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Why Renee Zellweger’s Face Is an Aging Issue

The meaning of self-acceptance is shifting before our (widened) eyes

I admit it. As of late, I've been thinking about Botox and Restylane, those "fillers" that men and women in my neck of the woods (Los Angeles) go to like most other folks go to Tylenol for a headache.

At 54, my visage is starting to go south. The laugh lines from my nose to my mouth aren't so funny. A few crevices have appeared around my chin. And then there are those horizontal lines on my forehead, the two vertical lines between my nose (I'm not angry, just in my 50s!), one or two lines extending from the top of my lip, a few crow's feet around my eyes and, oh yeah, the extra mound of flesh that has taken up residence under my formerly tight jawline. You get the picture.

(MORE: Aging is Beautiful, But Botox is Selling)

But I live in La La Land, the Botox State, where the influence of Hollywood and a veritable crusade against aging sends celebrities, studio executives, housewives, even dog walkers, running to plastic surgeons, nurses and cosmetologists for syringes of fillers to wipe away the lines — and years. And that's before they go under the knife for some serious anti-aging.

And then Renee Zellweger comes along this week like a cautionary tale of what can happen when you try to slay Father (Mother) Time.

When the 45-year-old actress, star of beloved movies such as Jerry Maguire, Bridget Jones's Diary and Cabaret, walked out on a red carpet, she premiered a whole new Renee face: Renee-if-she-had-gone-into-witness protection-and-the-Feds-had-given-her-a-new-face-to-keep-from-being-gunned-down-by-the-Mob (hey, wasn't that a movie starring what's her name, you know that blonde, blue eyed actress?). 

(MORE: My One and Only Resolution: To Keep My Wrinkles)

Gone is adorable Renee, she of the distinctively crinkly eyes, chipmunk cheeks and marshmallow lips that set her apart from every other blonde, blue-eyed starlet in Hollywood. New Renee has eyes wide open (apparently reconstructed) and very blue; gaunt cheeks and nary a line on her face. Now she looks like every other middle-age actress, but nothing like Renee Zellweger.

Does Surgery Equal Self-Acceptance?

Zellweger responded to the media gasp heard round the world with this: "I'm glad folks think I look different! I'm living a different, happy, more fulfilling life, and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows."

But to me, what shows is a crushing lack of self-acceptance, the inevitability of life and a desperate fear. But of what? Getting older? Looking older? Not getting ingenue roles?

The truth is, some other actors who went under the knife and drastically changed their looks — like Meg Ryan and Lara Flynn Boyle — ended up tanking their careers. Producers and directors wanted those actors' former selves, not the new filler-filled models. In fact, the only one I can think of who benefited from extreme plastic surgery was Joan Rivers, who cleverly made her face the butt of jokes and laughed all the way to the bank.

Let's face it (no pun intended): a brand new visage does not change or mask old, insecure feelings. Instead, it puts them on display for all the world to see.

(MORE: 4 Things You Can Fix About Your Aging Body)

Hollywood Norms Seep Into Real Life

Some would say that Zellweger works in an industry where actresses can't age (and get work), and that Hollywood's obsession with youth and physical perfection fuels a generation of middle-age, frozen-faced actresses, like Nicole Kidman.

Truth is, that influence has seeped into the mainstream, where regular folks (like me) are considering fillers and ways to do away with wrinkles, lines and sags. When did self-acceptance turn into self-loathing? And why are women like me buying it?

You know what? Phooey! We all know in our hearts that aging is an inevitable part of life. We can stave off the wrinkles for awhile, but it doesn't change the number of years we have under our belt. And given the loss of loved ones taken much too young that most of us have experienced, maybe we should boldly wear our lines and wrinkles like a defiant badge of honor.

We live! We survive! Yay us!

Finding Beauty In Ourselves

Perhaps the saddest thing of all about Zellweger's new face is that rather than fessing up to cosmetic surgery, she attributes it to yoga, bottled water and love. C'mon!

Renee, although your new eyes may be open wider now, you're still not seeing. But this isn't only about you.

Maybe all of us need to take a closer look. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and what we see starts with us.

I hereby pledge to put off any action on the filler front. I'm going to call a friend, put on my new running shoes and take a long walk in the autumn air — and be thankful that I'm here to enjoy it.

Jeanne Dorin is a Los Angeles-based writer who often covers health and wellness.

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