Annabelle Gurwitch’s new book I See You Made an Effort: Compliments, Indignities, and Survival Stories from the Edge of 50, is absolutely hysterical. You may remember Annabelle from Dinner and a Movie on TBS, back in the day. I was lucky enough to chat with her recently about the book, her thoughts on getting older, and her skin care routine. She even spilled the names of some of her fave products.
What inspired you to write the book?
Two things were happening at once. On one hand, as a writer, I was noticing that I would be standing in the supermarket, for example, looking at magazines, and the covers would say something like, “Looking Good at 20, 30, 40, and Beyond.” I was 49 at the time, and I was like, What? You’re sending me to the great beyond? You can’t even say the number 50? Is it that frightening?
And then I got my AARP e-mail. I believe the AARP is really just a wing of the NSA: the minute you hit 49, you get your AARP card in the mail. They send you the card, and you haven’t even joined yet!
Things like this were happening to me, and I felt I was starting to become invisible. When I would talk to my friends about this, they would say, “Oh my God, me too!”
How has your attitude toward aging changed as you’ve gotten older?
I was absolutely terrified of growing older. I was unprepared for certain things, which is why I write about them: I feel that humor is a great way to deal with fear.
You realize your life changes in certain ways at 50, and you can have a sense of humor about it. If you share it with other people, you don’t feel like you’re alone. I feel very passionate about my friendships, particularly my female friendships. I really feel its essential to make time for my female friends.
I feel that turning 50 is a call to action for me to try on a daily basis to have joy and bring a better quality of life to myself and those around me.
In the book, you describe going into a department store to buy expensive skin creams.
Skin care is one of those things where we are not invisible at this age, we are incredibly visible. We are targets for the cosmeceutical companies and their antiaging products. You are up against Hope In A Jar, a name I think should be illegal. Unless there is a time machine inside that tiny jar.
In that story, I am writing about the complicated feelings women can have: you’re buying this stuff, but you know its ridiculous. I also write about my grandmother with her Pond’s cold cream and its cucumber scent. She never spent more than five dollars on a jar of a product. What would she think of me standing in that department store?
Describe your skin care routine.
I wash my face twice a day, moisturize, and exfoliate a few times a week. That’s about it!
Are there any products you can’t live without?
I am addicted to Kiehl’s products. But I also like a line called Elina Organics. I use her scrub and her moisturizer. And I use Malin + Goetz facial cleanser. But I’ve also had laser treatments and fillers, and I honestly have mixed feelings about them.
Many things are available to make your skin look dewy and firm, if you can afford it. That’s the danger in looking to any woman in the media as an example of what a certain age looks like. You don’t know what you’re seeing. You don’t know what she’s had done.
I am trying to walk a middle ground. Women who can’t afford to do these mitigations can feel bad about themselves. I’m just trying to say, “You have no idea what everyone is doing, so don’t look to those people as an example.”