Thursday, February 21, 2008

How Not to Look Old. Er, did she mean How to promote ageism? I ramble.

Have you heard of the book the new self-help book, "How Not to Look Old" by Charla Krupp? Let's start with an excerpt, shall we? It's a bit long but I want you to have the full flavor. -

"Forget Aging Gracefully

All right, I’m just going to come out and say it. Aging sucks. As my generation of women hits 40, 50, 60, we are for the first time discovering things about our faces and bodies that we never noticed before. Icky things such as age spots, crow’s-feet, gray hair, chin hair, marionette lines, saggy boobs, spider veins, bunions — need I go on? I don’t think so. You know what I’m talking about. The question is: What are you—what are we going to do about it? We’re going to fight aging—and we’re going to look great doing it. Whether it’s by our sheer numbers (78 million strong—the largest demographic group in history) or our sheer chutzpah, we baby boomers are pros at shaking things up as we hit each decade. We know how to do this. From rock music in the ‘60s, to “Me Generation” therapy in the ‘70s, to the “Let’s Get Physical” fitness boom of the ‘80s, to the spa fad of the ‘90s, to the green movement of today, our generation has no problem rewriting the rules to suit our needs as we move past life’s milestones. Now that we are going to live to be 100, our mission is to reinvent retirement and the golden years. Although we haven’t nailed that yet (for some of us, retirement is still a ways away), we already know that we’re not going to just stand there like a bunch of Willie Lomans and accept our gold watch with a thank-you and a smile at the retirement party.(If we even get the watch — or the party.) Neither are we likely to be sailing into the sunset spending our days and playing golf or tennis, or sitting around the pool with a cocktail in hand. What else aren’t we going to do? We’re not going to grow old gracefully (or gratefully). We’re not going to celebrate our wrinkles (you’ve got to be kidding). We’re not going to join the Women Who Have Had Too Much Work Done club (like our mothers and their friends). We’re not going to look old."
Where shall I start? We’re going to fight aging—and we’re going to look great doing it? Fight it? How about embrace it! Age spots, crow’s-feet, gray hair are "icky"? Since when! We're not going to look old? We're not going to grow old gracefully? We're not going to celebrate our wrinkles? Why Not! Our mothers and their friends had too much work done? We're not going to stand there like a bunch of Willie (sic) Lomans?

As I remember, Willy Loman was hardly the poster child for the docile retiree who received his gold watch with a smile and walked away. He killed himself, for goodness sake. And he, of all people, was an absolute believer in the ultimate virtues of physical appearance and being liked. In my view, Willy Loman would have applauded "How Not to Look Old."

Natasha Singer didn't applaud Charla Krupp in the NY Times, January 24, 2008, Nice Résumé. Have You Considered Botox?. I applaud her article. Excerpts - (this book) "is the latest makeover title to treat the aging of one's exterior as a disease whose symptoms are to be fought to the death or, at least, mightily camouflaged. . . . .Many people would shun a book if it were titled "How Not to Look Jewish" or "How Not to Look Gay" because to cater to discrimination is to capitulate to it. But the success of "How Not to Look Old" indicates that popular culture is willing to buy into ageism as an acceptable form of prejudice, even against oneself."

Ms. Singer quotes Molly Andrews: "Dr. Andrews is the author of a 1999 paper titled “The Seductiveness of Agelessness,” published in Ageing & Society, in which she argued that encouraging people to mask their age constitutes a form of ageism in itself. “People who are held up as models of aging well are those who are not seen to age,” she said."

Singer and Andrews can speak for me any day. As for Ms. Krupp, I'm thinking maybe she's on to something, a series perhaps - Why stop at How Not to Look Jewish, or Gay as proposed by Ms. Singer. There's a whole world of other choices. Just for starters, How Not to Look Black, or Adolescent, or Fat, or Native American, or Middle Eastern, or Latino, or, in some situations, Like a baby. Talk about icky. As humans go, babies are disgusting. Moist, sticky, whiny, unable to feed themselves, incontinent, and other passengers on airlines hate them. If only there were some way to make them more like us or at least, disguise them.

In case you haven't noticed, "How Not to Look Old" is a book for women. Men, it would seem, are entitled to age gracefully. Ms. Krupp points out that, for women, aging in the workplace can be a true detriment. It's hard to argue with that one. Being female at all in the workplace can still present hurdles, glass ceilings, roadblocks, in spite of the enormous triumphs of feminism in the last century. How many women are running for president? How many have ever run? Count on one hand, with fingers left over for the future. But I guess How Not to Look Female ain't gonna fly.

As for the attached pic, we can't decide if it should be our "before" or "after" photo.


sharryb said...

I'd hope to outgrow the adolescent obsession with my skin, my butt, my boobs (or lack of), my need for the perfect sweater set. Apparently Krupp celebrates that muddled point of view. Sigh.

Thanks for mentioning it, Judith. It lets me feel a sense of community with others who find aging an interesting experience rather than a fight to the finish with nature.

Judith said...

Hullo, Judith, I have just been dipping to find out something about you after your first visit to my blog. I personally reject the notion of trying 'not to look old'. I'm for promoting the idea that 'old' is just as good as 'young, or 'middle aged', and that every age has its own value. But that doesn't mean that the old should not make old age into something different from what it has been in earlier generations, and obviously many of us are doing that. But DON'T call me "young lady" or tell me I'm "young at heart", or I am liable to be extremely rude!

Did you pick up the link on my blog to the Growing Old Disgracefully website? It's a great organisation here in the UK (though it's website needs updating, in which a lot of women enjoy being old and getting old together: