Sunday, August 29, 2010


Riprendetevi la facciaRiprendetevi la faccia by Barbara Alberti

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The novelist, journalist and screenwriter Barbara Alberti was shocked when a female politician who had obviously had a facelift and other invasive "anti-ageing" treatments appeared on Italian television to launch a campaign which would "liberate" Muslim women from the obligation to wear the veil. What scandalised Alberti was the politician's total lack of self-irony and she takes, as her thesis for this book, the idea that plastic surgery is the "western woman's burqa".

Using examples from history, literature, the lives of the famous, her own life and letters from her readers, Alberti demonstrates that women in the West are being denied a fundamental human right - the right to age naturally.

For me, one of the saddest episodes in the book is the true story of a woman of fifty-four who agrees to a meeting with the man she loved at eighteen. The two meet, go to a hotel and the man roughly makes love to her. In the morning she wakes up in his arms and he is looking at her. Then he, who is eight years her senior, says,

"It's the first time I've had an old woman in my bed".

The cruelty of this man is unbelieveable and I cried as I thought of the woman making preparations and going to buy herself beautiful lingerie with a heart full of hope. Reading such an account, a woman d'un certain âge is likely to feel that she has only two choices: if she has the means, to undergo all the age-defying treatments on offer, even at the risk of her life, or to give up the idea of love and companionship with a man forever.

But surely there must be another way? Can we not be who we are? Yes, we can, says Alberti and we must:

"Cambiate età ogni giorno. Siate nonne a quindici anni, fidanzate a ottanta. Ma non siate mai quello che gli altri vogliono."
"Change your age every day. Be grandmothers at fifteen or fiancées at eighty. But never be what others want you to be."

I found this a fascinating and thought-provoking book, as subversive as de Beauvoir's The Coming of Age. It is not yet available in English but, sisters, I urge you to demand an English edition!

The Coming of Age

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Unknown said...

Hmmm... I have another view on aging that doesn't include hiding one's face. I see aging as a beautiful and natural process that should be celebrated rather than avoided.

Rosaria Williams said...

I'm sure I'd like it, its premise fittingly sane and authentic. Thanks, Pat, for your beautiful review and preview.

It's about time we-men and women-look at aging as a natural process, with complexities and beauties at each stage. If we want fantasies, we go to the movies.

jams o donnell said...

It certainly sounds like a thought provoking read.

Rachel Cotterill said...

That sounds like a very interesting - and sobering - read. I can't imagine any circumstance that would be enough to make me undergo any kind of voluntary surgery...

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Nick. It's very hard for a woman, though and, as men over 50 all want womern who can reproduce, what hope is there? Hi, lakeviewer. I agree but I can't see men looking at it that way! It is, jams. Hi, Rachel. I wouldn't have the surgery either but if I had the money, I'd do most things short of it.

arlene k said...

Oooh, Welshcakes, I don't necessarily think all men over 50 want a woman who can reproduce. I think the French and the Italians have more respect for the beauty of a woman 'd'un certain age' compared with the ageist bias that is rife in the UK and the US. But, definitely, the man you refer to, in your write-up, needs avoiding at all costs - quel horreur!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, amethyst. Yes, I think French and Italian men are not quite so obsessed with bimbos but I think this need for the "Trophy woman" is catching! The man described in the book is a monster.

CherryPie said...

I think she would be well shot of him coming out with things like that!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Cherie. Yes, so insensitive!


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