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Living a ‘Model’ Life

Living a ‘Model’ Life
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By Lorraine Duffy Merkl

Well I thought I was aging grace gracefully; embracing my post-50 years, not trying to turn back the clock a la some Botox-ed “real housewife” or by dressing like my 17-year-old daughter, Meg.

In fact, two years ago, I stopped coloring my hair, which I was doing to cover my gray. I said to myself: When you were a young woman, you were brunette. The pigment is gone. Accept who you are. And so I now show the world that I’m naturally salt-and-pepper. On good days, I feel like a silver fox; on bad days I feel like a little gray-haired lady. But I shrug and think at least I’m being me.

Then I read an article that made me think I was embracing my age a little too much.

It’s one thing to feel shown up when you’re around younger women with smooth skin and naturally shiny hair – and I’m not even talking about supermodels like Gigi Hadid or Kendall Jenner; but feeling shown up by an even older woman? Is there a new world order?

When I first read about 60-year-old model – not former model – but still working in that industry for the unheard-of 45 years, Wendy Stuart Kaplan, and her new memoir “She’s The Last Model Standing,” I wanted to hate her. Then I found out that, like me, she was from the Bronx, so I had to give my homegirl a chance.

I was not only impressed, but also inspired. Although at 5’2” I can’t compete with her almost 5-foot-9 frame, I thought I’d check out her secrets in the hope that I could – as they used to say in the Barbizon commercials of my teens – be a model or just look like one.

  1. Plastic Surgery

Wendy says she’s never had it, but admits to using fillers; although she also concedes that, “You can only fill for so long.” I have to forgo this one. I try to avoid needles at all costs; even a blood test gives me anxiety. So anything elective that involves a pointy thing going into my skin – whether it’s Juvederm or a tattoo – is pretty much off the table. Also, one time while watching TV with Neil, my husband of 27 years, a commercial for Restylane came on. He turned to me and said, “If you ever shoot that sh-t in your face, I’ll sue. I don’t know who I’ll sue, but I’ll sue somebody.” That put the subject to rest out of fear he’d sue me.

2.  Exercise

Wendy says she maintains her youthfulness and 36-28-39 figure which, boasts no cellulite, with 75-minute workouts 4 days a week. I think about doing even a 15-minute workout, and envision myself splayed on the floor with someone administering CPR. I live in New York, which is a walking city, so I think I’ll stick to that as my cardio. However, her stamina has guilted me enough that I’m toying with the idea of resurrecting the elliptical in our spare room, which is currently being used to hang clothes on.

3.  Partying

Wendy was a fixture at Studio 54. (When that club had its heyday, I was too young to get in; but that’s really beside the point, as even if I’d been of age, I wouldn’t have been cool enough for the bouncer to set aside the velvet rope.) She hung with Liza, Andy and Calvin, plus even found herself on Page Six a time or two. Apparently, she’s never let her love of the nightlife wane, and now goes clubbing with her 22-year-old daughter.

I confess I was never much of a party girl, but my few ­– and far between – dusk-til-dawn outings of dancing in stilettos to a thumping beat with the glitterati bring back some fond memories. Now though, it would only be a matter time before my feet started to hurt, the Ben Hur cast of thousands crowd would start to make me nervous, and as I left the festivities I’d be putting in a call to my ENT complaining of tinnitus.

4.  Beauty Maintenance

You can do what you want to your face, but a woman’s hands are dead giveaways of her age. Wendy keeps her nails short, well manicured and naturally colored. I’ve got that covered. Her makeup is, of course, impeccably done, yet very subtle – you know, the “no makeup” makeup look. I’m down with that too. Her hair though is a sun kissed yellow. I have to say it’s lovely and although she’s probably in the salon every three weeks for root touchups, it started to make me think: Was I really welcoming of my natural color or did I just get too lazy to put the effort into my brown hair upkeep? Even though I get many compliments on my salt-and-pepper locks, my 93-year-old aunt, herself still blonde, inquires every time she sees me, why I want to look older than I am. It’s those moments that make me feel young again – like a petulant teenager who’s going to do the opposite of whatever the authority figure tells her. I maintain that I like my hair the way it is, boast of all the money and time I save not sitting in some salon, and am proud that I’m being who I am.

But Wendy has succeeded where my aunt has failed, making me think that the secret to aging gracefully is continuing to put the effort into putting your best foot forward.

I have yet to start coloring my hair again, but more and more I find myself venturing where I have not been in a while: the hair care aisle at the drugstore, taking a particular interest in the many shades of Preference by L’Oreal.


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