just stop

The World Cannot Let Meg Ryan Exist Without Commenting On Her Face

The rom-com legend made a rare appearance that proved to be a stark reminder that women aren’t allowed to age.

US actress Meg Ryan arrives to attend the 11th Annual Governors Awards gala hosted by the Academy of...

Meg Ryan has brought millions of people joy through her classic rom-coms, including When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, and Joe Versus the Volcano (also don’t miss her sleeper hit and one of my favorites, Addicted to Love). Her charm, screen presence, and signature smile have all cemented a place for her in cinematic history — but that seems to hold no weight at all according to way too many people who think she isn’t aging the “right” way.

As if there is any right way for a Hollywood actress — or any woman — to age in the United States today.

On May 3, the 61-year-old actor made a rare public appearance to support her friend Michael J. Fox upon the release of his new documentary, Still. It was the first time she’d stepped out in public in a minute, and both the media and the internet were quick to pile on the criticism, with fans shouting “plastic surgery!” and Page Six calling her “unrecognizable.”

“This is Meg Ryan. Hopefully women will learn from this. Plastic Surgery is for Frankenstein,” one faceless a*shole on Twitter wrote. And it was one of thousands of super-mean and judgey comments from men and women about the actress.

Others placed the recent picture next to old screenshots from her movies, as if any person on earth is supposed to look the same at 61 and 31. I truly hope someone looks up this poster’s eighth grade yearbook photo.

I know that many people, possibly people like me, still watch Sleepless in Seattle on a weekly basis, but it is no longer 1990 and no one’s cheekbones can look like that for 32 years running. It’s neither natural nor possible.

And of course, people immediately started comparing the star to Madonna’s recent foray into the public eye — another female icon who is stuck between either aging normally (and taking sh*t for it) or getting plastic surgery (and taking sh*t for it).

In that case, Madonna clapped back, writing, “Once again I am caught in the glare of ageism and misogyny That permeates the world we live in. A world that refuses to celebrate women past the age of 45 And feels the need to punish her If she continues to be strong willed, hard-working and adventurous. I have never apologized for any of the creative choices I have made nor the way that I look or dress and I’m not going to start. I have been degraded by the media since the beginning of my career but I understand that this is all a test and I am happy to do the trailblazing so that all the women behind me can have an easier time in the years to come.”

At this point, Meg, who is notoriously neither present nor vocal online (probably our fault) hasn’t responded at all.

And really, what would she say that would silence anyone?

That she got plastic surgery because the public put an inordinate amount of value on her face, to the point that she was forced to preserve it for the sake of her career, not to mention for her own self-worth?

Or that not getting plastic surgery would have landed her in a place where she looked incredibly old and haggard because all of her peers are getting plastic surgery?

The public eye and the media put these stars — many of whom are past symbols of sex or romance — into an impossible position: They can age naturally while the world displays its disgust or they can get plastic surgery while the world displays their disgust. No one seems able to think critically for a moment and realize that their sexism and ageism (internalize and socialized or not) are combining into a super-organism that hates all women who dared to be desirable and then dared to get older over time like every other human that exists.

Meanwhile, Tom Cruise is still putting out Oscar-nominated sequels (with younger love interests), Harrison Ford is making Indiana Jones and the AARP or whatever. Have old male celebs gotten work done? Almost certainly a significant number of them have.

We can make fun of famous people for their terrible choices. But in the case of women in Hollywood aging, they really do not have any good choice to make. They only get to choose the avenue of ridicule: Do they want to be called an old hag, or a plastic surgery monster? A disgusting witch or a Botox queen? There’s no winning. And because there’s no winning, we have no right to comment on it.