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I happened to run into Raquel a couple of weeks ago. No, I don’t mean I ran into her, as in, oh nice to meet you Ms. Welch. No, I mean I saw her on TV, and then again, a week or so later on GMA. (new book)

As anyone would, I was utterly amazed to learn that she was about to tip over to 70 years of age. Neither her face, hands, or neck would alert you to that fact, in fact, I would hazard a guess that she could pretty much pass for 45-50.

I recall calling the Contrarian to the TV just to see. “Isn’t that amazing?” I whispered. “Mmmhmmm,” he replied. Raquel is apparently not his type. To elucidate, substitute Holly Berry or Elizabeth Vargas from ABC, and his heart goes like a jack hammer.

I continued to marvel at how impossibly great she looked, and then I was confronted one day in my reader with this:

Liz Taylor is 78, so the two women are reasonable contemporaries.

Shocking isn’t it?

I know something of the history of Ms. Taylor. She has had severe back problems for years, operations, and subsequent addictions to both alcohol and pain killers.

She has been a food addict, and a yoyo dieter, finally succumbing it seems to eating what she wants. She apparently is mostly confined to a wheelchair.

Still she has been ravaged by age. Compare photos of each from their hay day.

As you can see, both women were gorgeous in their youth. In fact some would claim that Ms. Taylor was the most beautiful woman of her era.

So one has to ask? How could this be? Is this all genetics? Was one blessed and the other cursed? Or is it all how one cares for one’s body? I have little or no idea what Ms. Welch has done over the years to preserve her looks. But I can assume that it is highly probable that she has been careful about what she ate and drank. I can assume there is a high probability that she used a serious skin regime over the years and maybe that she even exercised.

But who can really say what has been the most important? Her hands are young looking, as least as far as I could tell, while Ms. Taylor’s bear the marks of severe arthritis. Clearly there is some genetics involved, since plenty of women do all the right things and end up being dried up old prunes with skins as taut as any Joan Rivers/Wayne Newton/Kenny Rogers incompetent surgeon could make one.

And plenty do very little and end up aging gracefully. I have no idea what regime if any Katherine Hepburn used.

Yet, she managed always to retain that glimmer of beauty to the very end. She was handsome. And that might be said of people like Meryl Streep, and a few others.

Somehow one doesn’t sense that women like Hepburn and Streep are obsessive about how they look, so it’s easier to conclude the are just genetically lucky. Welch, I place more in the very lucky and fairly obsessed category–and she reaps the bonanza.

It just got me to thinking about how much time we should waste or not on retaining our “youth” either physically or in terms of a healthy body. No doubt we can have an effect, but at what price? How much time do we have to spend in order to achieve what level of return?

I would have hated to have spent an hour or two a day and end up looking only five years younger than I am. But the tables turn drastically I suspect if you factor in longer life.

But even there, trades offs are subjective. Many wouldn’t give up their bloody mary’s and mash potatoes and gravy to gain an extra two years. Diane Sawyer who is in her 60’s looks a good ten years younger, yet she freely admits she hates exercise and munches potato chips.

I recall as a young girl hating the fact that I had oily skin. My mother used to tell me I would be happy about it when I got older. Girls with lovely dry skin, porcelain beauties, would end up with vastly more wrinkles at a much younger age. And in that she was mostly right. I have few wrinkles at 60, though only a legally blind person would mistake me for 45.

The cosmetics/food/beauty/plastic surgery/exercise industries of course make a mint off promising us everything under the sun. Heck buying the right car will bring Mr. Right to our door, so surely losing 25 pounds will do the trick, as will something called Stiletto mascara.

We to one degree or another buy into the dream that we too can make Mr. Perfect fall at our feet merely by drinking Silk, or eating some Activia. Deep down we suspect it won’t but, depending on our lives, we think it worth the try. And where most all fail, there is always another one around the corner promising us the results we dream of of, if we but part with another $19.95, or so. And for calling within the next thirty minutes, we’ll double your offer! Though how I can use two ab-twisters I have no clue.

Push it up, down out or in. Suck it down. Pin it over, lace it up, gotta suffer to be beautiful as momma used to say. But momma was never beautiful and all the creams and potions never made her so.

Ironic that a woman like Raquel, who was no actress in any real sense, and made her living off her looks and body, was graciously blessed with being able to carry on that facade for decades, leaving all her contemporaries with  Dr. Scholls, canes, full girdles, and all manner of fake accessories meant to hide as best as one can, the inevitable cruel finger of time. She has somehow escaped, and we can rejoice in her victory, while we now can nod at Liz and see that she’s rusted down to be just like us.

One is the icon still on the pedestal. The other, the funny old lady next door who we can share a cup of tea with. Go figure. And they say God doesn’t have a sense of humor.

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