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Why I admire Caroline Kennedy

Caroline Kennedy smiles as she speaks forum John F. Kennedy Library BostOct. 3. Unlike some high-profile women she shows her

Caroline Kennedy smiles as she speaks at a forum at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston on Oct. 3. Unlike some high-profile women, she shows her age. | AP

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Updated: December 7, 2011 8:05AM



There are a lot of reasons to admire Caroline Kennedy. Her thoughtful books on civil liberties. Her dedication to public service. And more recently, her brave decision to release the book and CD set “Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy.” The tape recordings put the former first lady in a new, honest-though-slightly-dimmer light, revealing Jackie to actually have been a real person with a mean gossipy streak.

But I respect Caroline Kennedy most for something else entirely: her choice not to remove her wrinkles. Not the crow’s feet under her eyes. Nor the marionette lines around her mouth. Or a brow so deeply furrowed you could almost plant a row of corn in there. A brow, I might add, which is not unlike my own.

The truth is it’s getting harder and harder for mature women like me to find physical role models in the public eye whom we can identify with. And, yes, it pleases me to know there is at least one high-profile woman who hasn’t succumbed to the scalpel.

Just about every actress over 35 has had a face-lift or an eye job or is getting tweaked with injectables such as Botox, Restylane and Juvederm. (Some of these actresses are even younger. Think Heidi Montag, who had 10 procedures in one day.)

Yeah, there are celebs who end up looking, well, weird. There’s Cher, with her bee-stung lips. And Joan Rivers, who is prettier at 70 than she ever was at 30, but it’s in a bizarre, Dorian Gray sort of way.

And then there’s Jane Fonda. While she looks healthy and fit, her hypocrisy has me particularly peeved — and not for anything she once did in North Vietnam. In her latest book Prime Time, she admits to having had some plastic surgery. But anyone who has observed her over the decades knows she’s had more work done than a Victorian house rehabbed from the ground up.

I mean, how does she have the chutzpah to tell readers 11 ways they can age successfully? Seriously? Does she really expect people to buy that not abusing alcohol and getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet are the secrets to enjoying the golden years? Oh, pul-easssse! We all know Jane’s way to happiness is to get continual nips and tucks.

When it comes down to it, the female faces in the movies and on television are wrinkle-free because that’s the way we want them. We consumers demand to see young, smooth-skinned women. Sexy sells. It gets TV ratings and fills movie theater seats. Sagging jowls, under-eye bags and chicken necks? Not so much.

Look, I’m not condemning everyone who’s had plastic surgery. I had a nose job when I was a teenager. I’m not sorry I did it, but looking back, it makes me a little sad for my 16-year-old self to think that I felt surgery was necessary to feel better about myself.

I get it that for aging Hollywood actresses plastic surgery is practically a requirement if they want to keep working. But respected journalists? And politicians? Sixty-something veteran news correspondent Andrea Mitchell, who is married to octogenarian Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, looks practically like a teenager. The couple must look ridiculous when they’re out together — like a grandfather and granddaughter.

Then there’s Nancy Pelosi. I don’t know exactly what she did or does to maintain her “refreshed” image. But the question is: Are we Americans really that shallow that only perfect-looking women are fit for office?

Yes! How else do you explain Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann? Do you really think either one of them would have received as much attention if they looked like, say, Janet Reno?

What really bothers me is that the seamless face is the new norm, at least for women. (Yes, more men are getting plastic surgery, but 83 percent of all facial work — both surgical and non-surgical procedures — is performed on women.) It certainly makes it hard for the rest of us who have not had a face-lift or brow lift or injections to feel, if not good, at least not horrible when we look in the mirror.

Caroline Kennedy is of my vintage and looks it. That’s why if I had the chance, I’d give her a high-five. I imagine, as a Kennedy, she has earned those creases spending a lot of time outdoors in Hyannis Port or wherever the Kennedy clan gathers. Granted, she’s not an actress nor does she have a job in the media that she wants to hold on to. Still, if anyone can foot the bill for plastic surgery, it’s Caroline Kennedy. I give her kudos for her seeming lack of vanity, and I hope I don’t see a dewier, fresher version of her any time soon.

Otherwise, I want Andrea Mitchell’s surgeon’s phone number.

Judy Marcus is a writer who lives in Palatine.



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