I'll be honest. I am 48 years old and zaftig. Is that the word? Plump? Rubenesque? Actually, I think those poetic words are putting it a bit too kindly. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, no?
For eight years, I lived in Los Angeles. They weren't exactly my salad years. No, these were the post-divorce, gain-weight, get-older, pay-mucho-dinero-to-eradicate-gray-hair years. You may know 'em. Good times. Funny thing is, I never felt as if I was getting older or in any way less desirable -- no, these were good years! Not fun, don't get me wrong, but good years. Good in the sense that through a Series of Sometimes Unfortunate Events, I learned who I really was. I grew more confident, funny and sure of myself. Obsessions I had when I was younger of being beautiful -- or at least not ugly and fat -- were replaced by my writing, my career, spirituality, my happiness. I blossomed, in other words. I became better, stronger, funnier.
However, over time, I became aware, dimly at first and then with growing horror, that I was living in a city in which to be considered an attractive woman, one must be between the ages of 18 and 25; have very big, very blonde hair; very big, very white teeth; very big, very firm breasts and a tiny ass. Stubbornly, I resisted this growing awareness that as a woman, I quite literally was no longer in the Desirability Sweepstakes. By age 45, in the Through the Looking Glass world of Los Angeles, I should have, by all rights, been put out to pasture with the other useless cows.
In Hollywood, there are two types of women. The F*CK YOU woman or the F*CK ME woman. Really, that's about it. The super bitch, who has obtained success through talent and determination and who guards her spot with ferocity, or "the Hottie" (Insert much less polite word here at will. I didn't say it. You did. ) Hotties are usually a vague hyphenate -- actress/model/hanger on. Hotties are bouncy, enthusiastic and powerfully magnetic to members of the opposite sex. Never mind that Hotties helplessly spout inanities and privately cry at night because they are not thin enough. Never mind that.
Over time, I began to accept my Out to Pasture status. I had become effectively invisible. Literally NO man ever swiveled his head in my direction. No, instead, I became everybody's pal; 85% of my friends were men. And for a time, I enjoyed it. We palled around constantly. I enjoyed the camaraderie, really. I was one of the guys. Increasingly, in my weaker moments, it dawned on me that not a one of my male friends would ever consider sleeping with me, even if he was stone drunk. Not because I was so repulsive, but simply because I did not fit the radar specifications that had apparently been handed out upon relocation to Los Angeles and was probably drip fed into the water supply. Nope. I just wasn't on the radar.
Like any other good American woman over the age of 45, I tucked this new asexual status into a tiny little ball in the pit of my stomach and ignored it. Heck, I'd already had a husband, boyfriends and lovers, right? I had my share. I was done. Now it was my time to watch from the sidelines and make witty remarks.
It wasn't as bad as all that! In fact, I relished the new role available to me -- I became the wise, witty Dorothy Parker/Den Mother to a large group of male friends. Oh, how we laughed! Oh, how we roared, late into the night at our favorite Hollywood hangouts! I was really one of the guys, a real wisecracker, like Carrie Fisher! I had gone so far past sexual desirability that I fit into a whole new time slot -- that of the admired, funny as hell, older lady pal. It was fine. Really, it was.
And then along came Kelly.
She was young and beautiful and dumb as a bag of rocks. She wore a golden snake bracelet, which curled up her perfectly toned and tanned arm. She had curly blonde locks and blue eyes. She twirled her hair. She was a Hottie.
I don't know how she found us, and I never found out just who invited her along one fateful evening. But Kelly giggled her way through my group of male buddies like a hot knife through butter. Our nightly gatherings were suddenly changed, charged, different. All heads swiveled in unison toward Kelly and her Hottie laugh and her Hottie smile! It didn't matter what Kelly said -- my guy friends were riveted.
Once or twice I tried to take her under my wing and show her who was in charge. She didn't get it.
Guy pal: "Don't you think that John Hughes is overrated?"
Me: "Never! I mean, his contribution to the ethos of the '80s was--"
Kelly: "I liked Raiders of the Lost Ark!"
I wish, dear reader, oh how I fervently wish that I could tell you that that remark or the context in which it was made was doctored for your amusement. Oh no. No, it was not.
And you know what happened? Can you tell me what happened? Anyone? Show of hands?
Guy Pal: "I liked it too, Kelly! What a great movie, Kelly!"
I wanted to wrap Kelly's snake bracelet neatly around her elegant neck and choke her. But that just wouldn't be cool. Instead, I smiled derisively and ordered another martini. The look was lost on Kelly. My Guy Pals giggled inanely (guys can do that, too -- it's a disgusting sound) and gazed deeply and meaningfully into Kelly's ample cleavage.
In a fit of pique, I began to absent myself from my own private Hollywood round table. Nobody missed me. Kelly's takeover was complete. I can say with confidence that she never realized her conquest, much less the bitterness it stirred within me. Oh Kelly, I thought to myself, someday you will be invisible too.
A few months later, for reasons I still do not understand but do not regret, I moved to Tel Aviv, Israel. Long story. So many changes, such culture shock.
First and foremost among the differences I noticed was that quite suddenly, I was visible. Men looked at me. They hit on me. At first, I was confused. What? You want to do what? Of course, the language was a barrier. I just didn't understand. But baby, once I figured it out, I was a kid in a candy store. You have to understand, if you like swarthy, Israeli men are the ticket. I don't know what is going on over here, but eight out of 10 Israeli men are devastatingly handsome.
Age does not seem to be factor. Nor does size. The fact that I am American definitely makes me stand out as someone slightly exotic. Not that there aren't plenty of Anglos (as we are politely yet oddly called here) running around. It isn't that I was the only blonde running around in a society mostly comprised of dark beauties. It was something else. I was -- seen. I was still allowed to be a sexual being, as if some sort of permission was granted when the wheels hit the tarmac at Ben Gurion.
I have lived in Israel now for coming up on a year. I don't have guy pals. But I do have a boyfriend. He is 14 years younger than me, and even by the most exacting standards of LA, he is what might be called "hot." He is funny, he is into me and he is my lover. Yes. I am allowed to have sex. AND to be funny and wise and older. As it turns out, I am also allowed to have cellulite and droopy boobs. Israelis have a very different idea of what sexy is. They are passionate and omnivorous. Sex is sex and it is good.
Are there Kellys -- I mean, Hotties -- here? Sure. Yes. Are they magnetic to men here? Sure. Yes. But so am I. Imagine that. So. Am. I.
Finally, my Eat Pray Love/50 Shades of awesome dreams have come true. I don't miss LA. Not a bit. Not least because I have crawled out from behind the scrim of invisibility and back into the light as a functionally whole woman who can bring home the -- uh -- the money, fry it up in a pan (kosher laws really mess with my metaphor) and -- well, you know what I mean. I am here. I am visible. I am woman. Hear me roar.