During just about every celebrity interview, there comes a moment — that moment — when the interviewer feels the compulsion (or more likely an editorial mandate) to ask fill-in-the-blank famous actress about how the hell she looks so dewy/young/fresh/rested. It’s all a euphemism for the the real juice: Has she had work done? And will she ‘fess up?
Justine Bateman, at 55, has absolutely no time for it. In fact, time is one of the things she’s most cognizant of. The fact that her time on earth is limited. The fact that time is precious. That fact that time runs out. And most of all, that no matter what you do, time marches on. So if you’re one of those trolls who feels a burning desire to comment on her laugh lines, her crow’s feet, or anything else having to do with her appearance, joke’s on you.
“None of these criticisms anybody has of me can affect where I’m going in my life, unless I become consumed with them. My book still going to be for sale,” says the author of Face: One Square Foot of Skin, a series of short story vignettes examining just how absolutely repulsed society is by women who age. “My film Violet still be going to be coming out this fall sometime, but I’m just not going to have a good time while it’s happening, if I was consumed with the criticism. Nature has a cycle and it keeps moving and growing. And you just trust that it’ll work out.”
Oh and spoiler alert: She doesn’t read the comments anymore, anyway.
“Seeing comments about yourself online is like eating from a bag of Jelly Bellies that’s mixed with some of those Harry Potter Jelly Bellies that taste of ear wax. You’re like, ‘Oh my God, this is so good.’ It’s pina colada and strawberry. And then, it’s ear wax,” she says. “I’m not an actress anymore. I haven’t done that for years. I’m a writer and a filmmaker. Why are people even bothering? I’m just not even in the landscape.”
Bateman, most famous for playing plucky Mallory Keaton on the seminal ‘80s sitcom Family Ties, wasn’t always this self-assured. When her first book, Fame: The Hijacking of Reality, was published in 2018, the public heaved a collective gasp of horror: Who was this oddity, this celebrity who did the thing you’re not ever supposed to do as a famous person unless you’re Robert Redford or Anthony Hopkins. Bateman looked every bit her age, without apology. And the comments on social media were withering.
“I saw those people attacking my face and I was like, ‘What, really?’ I really let it mess with my head. I had to go in and look at what fears did I have with regards to that. So I wanted to look at what are the fears in society that become anchors for us as a whole,” says Bateman.
Part of the process was a sort of mental self-cleanse, just not the $50 type popular with the wellness crowd. “I have to be brutally honest with myself on what my irrational fears are. And then I have to trust that the opposite is true. I’d rather just change how I see things and how I react to things. And then everything else becomes an obstacle course,” she says.
Let’s be clear: Bateman is an outlier. Just look at the numbers: According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, in 2019, women accounted for 92 percent of all cosmetic procedures; face lifts and eyelid surgeries were two of the five most popular procedures and up two percent from 2018. And according to the same report, $16.7 billion was spent on cosmetic procedures in this country in 2019. That’s a whole lot of dollars.
It’s as if there’s an unspoken agreement that we, as women, are simply not going to look our age. Facial creases and folds are a sign of a rich life well-lived, not proof that you just don’t take care of yourself. Laugh lines confirm that you guffawed often, with abandon, not something to be filled in with toxins and erased. But if you embrace those lines, you’re considered a renegade. Take Frances McDormand, whose age-positive appearance is nevertheless mentioned in every profile written about her. “I think anytime I want to change something on the outside — any change you want to make in a situation where you feel like you don’t have that much control is always about some fear. If some woman wants to change her face, could the reason perhaps be that she’s afraid that she’s not going find a mate or she’s not going to find a job or that she’s not going to remain at her job or that people going listen to what she has to say anymore?” muses Bateman.
If she sounds judgy, she’s not. Nor is she preaching. If you want to get that eye lift, go forth and get one. But before you do so, maybe have a little think about why you’re doing it in the first place.
“I would say to those people: You don’t have to follow those rules, either. If you want to go get the facelift, Botox, whatever, go for it. I would hope that you would take an opportunity to get rid of the fears that could possibly be underneath that so you don’t have to keep carrying that baggage around with you. I hope someday they can get free so they can have a more relaxed life. But beyond that, all I can do is control how I’m looking at things. That’s it,” says Bateman.
Bateman has raised two kids (daughter Gianetta is 17, and son Duke is 18), and having been famous at a young age, acutely knows the visceral desire to fit in, be part of a herd, to never be other. But she’s lived long enough, and thought hard enough, to realize that at the end of the day, none of it matters. You can do whatever you want, however you want, but time will ultimately have the last laugh.
“The skin on my everything is going to change,” she says, pulling at her laugh lines. “I don’t have any control over that. I don’t want any control over it. But how hard I work, I have control over that. The degree to which I want to be educated, that can’t be taken from me. The degree to which I have been educated, cannot be taken from me. The way I behave towards people, the way I feel about myself, can’t be taken from me. If within the foundation of how you feel about yourself are a bunch of things that are completely based on other people’s whims, that’s pretty easy to blow over.”