Life On Feeling Young
posted by December 1 at 9:39 AMon
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.