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.