'Let's Just Say It Wasn't Pretty': Diane Keaton on society's beauty standards
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In "Let's Just Say It Wasn't Pretty", actress Diane Keaton addresses beauty and how to strive in a world that's obsessed with what you look like. Here's an excerpt.
TURTLE NECKS AND TIES, BIKINIS AND BRAS
I’ve never known a woman who didn’t love to shop. My sister Robin is a Ross Dress for Less maven. Dorrie, my baby sister, loves North Face and Tommy Hilfiger. My friend Susie Becker is a walking dictionary of fashion, with a closet the size of a costume rental store. Carol Kane loves sacky dresses in prints à la Marni and Yohji Yamamoto. All my girlfriends love to shop. Then there’s my daughter, Dexter. She is not a shopper.
I named Dexter after Cary Grant’s character in The Philadelphia Story, C. K. Dexter Haven. She arrived in a basket eight days into life wearing a pink ruffled dress with a white bib trimmed in red. I was ready for action. Off with the fussy garb and on with a pair of black leggings, matching cap, licorice loafers, and ebony socks. Dexter was among the first to have a Baby Gap wardrobe of gray striped onesies accessorized with plaid bibs, Vans slip-ons, and a Billabong baby trucker hat. For her first Christmas I bought her a hound’s-tooth baby boy suit and a pair of vintage cowboy boots I found at the Long Beach swap meet. My reign of terror ended when she was able to distinguish pink and purple from black and gray. As soon as she could string a couple of sentences together, Dexter let me know she didn’t take to boys’ trousers and she wasn’t going to be a princess in black. She was her own Dexter, and she was living in color.
By the time I turned fifteen, I was my own Diane, and I was living in Black and White. It began after the annual family trip to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, on Hollywood Boulevard, where we saw The Wizard of Oz. I was so upset I wrote Judy Garland and asked her to explain why Dorothy had to leave Kansas for Oz. She didn’t write back. But when I saw Cary Grant as C. K. Dexter Haven in The Philadelphia Story, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was so excited I wrote to him, asking for an autographed eight-by-ten glossy. Two weeks later, a manila envelope arrived with a picture of him wearing thick-rimmed glasses that offset his dark eyes, his square jaw, and that dazzling smile. I didn’t want a picture of Katharine Hepburn, his costar, who I thought of as upper-crust. Plus, I didn’t cotton to her long gowns or shoulder-padded suits with A-shaped skirts. In fact, I felt sorry for her, and could never have dreamed that one day she would be one of my heroes. She probably had to wear corsets every day in order to have an hourglass figure. Big deal. The last thing I wanted was to be hemmed in by a twenty-one-inch waist. Katharine Hepburn must have been terribly uncomfortable. Maybe that’s why she stomped around the Lord family mansion with a snooty sense of entitlement, while Cary Grant skipped through the stuffy atmosphere in double-breasted pin-striped suits with black loafers and white socks. He wore things like white cardigan sweaters thrown ever so casually over his shoulders after a game of tennis, or a tuxedo with a white bow tie for afternoon tea, just for the fun of it, “old man.”
My “Things and Stuff ” scrapbook was crammed with pictures of him in turtleneck sweaters under crisp striped shirts, and herringbone jackets over tweed pants. He wasn’t afraid of a polka-dot tie handkerchief. He wore gray worsted wool suits with wide lapels, a waist button, a white shirt, and his collar up. I also wrote down several of Mr. Grant’s fashion tips. For example, he knew that the proper look of a tie lies in a taut knot. If not executed to perfection, the knot loses the necessary spring to arch out from the collar. He believed every man should own a variety of ties, adding that he preferred the relatively wide sort while never venturing near what might be considered “over the top.” I wrote down two of his famous quotes. Number 1: “Clothes make the man.” And Number 2: “I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be, and I finally became that person.” I had no doubt I could be the person I wanted to be if I applied Cary Grant’s concept that “clothes make the man”—or, in my case, “clothes make the woman.”
When Dexter turned fifteen, she received a two-hundred-dollar gift card to Victoria’s Secret. I had to drag her into their store on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, where we were welcomed by aisles of boy shorts with messages like “Life of the Party” and “Unwrap Me” printed on the crotch. We passed hipster panties spelling out “No Peeking” and “Let’s Go Skinny Dipping” on the butt. At the million-dollar Fantasy Bra display, Dexter informed me she’d recently become a C cup. Wait a minute, a C? When did that happen? Just yesterday she was a solid B. Was she going to become one of those breast-implant gals who fears she’ll never be big enough? Surely she didn’t want to become an oversized Dexter cow with a couple of udders dragging on the floor? Dex kept insisting she was a C cup. I kept insisting she was a B . . . and that was it. End of discussion. She marched off to find a saleslady.
From the Book, LET’S JUST SAY IT WASN’T PRETTY by Diane Keaton. Copyright © 2014 by Diane Keaton. Reprinted by arrangement with Random House, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.