Can real men ever hope to age as well as George Clooney?
Alex Kane and Paul Hopkins give the film star a few home truths while Jason Shankey and Dan Gordon reach for the moisturiser
Succumbing to old age and the ravages of time is something many of us fear, particularly the beautiful people of Hollywood whose livelihoods often depend on their looks.
In an attempt to halt the inevitable ageing process, leading ladies — and an increasing number of leading men — are going under the knife or incorporating non-surgical treatments like Botox and fillers into their daily grooming regimes.
Actresses like Julianne Moore, Helen Mirren and Emma Thompson have spoken out about the pressure to maintain a youthful appearance in the film industry, saying they wouldn’t resort to plastic surgery.
And now Hollywood’s ultimate Silver Fox, superstar George Clooney, has waded into the debate, saying middle-aged men shouldn’t worry about getting older. Gorgeous George says men shouldn’t consider cosmetic surgery or dye their salt and pepper hair, pointing out that men often look a lot worse after they’ve had work done.
Speaking to radio presenter Jenni Murray, the 54-year-old Tomorrowland star said: “For me, it’s never been an issue or an option.
“I don’t think it would make much sense. I’ve seen it happen, and particularly on men I don’t think it works very well. I think it actually makes you look older. I’m a big believer in the idea that you can’t try to look younger — you can just try to look the best you can at the age you are.”
While accepting his mature mane, Clooney admitted the ageing process did affect him.
“There is nothing fun (about ageing),” he said. “I know for actresses it’s infinitely worse because of public perception based on nothing except studios not hiring them, but I think for all of us you have to come to terms with getting older and not trying to fight it. You have a couple of options, which (are): get older or die. You have to get used to the idea that your roles in films and who you are and how you’re perceived is going to change. And that will disappoint people at times.”
Two male writers tell us how they’re coping with the ageing process and if, like Clooney, they’re happy to leave it all up to Mother Nature.
Alex Kane writes: This may surprise some of you, but George Clooney and I have something in common. We both believe "that you can't try to look younger. You just have to look the best you can at the age you are and not worry about it". Nature has been kinder to him than to me, of course, and he'll still look better when he's been dead for two days and the flies are beginning to swarm around the corpse.
George Gershwin probably had someone like me in mind when he wrote the lyric "he may not be the man some girls think of as handsome". That said, I'm not Dorian Gray's attic picture either and, unlike Quasimodo, I don't invite people to "feast yourself upon my accursed ugliness". I'm just average. Not even pretty average: just average.
My nose is too long. My forehead is as high as a Star Trek alien. My chin is weak. I have a slight overbite. And my eyes are a law unto themselves.
My face looks lived in and when I'm particularly tired it looks as though squatters have also moved in and disconnected the electricity. Adding to this all- round vision of loveliness is my baldness (I misplaced my hair in my mid-20s): causing one critic on Twitter to observe that on television I resembled "an eccentric, belligerent bowling ball".
Oddly enough, I've never really worried all that much about my looks. I am what I am (oh, go on then, get it out of your system - "and what I am needs no excuses") and I let people take me as they find me.
It probably helps that I'm a writer and talker rather than a swimwear model, but even when I'm on television or in front of any sort of audience I never find myself wondering about how they think I look. The size of my nose doesn't make a button of difference to my views on devolution: although there are moments when I'd quite like to sweep my hair back in a theatrical gesture during a speech.
The other thing is that I've sort of grown into my looks. I was quite angular and hard faced when I was younger, but I think the assorted sags, bags, overhangs and wibbily-wobbliness have given me a gentler, softer, less mad look. The rottweiler has now been replaced with a spaniel.
Attempting to defy the ravages of time is utterly, utterly pointless. There is nothing to be ashamed of in admitting you've been around for a while.
Experience is a wonderful thing and we should celebrate the wisdom, quirkiness, irreverence, defiance, dottiness and the sheer I'll-say-what-I-want-to-say determination that comes with age. Why hide it? Why pull your kneecaps up to your boobs to try and convince people that you're 50 rather than 75? Who, other than yourself, are you trying to kid by stapling your double chin to the top of your head? If you're thinking of a little nip and tuck, then make it a nip of gin as you tuck into a fruit salad.
In most cases cosmetic surgery (unless it's to help after an accident or deal with specific deformities) is just vanity surgery. And in most cases the joins do show.
What is the problem with looking the age you are? Fine, choose the sort of clothes, creams, lotions and hairstyles that suit you and highlight certain features, but why the need to try and halt the aging process? Why give enormous amounts of money to surgeons to make you into something you are not? Why make yourself a figure of ridicule to the people who knew you before you got "the work done"?
The elderly I have known for years still look like themselves. Smiles and sparkling eyes never change. And it's wonderful to see those looks passed down through their children and grandchildren. Aging is often a very beautiful, almost magical thing. We should champion and celebrate a life lived - a life reflected in the real face of the owner.
People have got used to me as I am. They've grown accustomed to my face. It's mine and it's always going to be mine. Clarence Day got it right: "Age should not have its face lifted, but it should rather teach the world to admire wrinkles as the etchings of experience and the firm line of character."
Paul Hopkins writes: About 20 years ago when I was a dozen years younger than George Clooney is now, I desperately wanted my hair to turn naturally grey, as I thought it would make me more distinguished and help me in my competition against Hollywood’s sexiest man and, back then, most sought-after bachelor.
No such look transpired unfortunately, and today I still have a head full of hair and not a grey one in sight.
During a recent gathering to celebrate a first Holy Communion about half a dozen people remarked to my partner, “Neither of you look your age, what hair dye does Paul use?”.
Well, pardon me for breathing but let me say here and now, quite categorically, that I do not use hair dye. Nor ever have. You’re welcome to pop round and check out my bathroom cabinet any time, although it’s not a pretty sight, over-flowing with all those moisturisers and tooth-whitening creams and assorted products, nowadays called “male grooming products”.
Vanity is not the half of it.
Last week, I donned a T-shirt, given to me as a present by a young man half my age, took a selfie and posted it for fun to Facebook. The shirt was emblazoned with the adage, Old Guys Still Rock. The reaction was not entirely favourable, with comments like “Cop on!”, “What are you up to?” and “Get a life!”.
In short, most thought that I am just too darn old to rock.
Humbug I say, though it would seem that youth ends at 35 and old age begins at 58, to which Mr Clooney is heading fast-ish, if a recent survey is to be believed. In between — all 23 years — is your middle age. That’s what the average person on these islands believes, according to the study last month from the University of Kent.
The news that 58 plus — c’est moi — is “over the hill” may come as a surprise to those of you who have passed the milestone and feel you are not, by any stretch, in the twilight of your life.
I have, hopefully unnoticed, edged past that milestone, but feel anything but old. In my mind I’m about 17. However, as Georgie boy says, we live in a time preoccupied with youth, with attempting to stay forever young with pills and potions — ergo the pathetic plight of the once-great Michael Jackson.
Yet, for me there is wonderful character in a face of lines — though I must confess I have few — provided the person of that countenance is at ease with the inevitability of ageing. The stories such lines could tell. Why can’t we be proud of such tiers of time that tell our life’s history? Be proud that our face is a reflection of our life?
While certain physical attributes such as skin suppleness (moisturise boys, moisturise) and the old eyesight may be dimming (carrots, boys, eat carrots) in the fifth and sixth decades of life, according to eminent zoologist David Bainbridge, more important aspects such as brain power remain, apparently, virtually undiminished — the ravages of Alzheimer’s notwithstanding.
We all know males of a certain age who spike their hair, tuck the beer belly into the skinny chinos, buy the Porsche and trade in the wife for a newer and younger model. It’s called the male mid-life crisis. But, according to Bainbridge, that cringe-worthy ‘dad dancing’ witnessed at wedding receptions every other weekend may be an unconscious way in which ageing males actually (can you believe it?) repel the attention of young women, leaving the field clear for those men at their sexual peak.
“The message their dancing sends out is ‘stay away, I’m not fertile’,” says Bainbridge, and points to scientific studies showing a connection between dancing, hormones and sexual selection. (Now, you know what “Let’s get down and boogie” really means...).
When I had hit the wrong side of 50 and was wearing torn jeans and a baseball cap back to front, my daughter said: “Dad, don’t be daft. You think you’re cool, a legend, but ...”
Then I went to one of her parties and, man, did I cringingly dance the night away and discussed that fine band Elbow, the opening of the local Nando’s, re-runs of SATC (if you don’t know, don’t bother asking) and the merits of social networking.
Some days later the same daughter said to me: “My friends think you are a legend ... now the girls in my new job can’t wait to meet you.’’
Neither can I, I said, neither can I.
I mean if George can do it …”
So do these three local personalities look after themselves?
Jason Shankey (44) is the founder of Jason Shankey Male Grooming. He lives in Belfast with his wife Brenda and their children, Lauren (13) and Will (11). He says: People are always under pressure to stop ageing. George Clooney is very lucky in that he clearly has good genes and looks amazing anyway. Not all of us have that and not all of us grow old as gracefully as George.
I had a hair transplant three years ago and I wouldn’t have done that if I hadn’t wanted to change the way I looked. Losing my hair aged me by about 10 years, but I’ve been delighted with the youthful look the procedure has given me. I’m growing grey gradually — just at the temples at the moment and it’s quite subtle. I prefer to tone the grey down but I’ll only do that up to a point. As your hair gets more and more grey you need to just let nature take it’s course — there’s nothing worse than a man with black end and grey roots.”
John Bushell (62) is a model, actor and motivational speaker. He lives in Carryduff with his wife Marie and they have five grown-up children. He says:I think you can see it when people try to look younger than they actually are and they will get mocked for it.
I absolutely agree with what George Clooney says about ageing. I think you should just enjoy your life and go with the flow. A good lifestyle works for me — I keep myself very active and always maintain a positive attitude. I don’t have a special diet and I don’t go in for skincare or anything like that. I’ve also never dyed my hair.
I don’t get any pressure from people to look younger, in fact, I get told they like the way I look and that I’m a silver fox.”
Dan Gordon (49) is a writer and actor currently starring in The Shadow Of A Gunman at the Lyric Theatre. He lives in Belfast with his wife Cathy and their three daughters. He says: The sad fact is that men age better than women in the film industry. Ugly blokes turn into character actors and the leading men will stay as leading men — look at George Clooney and Brad Pitt and they’re in their 50s. Women are under so much pressure, not just to stay looking good, but to look better than ever as they get older.
My hair is probably my biggest vanity — I probably wouldn’t leave the house without some gel in it. I do make sure I get a good haircut, at the moment it’s done by the people at the Lyric. I don’t spend much on it normally, I just want a haircut like Kevin Costner.
I moisturise, too. That comes from years of being around wonderful make-up artists like Pamela Smyth and Maria Moore and they always told me to moisturise.
One of the BBC cameramen and I exchange texts every now and again just saying, ‘moisturise, moisturise, moisturise’. I would never go under the needle or dye my hair. When you see men with their hair or beard dyed it looks like there’s something wrong with them.”
...While Maureen Coleman says men do need a little bit of help
So Gorgeous George says middle-aged men should embrace growing older and resist the temptation to reach for the hair dye or go under the knife.
“I think it (cosmetic surgery) actually makes you look older,” claims the handsome actor. “I’m a big believer in the idea that you can’t try to look younger.”
Of course, there’s a reason why Clooney is known as Gorgeous George.
The smooth-skinned, dark-eyed superstar is a god walking among mere mortals.
He’s not exactly the type of man one sees dandering down Royal Avenue at lunch-time or propping up the bar on a night out in Belfast. Gorgeous George was at the top of the queue when good looks were being dished out. His distinguished grey hair merely adds to his overall sex appeal.
He has a point, though. Compare Clooney to, let’s say, David Gest. The ex hubbie of Liza Minelli looked a fright after having a nose job, facelift and cheek implants.
And John Travolta’s very obvious black hair dye is just ridiculous. Danny Zuko, he ain’t.
But while it’s fine for Clooney to grow old gracefully, most men need a little bit of help.
I’m not advocating Botox or regular sessions of microdermabrasion, but I do like a man who looks after himself, smells great and has a good set of teeth. Or at least, his own teeth.
George Clooney may turn up his gorgeous nose at the thought of aesthetic assistance, but it still takes some work to look as gorgeous as him.