The XX Factor

Molly Ringwald Still Reassuringly Sane

Molly Ringwald, clad in brilliant daffodil (having moved on, apparently, from her signature Hughesian pink) appeared on the Today Show yesterday, to plug her new book, Getting The Pretty Back: Friendship, Family and Finding the Perfect Lipstick . A sort of girlfriend’s guide to everything, the “pretty,” according to Ringwald, isn’t just about a woman’s looks, but about the confidence and sense of self that can be so easily and permanently drowned by the demands of raising a family.

The Today show may have wrapped it up in a fluffy package, complete with clips from Sixteen Candles , photos of Ringwald with her three adorable children (including a set of 9-month-old fraternal twins), and Meredith Vieira with her best reverent coo, but Ringwald managed to stay on message: “Pretty” doesn’t end at 40; you can still be a mom and have a life of your own; the aspirations you have for your children should not replace-or indeed, even be more important-than the ones you have for yourself.

Of all the teenage stars of her generation, Ringwald’s screen presence was always the stablest, the most reassuring. Even in her character’s most awkward, vulnerable moments, you always got the feeling that they (and she) had a good head on their shoulders and were ultimately going to turn out just fine.

That hasn’t changed. In the sea of wildy conflicting “conventional wisdom” and searing hysterical judgment that is often what passes for our cultural conversation about motherhood, Ringwald’s thesis is refreshing, almost subversive, for its sanity. But I suspect that the ideal audience for her book is not women in their 40s like herself, who have already had their families and come out the other end, but those a decade or so younger (myself, for example), who are beginning to excitedly contemplate the idea of becoming mothers, yet are terrified by the idea of losing themselves in the process. For us, Ringwald’s philosophy might come at just the right time. After all, as Ringwald herself would undoubtedly agree, the best way to get back the “pretty” is not to lose it in the first place.