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Friday, December 1, 2006

On Feeling Young

posted by on December 1 at 9:39 AM

Old Joan Collins recently came out against “a culture obsessed with youth,” arguing that “being young doesn’t last. For most of your natural life, you will be classified as middle-aged or old,” and, besides, “you are as young as you look and feel.” Collins is noted for her “sexy” appearance which defies her terrific age, 73. And often young women come up to her and say things like: “I hope I look as good as you do when I’m your age.” All of this is, as you can see, very, very sad. Collins is just an old woman; she is no “spring chicken.” Her youth has long gone; it vacated her face, her flesh, her bones, her breasts; and what remains is the damage done by gravity, time, wind, and the rays of the sun.

Creams, surgery, diet, exercise—none of these can restore the youth of an old woman or man. Over here, we have the young; over there, the old. If the old confront the youth on the grounds of their youth—a young, fresh, life-full body—then they will lose badly. As for society, it has one very good reason to worship youth: because it is, as Collins points out, short-lived (between 15 and 25). It is the body at its peak moment. The body at its single moment of perfection.

Finally, this business of “feeling youthful” is a bankrupt business when your body looks old. The power of the old must not be drawn from pity, which is what Collins is ultimately, secretly, skillfully asking for—recognize a septuagenarian’s youthful heart, not their sagging breasts. It is better that the power of the old be like that which we find in the old man, Cephalus, in Plato’s Republic. When Cephalus is asked by Socrates what it’s like to be old, he says it’s not so bad, it’s fine, it’s bearable, provided you have money. Money not for rare, rejuvenating creams, nor for buying young lovers, but to payback all the sins you committed when your body was the king, when you fucked everything and fucked everyone over. From Cephalus’s point of view, being old is really about giving your past actions serious consideration, being thoughtful, repayment for wrongs, and confronting the fact of death. True, Socrates doesn’t think very highly of Cephalus’s approach, but at least it is one that recognizes being old is not about being (feeling, acting) young.

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You win the depressing contest, Charles.

You're point is basically that life is over at 25, after which you get to work hard and fight the system so you can later feel lots of guilt and remorse.


Posted by K | December 1, 2006 9:59 AM

What's wrong with guilt and remorse?

Posted by Fnarf | December 1, 2006 10:11 AM

I am almost 26. Is her point that as soon as I turn 26 I am considered "old?"

I'm really disappointed.

Posted by candyqueen | December 1, 2006 10:29 AM

The rays of the sun do mess you up. As an old, leathery, sun rayed, weathered and beaten Latin American male, I can agree with that. This reminds me of Memories of Underdevelopment, where the Cuban narrator talks about Caribbean women and how the rays of the sun destroy them before their due time.

Posted by SeMe | December 1, 2006 10:50 AM
Over here, we have the young; over there, the old.

I find it amusing that you seem to group yourself with "youth" (a group that apparently ends at 25)

Is lying about one's age a chronic condition over at The Stranger?

And what about this depressing post makes it worthy to be reposted multiple times..?

Posted by Colin | December 1, 2006 10:51 AM

I'm 32 and the happiest I've ever been, inspite of some shitty things that have happened recently. I'm also in the best physical shape.

I'm not sure if Joan is still writing books, but if she is I wonder who the stars are of her books. Is she writing about 70 year olds? Oh, wait am I think of Jackie Collins? Does Joan write books? Oh well...

Posted by Papayas | December 1, 2006 10:51 AM

@5 - it's okay because emotionally they're still in their teens ;)

Posted by charles | December 1, 2006 11:22 AM

colin, i have been an old man since i was 20. My glorious youth only lasted five years.

Posted by charles mudede | December 1, 2006 11:28 AM

Charles, most the time I read your posts and smile, but you have embedded a sharp point in this softball.

You're absolutely right: the power of the old is not drawn from pity. The power of the old--and the old have more power than the unregarding young may realize--is drawn from knowledge. The old know history, and therefore, to the extent each is capable, develop wisdom. Some, like Joan Collins apparently, are willing to trade wisdom for another try at youth, and some may be as dried up and blown away as Cephalus was, but many know the score better than they ever did in youth.

Posted by moose@belltown | December 1, 2006 12:09 PM

Jackie Collins, Joan Collins's sister, is the astoundingly brilliant novelist, possibly the greatest of all time. Joan's an actor. Though she did try her hand at a trashy novel once; it resembled her sister's work but was unreadable.

Posted by Fnarf | December 1, 2006 12:18 PM

I see you are toight - toight like a toiger.

Posted by D Huygens | December 1, 2006 12:47 PM

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