Sunday, July 02, 2006

60 is the New 40

As tiring as I find all the Baby Boomer hand-wringing-- including the President's--about getting old, I do think the notions of what is defined "old" have changed significantly. What with plastic surgery and live-in trainers, soon, 80 will be the new 40. You think I'm kidding?

I am kinda. Part of me is a little irritated at the expectations. There was a time when everyone viewed wrinkles and stretchmarks and a potbelly as the noble marks of a life well-lived. You smiled a lot. That's good, right? No way, man. You got laughlines. Old. Your stomach has vertical marks indicating that a child once took up residence in the womb with no view. Nope. Old. Now, women finish their childbearing years by getting a tummy-tuck and botox (the worry lines from enduring toddlerhood must be banished into mean-faced hell and be replaced with placid perpetual facial serenity)--oh, and a boob job. Don't forget to rectify the sagging breasticles. Old, again. Pert and round are a must to stay looking 40. And the gut? Tres gauche. That's French for old. Who can wear low-riders with excess skin and fat hanging over the top? Ewwww, girl. That's just nasty.

A friend from undergrad shared his dream for old age: He would get a cane, he said, to use for more than balance. He wanted to be able to hit people when they irritated him. Who's going say something to an old guy? He could yell and correct with impunity. He lovingly quoted the mildly amusing Danny Devito dark comedy Throw Momma From the Train for a year. Does that tell you something? Well, I hope he lives long or never gets plastic surgery and ages badly. No one respects the "hoary" 60 year old head. That's the new 40, remember? Since the average male lifespan is 80, he'll get exactly two years to live out his dark-hearted dream.

Since no one is getting old anymore, who do we go to for advice? Not that younger people (anyone sixty and younger) listen, anyway. But if we did, who do we go to? A good portion of Generation X parented their parents through divorces and drugs and general selfishness. Maybe since 60 is the new 40, 35 is the new 80.

As Boomers grow up and continue to pretend to be forever young, their children will again be put in the position of "parent" to decide when and where and what to do with their aging-not aging parents. Suddenly 85 springs upon the Boomers (those still living). Kicking and screaming, ma or pa white-tea teapot, gets dragged into sensible solutions like a one story home or (horrors!) assisted living. Assisted living is for old people, don't you know?

Yeah, we know. Boomers aren't getting old. They're transforming the notion of aging. I have a 70 year old Aunt who jet-sets around the world. She won't admit it, but I know she's secretly tired of the crazy pace she has kept for years. Her schedule wears me out and I'm an adolescent late 30-something getting tired just listening to her talk about her "experiences" on the phone.

There are many benefits to the Boomer's universal denial. Adventure vacations. Second professions. Technology changes. Better design. (Who wants their bathroom to look like a hospital room? No one. Aesthetic changes make everyone feel better.) Lot's more. You're welcome to list them in the comments.

Will the Boomers forgive this Gen Xer if she just wants to age "normally"? By normal, I mean that my desire to look like a fresh-faced adolescent in perpetuity dimishes with every starlet I see with stretched skin. Look at Nicole Kidman. She frightens me. Don't get me started with someone like Faye Dunaway. Terrifying! And what the heck are the Simpson sisters doing? Collagen lip injections at 20? What is wrong with them? By normal, I mean slowing down a bit. Good grief. I run around like a chicken with my head cut off now. I'd like to put up my feet and read a book in peace. Heck, I'd like to poop in peace. That hasn't happened since 97. Old sounds good to me.

Maybe the 60-year-olds feel that peace, quiet, reflection, sitting on the front porch drinking lemonade and telling stories is too gentrified. Or is it possible that this generation who so diminished their elders believes that if they deny that they're old, they can never be diminished either? That's probably more it. This denial leads to crazy actions: having kids at 50 and 60 is just plain selfish.

Anyway, bully for Boomers. They're forever young and making the rest of us old in the process.

1 comment:

Sharon said...

I hope "old" still exists when I get there. I've always wanted to be old and wise. If I don't get to old...well, wise might be out the window too. :)