Justine Bateman embracing ageing

From Afternoons, 3:35 pm on 20 April 2021

When former teen star Justine Bateman Googled her name several years ago, she was shocked to see critics talking about how old she looked. 

She didn't get offended, she got mad about the pressure women are under to do the impossible and stay forever young.

She says she embraces every wrinkle and imperfection and wants other women to understand that aging faces do not need to be fixed. 

Justine Bateman

Justine Bateman Photo: supplied

Her new book is called Face: One Square Foot of Skin.

The Googling moment happened about ten years’ ago she told Jesse Mulligan.

“The auto complete was Justine Bateman looks old and at the time I was only about 41 or 42 and I was very surprised at that.

“When looked at the photos they were using as evidence I didn’t see what they meant.”

But then she made the mistake of letting those comments in, and stated to feel shame, she says.

“I felt shame when I decided they were right, I took on what they were saying, things like Justine Bateman looks like a meth head, she looks like she is suffering from a disease like she has cancer, and I decided well if they are right my face is hideous to gaze upon.

“I took on a shame even leaving the house with this face on my head, this thing on my head and I had to get to the root fears in me that decided that was true.”

The problem was never her face, she says but fears she held inside her.

“And so, once I worked all that out for myself, I started thinking about what irrational fears do we have in society as anchors for this idea that women’s faces have to be fixed.”

She makes no judgement on woman who choose to have plastic surgery or similar cosmetic interventions but, says it does not address underlying anxieties.

“Once they have the surgery they won’t have addressed the fear that caused them to do it and so they will keep carrying that around.

“Plastic surgery can become an infinite loop of dissatisfaction with oneself.”

That fear, she says, is that you are not enough, and was probably there when your face was younger and smoother.

The notion that women in their middle years become invisible is wrapped up in notions formed in youth, she says.

That is a time when we are evolutionarily programmed to procreate, Bateman says.

“But what I find women will do then is wrap up their entire worth in that moment.”

Facing the fear behind the ageing process is what gives back your power, she says.

“If people think I look old then … fill in the blank. Whatever that ‘fill in the blank’ is, that’s the thing to address.

“I’m afraid I won’t find a mate, well maybe you’re afraid you won’t find a mate completely and it has nothing to do with your face so take that, deal with that.

“Look to that, to address whatever that fear is, instead of being brutal to your own face.”

She got a lot of benefit from examining what her fears were and realising they were mostly “totally irrational”.

“Just writing them down, and letting them breathe and that allows an erosion to begin I found, because whether a woman chooses to change her face or not, why carry that fear around all your life?”

She cares little for ageism or sexism in her own life or career, Bateman told Jesse Mulligan.

“Because they are showing me their hand, they are showing me what their insecurities are with regards to looks or age or anything like that.

“I don’t really care about sexism in my own life personally, because a guy is just telling me about himself, he’s not telling me about me.”

And when she sees a photo of herself now, it is the attitude she looks for.

“If I see a photo taken of me when I was not feeling myself I hate that photo because it’s a picture of that moment.

“But if there’s a picture of me where I look great because of my attitude, because I know in that moment I felt really comfortable and confident that’s what I like looking at about myself.

“I not looking at how many wrinkles I have, I’m looking at the attitude, and that’s what I find incredibly attractive.”