Monday, February 28, 2011

Younger – Better? More Valued? Says Who?

Would have made a better Oscar host if you ask me. The legendary Betty White, who played Rose on one of my favorite American sitcoms, The Golden Girls.

The reviews are in for James Franco and Anne Hathaway as Oscar hosts, and they have been less than stellar. While I don't root for anyone's failure, I think a lot of people (myself included) who are tired of our society viewing younger as better, more desirable, more valued, are filled with a bit of "I told you so" today. Youth felt a little vapid, lacking in substance and confidence, which it often is.

Why are we such a youth obsessed culture? I don't envy youth, do you? Yes, there are things I would have done differently (studied for a semester in Paris, been wiser with some spending habits, and such). But to live through my teens and twenties again? No thank you.

When reading this New York Times article about "The Kiddie Couturiers" (child labor it isn't because it's voluntary? I don't understand), I thought how odd that younger people are in such a hurry to grow up, and so many adults waste precious time and money to turn back the clock (mostly on their faces).

In the latest Sex and the City film (I with a sinking head in shame admit to watching a library copy) Kim Catrall's Samantha focused most of the film on her neurotic obsession with anti-aging remedies (mostly surrounding maintaining her libido). I found it not only un-funny, but pathetic and offensive since she is a breast cancer survivor on the show (yes, I realize it is "entertainment" but we are a celebrity-obsessed, impressionable culture). Maybe I've known too many people who struggle with cancer, but their biggest concern at the end of it isn't remaining wrinkle-free or jumping from one fling to the next. As a friend who is a scientist said to me, she associates anti-aging with cancer cells and such. When you stop aging, you die.

Reflect on these words in "P.S. I Love You" expressed by Harry Connick Jr.'s character, "We're so arrogant, aren't we? We're so afraid to age. We do everything we can to prevent it. But we don't realize what a privilege it is to grow old."

Isn't that right. What a privilege it is every year we blow out our candles, each
to me symbolizing more light that has been brought into our world.

As for me, I'd rather spend an evening with Rose, Blanche, Dorothy, and Sophia eating cheesecake around the kitchen table any day over Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha shopping for Manolo Blaniks (product placement, ladies!) Rose can tell me a story of her tightly-knit farming community (which sounds almost mythical in our factory farming, immigrant labor word). Blanche could talk of her beauty, but they'd let her have it (like when Rose asked quizzically, "What were you doing shopping in ladies petites?). History-loving Dorothy (my favorite) could give some witty comebacks, such as when she told overly competitive Rose drawing a defense plan for her junior football league that Eisenhower used less chalk planning D-Day! I wonder how many youth even know of D-Day? Sophia could tell a story of the old country, "Picture it, Sicily, 1945..." or of old New York, which I would have loved to have known before gadgets made us numb to our daily surroundings.

Carrie would be as self-obsessed about her relationship as ever, Miranda and Charlotte would be be grumbling as they did in the movie about how they cannot comprehend how people raise children without help, meaning nannies. I recall the commentary in the Nanny Diaries how immigrants come here for the American dream and their own children grow up without mothers while they raise the children of the wealthiest New Yorkers. Picture this, New York City, 2011: Nannies, it is said, are being sent to do the volunteer work at a Brooklyn food co-op, The New York Times reported. And Samantha, she'll be off soon to the dermatologist's office, even though she should be grateful not to visit her oncologist's office.

Age versus youth, was the competition ever really that serious? The older, and wiser, know the answer.


  1. When I look back to the younger years, I yearn not for things that are related to a better(?) physical appearance but to lost abilities like a sharper mind and a dependable memory. The hard drive is breaking down; ideas and vocabulary don't seem to be readily available like before. This is where the high cost of aging can be felt. The sharpness of your mind, great retentive powers, that physical energy, these are the good stuff that we try to retain through exercise and good diet.

    I reckon synthetic boobs are meant to do the same to the female duende as penile enlargement does to a man, but this goes way beyond our natural desire to look decent and nice. And some people go to such extent. I know the value of live and let live, but I can wonder why people do what they do.

    At 54, I am grateful I haven't died yet. Dying young is the alternative to getting old. So, it is so bad as it seems---aging.

  2. I think we should all proudly declare our ages. I'm 35 and have never felt better spirit wise (compared to my earlier years when I was much more self-absorbed).

    Women mangle their faces or inject Botox and whatnot (I think wrinkles always look far better than an artificial face), and men, as you point out, are subject to other insecurities. Isn’t that what anti-aging, cosmetic surgery and the "better you" industry is about – capitalizing on fears, self-doubt, vanity? Key words: "industry" and "capitalizing."

    I think of the passage I read in Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken how mental strength and sanity was kept up as Louis (whose plane went down during World War II) considered the brain to be a muscle and made sure they exercised it stranded on the ocean each day. I'm sure you will have a strong, healthy mind for years to come! I'm glad you are among the living as well - as are the animals you advocate for!

    Youth has its merits when going through it, but I think we should celebrate each new passage of life (for better or worse), age gracefully, and be grateful for each year. What a more noble society we'd be if we redirected our efforts from staying young to helping others and broadening our minds.

  3. Who would not love the beauty of the aged oak tree and take comfort in it's grand expansive shade? Who would not love the mature rose bush that covers the fence with a hundred blossoms? We value and protect the young, but we also can enjoy and respect the aged, like we do these noble aged plants. Thanks for this thought provoking post (and the cool scientist quote).

  4. Hi Jennifer.

    What a lovely perspective comparing it to the natural wonders of our world. We, like flowers and trees, are here for limited time on this glorious earth and should celebrate the fleeting beauty of our time, and that of nature. Thank you for being the source of inspiration (on aging gracefully and more)! I hope everyone checks out Heart Laundry (listed on my blog link list on the right) as well as all the blogs from creative minds.

    An editor's note (or blogger's note, I should say): even (young) Natalie Portman is a smart, savvy scientist, and I give kudos to James Franco for his studies - the next day after the show, he was in class at Yale. I also believe him when he said he was exhausted from flying back and forth to school to the rehearsals. I was more offput by the writers' material and the 'younger demographic as more important' attitude and in general society's overall value of youth over aging.