After nine years of playing that devious, loveable, and hateful bitch Alexis, in haute couture and various stages of deshabillé, I decided to go back to my theatrical roots. I did several more plays, television shows, and movies, and now in my sixties, I'm happily married to Percy Gibson, a wonderful man who is more than three decades younger than me. To him, it doesn't matter a bit how old I am, and it doesn't matter to me either. We are extremely happy together and astonishingly compatible in every way. He loves me not only for the way I look but also for my tremendous enthusiasm, energy, and joie de vivre, which I was lucky enough to be born with and intend to keep for as long as I can. When people ask me, sotto voce in surprise, "So what about the age difference between you and Percy?" I usually shrug, smile, and quip, "So, if he dies, he dies."
Actually, it amazes me that the older woman-younger man relationship comes in for so much criticism. More and more bright, intelligent, and attractive women are marrying and having relationships with men who are ten, twenty, and even thirty years their junior. Many of them say they've never been happier, and I have to say, I agree.
So how do you stave off the aging process? In this chapter, I shall attempt to impart the advice, wisdom, and knowledge I've gathered and studied pretty much since I was a teenager when I first started out in this business. From the moment we are born our skin starts to age, as does our hair, bones, and teeth -- everything. Just look at the skin of a newborn and that of a ten-year-old, then compare the ten-year-old's complexion with that of a twenty-five-year-old and you see the difference.
My mother, Elsa Bessant Collins, was really beautiful. Blonde and blue-eyed, she had the pale delicate skin that goes with the territory and she took great care of it, too. I always remember her using a product called Glymiel Jelly on her hands and knees, and she tried to get me to use it but it was so thick and gloopy that I wasn't tempted. Mummie and her eight sisters had excellent skin, as did my father's two sisters and my paternal grandmother, Hettie, and they had masses of paints and potions on their dressing tables. Fascinated, I used to watch as they anointed themselves and they really seemed to get pleasure out of the feminine arts of adornment.
Women weren't ashamed to enjoy pampering themselves with makeup, perfume, and hairdos then. And it worked. Looking at pictures of my family and their friends, they all seemed groomed and glamorous. But women seemed to age much earlier then than they do now, perhaps because they were not so well-nourished as today's women. If you look at a photograph of a twenty-five-year-old in the forties or fifties, she'll look thirty-five.
Although the life span for humans may be more than one hundred years, life expectancy is not anticipated to rise much above eighty-five today, even if cures are found for cancer and heart disease. Progressive natural loss of organ functioning puts a biological limit of about eighty-five years on life expectancy. Eliminating heart disease could add three years, and conquering cancer would, on average, add two.