I was sincerely hoping to keep this column as light-hearted and humorous as possible but today on the women’s online magazine, Jezebel, I read something that made me somewhat introspective.
It’s a review of Youth Knows No Pain, a documentary by Mitch McCabe which just recently premiered on HBO. I won’t rehash the topics the excellent Latoya Peterson writes about in her post which can be found here:Youth Knows No Pain: An Unflinching Look At Our Fear of Aging.
Go ahead and read that sucker. Watch all of the clips too. Go on. I’ll wait.
Ok. So who feels completely doomed? If you grew up with any kind of ideal of growing old naturally and gracefully while achieving the respect of the younger generations coming to age in your shadow then these confessionals just delivered a hefty kick in the goolies, didn’t it?
Now I didn’t go to real school and obtain any kind of human behavior/sociology degree but it doesn’t take a research grant to figure out that the current culture values extreme youth above all else. All of the TV, the movies, the clothes are geared exclusively to the under thirty set. And that’s awful. It’s not right. It simply isn’t right that a persons relevancy and usefulness is supposedly expired after the age of thirty. I promised Diana, my most esteemed editor, that I wouldn’t swear very much in subsequent posts but there is a succinct word for our media cultures removal of forty and fifty and sixty somethings from the public eye. That word isbullshit.
As an only child I grew up surrounded by adults. They were what I built the foundation of my identity on. Like most nerds I had nothing but scorn for and from people in my own age group and so growing older was my holy grail. I looked to the older generation with admiration and figured that if I could just reach some magic age (Say, thirty and up.) all of the fear and anxiety of youth would melt away. I looked at my parents and their friends and saw them through a rose colored lens. The adult set wasn’t worried about their looks or whether or not the boy on the soccer team liked them. They had actual important things to deal with.
Youth Knows No Pain strips that idea bare and leaves it raw and bleeding. The narrator and filmmaker McCabe is only 38 but reveal in the course of the film that she is fully willing to give up health care before giving up her monthly hair color treatments to remove the gray.
“It’s insane.” she says. “But it’s true.”
My idealism of aging having been irrevocably, starkly shaken I did what I always do. Called my mother. A woman in her early fifties she has always been uniquely fashionable, put together and sharp as a tack. In other words the most relevant older woman in my life. I needed her perspective.
“It sounds like some of these women are going to extremes but I can understand the urge.” My mother said coolly over the phone when I told her about the documentary. “I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older most young people don’t even look at us.”
“Oh, Yeah.” She replied. “And shopping for good looking clothes gets harder. Why do you think women my age were so happy when stores like Stein Mart and Chico’s? Retailers really neglect the middle age market.”
“But all of the plastic surgery these women are getting? I can’t imagine doing that to myself! I mean, everyone gets self conscious but at the end of the day your body is your body and there isn’t really that much wrong with it…” I pressed on.
Mom cut me off. “Yes, but you’re saying this at the age of twenty five.”
That right there shut me up. She continued.
“Getting older isn’t easy. Just like being young isn’t easy. When you get to be my age you have to deal with changes and the idea of mortality that just aren’t as pressing at your age. And with the way the media is right now it’s hard to resist the line of thinking that just looking younger will make those problems go away.”
I got off the phone with my mom an hour later and went to stand in front of the mirror. I thought about what I would change if I could at the snap of the fingers. Other than super sharp robot eyes to correct my terrible vision (and maybe that shot lasers) really nothing.
Then I thought about what my body would look like thirty years from now. The wrinkles on my face? That didn’t seem so bad… Losing muscle definition? Not awful either…
Then I looked at my super rad C-cup breasts and imagined them down at my knees. My breasts that had become something I was affectionately known for among my friends and lovers and realized something.
That when that day comes and I could afford the surgery I would totally get those sucker stapled back up to the same place on my ribcage they were at when I was in my twenties. I would be 80 years old with deep laugh lines around the eyes and mouth and short feathered gray hair and yet have the perkiest tits. All because it’s a facet of my physical appearance I just can’t let go of.
It’s insane but it’s true. For that I’d go under the knife.
Still, there are people who see the brighter side of things. That getting older isn’t a slide into obscurity at all. So I leave you with the words of comedian Jim David:
“I realized that at the age of forty I’m smarter than I was at twenty, I’m richer than I was at twenty… Really the only thing twenty year olds have on us is looks. So to all of you twenty somethings out there? Strike a pose and shut the fuck up.”
I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments as well as any retailers you are familiar with in your areas that fit fashionable age appropriate clothes. God knows I don’t want to be that woman in her forties trying to shop at Forever 21… I’m 25 and feel to old for that store.