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I’m Turning 80!

Why I couldn't be happier with that number and my life.

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The author, Kathryn Leigh Scott, with her friend of 60 years, Susan Sullivan (Photo courtesy of Kathryn Leigh Scott)
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I’m turning 80. I’ll say it again, 80! And I’m just fine with it. I do not suffer from youth-envy and wouldn’t dream of trading my life experiences for another swing at being 28 again (although I recall that as being quite a good age).

I loved my ’60s era of miniskirts, discos, beehive hairdos and Beatlemania. But unlike Emily in Our Town, I don’t yearn to hover on the fringes of any given period in my youth and observe in real time what’s now distant memory. “Rosy retrospection” — a cognitive bias that allows people to remember past events as being more positive than they were in reality — is a saving grace I don’t want to mess with.

I like the here and now. Despite my share of wrong turns and missteps along the way, I can truthfully say I’m comfortable with the paths I took, the choices I made. I’m also grateful to have experienced life before TSA, GMOs, e-anything — and chat slang, LOL.

I’m not likely to download a face-tuning app anytime soon, either. Turning my smartphone camera into a narcissistic retouching tool is downright crazy. Who are we trying to kid? Age happens. We can’t Photoshop it away.

When biographer Charlotte Chandler first met Marlene Dietrich, the 76-year-old film star greeted her by saying, “I don’t mind meeting you because you didn’t know me before, when I was young and very beautiful.” Dietrich added, “It can be a curse being beautiful, after a certain point, as it slips away.”

Isn’t that the truth! Even for those of us who haven’t been celebrated for our physical beauty, weathered skin, stiffening joints and thinning hair are all part of an aging process to be reckoned with. For me, trying to turn the clock back isn’t the answer. My hair is gray and I have two hip replacements. I don’t use Botox or fillers, and never got around to having a face-lift. While I’m supportive of my many friends who’ve had a nip and tuck, I have also gently proposed staging an intervention if one pal of mine books another appointment with her plastic surgeon — this, after barely recognizing her when we met for coffee.

During a lunch chat with Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey, The Gilded Age), a friend since our early acting days in London, we discussed the fate of actors who’ve had extensive face work done. “I do not think it is my business to have an opinion on whether or not people ought to have plastic surgery,” he says, but adds that, “many times I have submitted suggestions for an older character, only to have the list returned by the casting director with ‘work done’ scribbled next to nearly every name. … It saddens me really, that many actors will have undergone expensive surgery to extend their careers, when they risk bringing them to an end.” 

Actress and perennial cover girl Lauren Hutton would agree, viewing cosmetic procedures a “real thin line you tread.” In the May 2022 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, Lauren says that on a shoot with photographer Steven Meisel, she told him, “I’m not going to try and look younger.” I’ve known Lauren since our Playboy Bunny days when she began her modeling career with the Eileen Ford agency. At five-foot-seven, with a gap between her front teeth, Lauren defied the odds to become a super-model — and is still defying the odds by modeling at age 79, quipping, “If we’re lucky, we’re all going to get old.”

Actress Susan Sullivan (Falcon Crest, Dharma & Greg, Castle) and I also met while working as Playboy Bunnies when we were both students in New York. “I’ve watched my face crumble, my arms go crepey — all I can control is how I relate to these changes. I’ve chosen grace over plumped up lips and an unrecognizable face,” she says.

So, what’s it like turning 80? According to my best friends, Susan Sullivan, Suzanne Childs and Cheryl Carrington, the outlook is good.

Susan, still acting and immersed in writing her second play, says, “No spinning over what I’ve lost. I focus on the bounty of what I have: a great partner, friends, things I enjoy doing and good health. I’m thinking my 80s will be just fine. And believe me I get it, I’m a lucky girl!”

Six months after turning 80, former attorney and broadcast journalist Suzanne Childs became a published author and has taken up photography. “I may have lost some hearing, memory, a flat stomach and the ability to bound up the stairs, but I’m emboldened to daringly explore new worlds,” she says. “Approaching 80 in the COVID era brought acute awareness of time running out — and there’s such a lot I want to do.” 

Book designer Cheryl Carrington has beaten cancer three times and says, “With my 80th birthday on the horizon, I want to live my life with purpose and make the most of each day.” At age 78, this longtime New Mexico resident switched gears and earned her master’s degree in clinical counseling to work with inmates at a jail in Albuquerque, and in a rehab center in Santa Fe, dealing with behavioral health, trauma and addiction. “I’m single and love it, with six rescue dogs as companions,” she says. “My days are long, the work often daunting, but I lead a very fulfilling life.”

For my part, I’ve long enjoyed twin careers as an actress and writer. Neither are professions that one is obliged to retire from as long as roles and assignments keep coming. So far, mine keep coming. I’m counting on a healthy lifestyle, a supportive mate and an acceptance of what I can still do — and can’t do as well — to keep me on an even keel as I sail into my 80s.

Anyone else turn 80? How did it feel? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Fulfillment
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