of another life, easily achieved in just ten simple steps. But Joan Rivers’ 1999 book on aging, Don’t Count the Candles, Just Keep the Fire Lit, simply made me tired.

Here is a sample of her anti-aging program: find young friends, master the newest technologies, follow the current fashions, stay thin or get thin, change your home and your makeup, have a lot of sex, run for the bus, and get a pet. Just about the only thing she doesn’t want you to change is your job. “The paradise of retirement is possibly the most dangerous myth in America today. What could be dumber than glorifying stagnation?”

A fashion upgrade is high on her list, but I found her wardrobe suggestion surprisingly conservative. She is against eccentric dressing, advising older women to adopt tailored classics—“Halston, not Halloween.” She does not like to see older skin on display, unless it has been nipped and tucked into a youthful appearance.

Since Rivers has become the most vocal advocate of face lifts, it is no wonder that the book is dedicated to plastic surgeons of the future. She thinks that women should start radical intervention early and continue it throughout their lives.  The list of possible improvements was exhaustive (and exhausting.) “I don’t care who you are or how old, you can get something done. In fact, I don’t consider it an option, I consider it an obligation. It’s your duty to look amazing for your age.”

In the end, I found Rivers’ constant refrain that older women have an obligation to look young offensive. Does her own extremely altered face look young or just plain strange? Maybe I could have forgiven her if the book had been funnier, but I didn’t laugh much. Here is one exception, though. What’s one good thing about menopause? You can roast a chicken by setting it in your lap.

This entry was posted in 1990 and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Joan Rivers on Aging

  1. Jen O says:

    Oh dear, I spent all my facelift money on travel this year!
    After reading your review, I think her ‘take away’ advice that seems valuable might be: keep a young frame of mind in all things.
    But rather than specific steps, how you do that is up to you.

  2. Lizzie says:

    I will say this, I’m amazed at how she looks today, not that she looks amazing!

  3. It takes a lot of courage to get older in this culture without intervention (though coloring your hair doesn’t count, does it?). I miss having little old ladies around. I was just in France and noted that the middle-aged and older women, though dressing stylishly and staying thin, didn’t look botoxed and lifted, and they weren’t bottle blondes. One woman of about 70 in particular struck me; she was in a vintage 60s-looking (very well-made) coat, with a dark brunette bob, large emerald-green earrings and crimson lipstick. Fabulous and totally herself.

  4. Frances says:

    This is such interesting timing as I’ve been thinking about beauty books that deal specifically with ageing recently because of all the fuss about the new French Women Don’t Get Facelifts book (Jet Set Sewing’s comment seems extra appropriate). Some are extra inspiring, whatever your age. And some are just horrid, as this book sounds. I found Eileen Ford’s Beauty Now and Forever equally detestable (she’s also got a chapter on plastic surgery).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *