After being one of her fans over the years, I was shocked to read several bitter and sullen quotes from the longtime editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, Helen Gurley Brown. It seems the immutable laws of life and time had finally stolen her endless energy and sex appeal, or at least she thought so, and she was darned miffed about it.
Never mind that she had what should be the satisfaction of an extraordinary career and its attending fame. She had, according to chronicles I read of her over the years, a host of intellectually scintillating friends and sophisticated acquaintances who surely bore her some affection. And she had money, lots and lots of money.
It seemed she entirely focused on how pathetic life was as she grew older and was no longer firm and fetching. One of her themes I recall is a standard, about how unfair it is that older men getting sexier, women not so much.
One could say that since she spent several decades vehemently trying to convince the world that being young and sexy was absolutely all that mattered, growing old and frail might have been her perfect comeuppance. What did she think was going to happen? Even with tucks, implants and suction, the body is an unreliable and annoying creature.
I found it disappointing that she used the sexual revolution to the hilt but missed the simultaneous social upheaval that began to teach people that women have much to offer this world other than youthful beauty. Didn’t she ever meet an older woman she found interesting to talk to, delightful to laugh with, reassuring as a companion or worth learning from?
She dismantled what could have been a lovely time of life for her, as a wise and glamorous dowager (I bet she hates that word!). She had a life many women, especially women of arts and letters, can only dream about. She must have been a creative and clever woman to have run Cosmo for 32 years. She was certainly experienced in many areas (besides how to make up quizzes on sexual compatibility). Her time had come to just sit back and be regal – wrinkled, sure, and maybe a tad slow, but still regal. Instead, she stewed.
Barbara Bush, Katherine Graham and Maggie Smith, Lauren Bacall and Katharine Hepburn know about regal. They became aging, wrinkled, not perfectly firm, not perfectly witty in all their discussions, yet they remained fascinating and striking women.
I would thrill to sit next to any one of them at dinner for one night, and so would most any man I know. Theses women proceed with enviable grace and dignity.
Ms. Gurley Brown, seems to have overlooked grooming oneself to age with dignity. Perhaps she should have given it at least one cover.
Jean Gillette is a freelance writer working hard on that regal thing. Contact her at [email protected].