How George Clooney Saved My Self-Esteem

A chance encounter with the gorgeous, gallant star instantly transforms one woman's approach to aging

By Susannah Bianchi
Photograph: Juliette Borda

What do you do if you're 50 and feel that you're falling apart? I've looked 35 for so long that to suddenly look my age is downright shocking.

The exact same thing happened to my cat. Missy, who is 15, looked eight for the longest time. I always wondered how she did it. Was it all that rigorous exercise—running relays across the furniture in the middle of the night, pumping blood and oxygen into her furry face—or the fish oil from the countless cans of cat food I faithfully fed her? I thought seriously about switching from my South Beach salad to 9Lives Prime Entrée with Real Salmon.

Then, overnight, Missy aged. That little black nose of hers turned white, and her eyes needed a lift. At first, I thought her mother was visiting, but then the same thing happened to me. My nose didn't change color, but my eyebrows certainly did. Out of nowhere, they were mostly the color of Santa's.

My tweezers became my new best friend, but the more I plucked, the faster the white hairs came back. It was like battling crabgrass

I called Aurora, my Romanian bikini waxer and trusty confidante, who said, “Just wait till it happens farther south.” According to her, my only recourse was to dye.

“But I'm too young to dye!” I said in a severe panic. The idea reminded me too much of my Uncle Pete, who at 83 still polished his hair along with his shoes.

I ran to the drugstore and bought $500 worth of eyebrow pencils, which not only made me eligible for a free box of Tide but also did the trick—provided I didn't let anyone get too close, since my brows looked a tad like a Paint by Number set. I tried touching up Missy's whiskers, but she kept licking off the color.

Just when I got my brows under control, my jaw began to sag. I was stunned. What about all those upward-facing dogs I do, or the series of facial exercises (which, I'll admit, look more like tics) I perform, without fail, every day on the bus? I realized at once that I couldn't pluck my way out of this one, so I did what any other hysterical, hormonally challenged 50-year-old would do: I became possessed. I spent most of my time in front of the mirror on a reconnaissance mission, waiting for the other jaw to drop. Out of nowhere, I seemed to have little satchels under my eyes, and laugh lines when I wasn't laughing. Add these to the occasional hot flash and a vagina as dry as a bran muffin, and I'll show you a weepy woman up on a ledge.

I thought of all the ways I could handle aging without actually going under the knife. I could become a recluse like Greta Garbo, buying my groceries at the all-night Food Emporium, or just pack up and move to Japan, where they respect the elderly. I decided instead to call my friend Camille.

“I have one word for you,” she said when I confided my concerns. “Consultation.”

“Consultation?” The thought of sitting with a surgeon discussing the fate of my face left me depressed and, frankly, a little hungry.

“You have the wrong attitude,” Camille told me. “Think of it as reupholstering. Your face is just like your sofa. Every 20 years or so, it gets worn out from too many people sitting on it.”

“I beg your pardon?” I suddenly saw myself being placed on my side in the back of a Toyota minivan. I agreed to meet Camille in the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan to discuss the matter further.

“What's with the scarf and dark glasses?” Camille asked when I skulked in like Mata Hari. “Are the paparazzi hounding you again?”

“That's not funny,” I said, catching my reflection in the mirror. “I'm just trying to keep a low profile.”

“You're acting nuts, you know that,” Camille said. “Your looks haven't changed all that much.”

“That's a matter of opinion,” I said, casing the bar to make sure no one I knew was there.

“Why don't you treat yourself to a little Botox?” she said, sipping her crantini. “Or if that's too extreme for you, collagen is a sure bet.”

First Published November 8, 2011

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