Celebrities get older, too, but they don't get to hide or lie about their age. Their birthdays regularly show up in the people columns, and when they hit a milestone decade they get outed in the AARP magazine.
Unlike regular people, they can't slither into the grocery store without full makeup and not risk having their laugh lines photographed and splayed across the cover of some cheesy tabloid.
But some are bolder than others in celebrating their years, and they show up in the book "Fearless Women: Midlife Portraits," a collection of 50 famous and everyday women who are strutting their 40s, 50s and 60s.
There's TV host Joan Lunden at 54 talking about confidence, and swimmer Diana Nyad, age 55, talking about courage. Actress Kathy Najimy, 47, has become an outspoken activist for AIDS and for animal rights. Cybill Shepherd, at 54 in black slip and sneakers, promotes disobedient aging.
The new book is by Marilyn Kentz and Nancy Alspaugh with photos by Mary Ann Halpin. It's an antidote to aging angst and a celebration of middle age, which has become a lot more public due to boomers' efforts.
Midlife even lasts longer than it used to, said Marilyn. "Twenty years have been added to our life expectancy, and they've been added to the middle."
Marilyn became famous in the 1990s as one half of "The Mommies" when she and Caryl Kristensen, another funny mother from Petaluma, created a local stand-up routine that went on to become a national sitcom and TV talk show.
Today Marilyn is an author and has a new stage show called "Boomer Babes." Caryl took a midlife detour and became a high school guidance counselor.
Still, there they are, in Los Angeles, where it's not common to be brazenly middle-aged.
"It's true. Everyone's a swan here," said Marilyn. "But that helped position my attitude. I wasn't going to go down with a whimper, thinking I'm not good enough and all these young women with taut skin and puffed-up lips are better than me."
Her solution was "to find myself a posse of strong women so I can feel better."
The strong and decidedly middle-aged stars in her book include feminist attorney Gloria Allred, environmental activist Erin Brockovich, director Martha Coolidge and filmmaker Shari Belafonte. There are courageous relative unknowns too, including Vicki Vyinello, a Santa Rosa teacher and vice principal who has dealt with ovarian cancer and family loss. Marilyn says Vicki "represents the woman who sees past her own hardship and shows up every day."
Regarding society's usual dubious respect for middle-aged women, Marilyn sees some reasons for hope. "Three-quarters of the actors in 'Desperate Housewives' are over 40 and all are still very sexy. They could be setting a new standard."
More important, women are starting to feel less defensive about their years. "If it's just about looking sexy, we're going to lose," said Marilyn.
But there's more, she says, and at 57, she walks her talk.
She helps lighten the load with a few tricks, including an eyelid tuck, a little bit of Prozac and an attitude that "boomers do not go out without a fight."
"I've come to see that women who exude passion for life from deep within can be the most alluring women in the room, no matter where our breasts land," Marilyn said. "When I was younger and I would flirt, it was partially to make sure that I was still flirtable and attractive. Now when I flirt, it's just my gift to the man. I've got what I've got and I'm good."