"During my life, I've spent thousands of hours and thousands of dollars on my hair, my makeup, and my clothes, trying to look prettier because I grew up believing that pretty girls had happier lives."
"I'd be a lot happier now if I had that time and that money back."
Ilene Beckerman has lived long enough to have finally learned that there's more to happiness than finding the right hairdo and maintaining an ideal weight. This is never more clear than when she's invited to her fiftieth elementary-school reunion.
"Of course I'd go to the reunion." Beckerman says. But delight soon turns to dismay: "I wondered who'd be there. How would they look? Would I look as good? What would I wear? Could I lose twenty pounds by June?" Her reunion presents the perfect occasion to illustrate the anxieties and doubts, the dreams and hard-earned triumphs, of women—from Queen Victoria to Britney Spears.
Beckerman knows what really matters in life (besides good hair), and she imparts her wisdom in letters (unsent) to Madonna, Ava Gardner, Sofia Coppola, Meryl Streep, Gwyneth Paltrow, and others, and to her granddaughter Olivia. Frida Kahlo, Cinderella, Whistler's Mother, and Audrey Hepburn make appearances too. In this wise and wonderful book, she shares a lifetime of experience that reminds us that, ultimately, our mothers (and our grandmothers) were right: real beauty comes from within.
This captivating little pictorial autobiography for adults, a life told through clothes, features Beckerman's brightly colored drawings of the vestments she wore at different times in her life, accompanied by diarylike entries. She grew up in Manhattan in the 1940s and '50s, and we see her elementary school outfit, ballet costume, prom dress, etc. After her mother died, her grandparents, not wanting her to live with her father, took in Ilene and her sister; she never saw her father again. In 1955, at 20, she married her 37-year-old sociology professor in Boston. They soon divorced, and in her second marriage, which also ended in divorce, she had six children, losing one in infancy. She is now v-p of an advertising agency. Beckerman's extremely reticent text never illuminates these events, but her minimalist self-portrait is a wry commentary on the pressures women constantly face to look good. 40,000 first printing; first serial to the New York Times Magazine. (Sept.)
Beckerman, a grandmother of six, used to think "pretty girls had happier lives." It's taken her nearly seven decades and thousands of dollars in makeup and accessories to realize this isn't true. But the author of Love, Loss and What I Wore still struggles with her inner demons, which she chronicles here. She wants to teach her young granddaughters, especially 11-year-old Olivia, not to become preoccupied with externals. She employs funny, often rueful observations, unsent fan letters to movie stars and simple, whimsical drawings to underscore her familiar point: beauty comes from within. Oddly, though, Beckerman spends much of the book lamenting her looks and weight--and everyone else's. She shares her insecurities, she says, so women will realize that physical perfection isn't everything and ends her book with this note to Olivia: "I wish I'd known when I was your age... that I already had everything I needed within myself to be happy, instead of looking for happiness at the beauty counters of Bloomingdale's." This is a sweet, well-intentioned book, but its approach to women's lives is dated, while its proclamations (e.g., "life never turns out the way anyone expects") are obvious. Color illus. throughout. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Ilene Beckerman was nearly sixty when she began her writing career. Her articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Ladies’ Home Journal. She has judged People's "Best and Worst Dressed" issue and has traveled the country, speaking to women's groups. “Sometimes,” she says, “i feel like Grandma Moses—she didn’t start until later in life either—but i try not to look like her.”