Aging In The U.S. Of A.

By Judy Andreas
Right Is
I have always had a fondness for animals. Staring into the eyes of a dog, honesty and warmth stare back at me. Cats have been my favorite. I am not sure whether it is their grace or their independence of spirit. I love animals. However, when I turned on the nightly news and saw a deer with the proverbial "caught in the headlights" stare, I was a bit taken aback. Then, on second glance, I realized that this deer was not a nightly feature but was, rather (no pun intended) an anchorwoman. I looked incredulously at the wide-eyed female describing the usual mind numbing battery of inaccuracies. What had happened to this woman?
A voice in the room replied "Botox"
"Botox? "
I googled Botox and found it difficult to follow the information since the word "toxin" kept jumping off the page.
Along with "toxin" was "paralysis" "corneal ulceration" and "spatial disorientation"
Nowhere was "the deer look" mentioned.
I hope that I will not receive any hate mail from PETA. I love the deer and it pains me to see one occasionally riding on the top of the hood of the car or lying moribund by the side of the road. I have encountered Bambi on several occasions, motoring down a dark country road , and yes, I've admired the beauty of the animal. However, I must confess that I've never had the desire to look like him.
I stared at the anchorwoman in a combination of amusement and amazement. Something was terribly wrong. Why would anyone take a perfectly lovely face and twist it into a grotesque aberration? The answer was simple. Aging has become a crime in the U.S of A....... punishable by a lethal (?) shot of Botox or various and sundry tucks, snips and pulls. Your personal freedom determines your choice of sentence.
It is 2004 and the television is belching out an assortment of shows about supposedly ugly ducklings being transformed into gorgeous swans. Who was it that said "Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder." Had it always been this way?, I wondered. When did aging become a sin in the United States?
Simone de Beauvoir, the French Existentialist, writer and social essayist, in her book "The Second Sex" called our treatment of the aged "scandalous." And though Ms. Beauvoir was writing about women, men have also fallen prey to the disease. (the disease of "outlook" NOT "aging")
Interestingly, however, this was not always the case. The founding fathers, for example, viewed the elderly as indispensable in establishing the New World. The elderly were looked upon as paragons of virtue. In pre-civil war America, references to "venerable" old age were part of everyday parlance. Uncle Sam (not reputed to be a "hottie") became the symbol of the New Land.
With growing frequency, after the civil war, Americans began to change their favorable beliefs about the usefulness and merits of age. Instead of depicting seniors as stately and wise, more often than not, they were described as ugly and useless. Instead of extolling the virtues of the aged's wisdom and practical sagacity, people developed the mindset that the elderly were incapable of contributing anything of value to society. Ideas developed about the pathological disorders that weakened the intellectual capabilities and moral faculties at advanced stages of life. "Youth" were thought to be most "in sync" with the modern needs of our society.
And today, how many of our elderly people have been warehoused in Old Age facilities, doped up on a lengthy list of pharmaceuticals? How many people are waiting for the velvet darkness of death?
This turn of events is based, I believe, on our denial of death. Staring into the eyes of an old person, one no longer sees into the soul, with its vast wisdom and experience. Instead, the reflection of the viewer's own mortality obscures his vision and the scream of fear silences his humanity.
It is interesting that in other cultures, with a less materialistic perspective, people are not as terrified of aging. In Taoism, old age is taken as a virtue in itself. Lao Tzu's teachings set the age of 60 as the moment at which a man may free himself from his body and by ecstatic experience become a Holy Being. I contend that Lao was also talking about women, but who cares about political correctness when we are dealing with life and death issues.
Robert Browning wrote:
"Grow old along with me
The best is yet to be
The last of life, for which the first was made......"
Those were optimistic words indeed. Perhaps Browning had not been subjected to the airbrushed, digitalized, nutrition starved and botoxed bevy of "beauties" that display their wares on the television, in movies and in magazines. Perhaps Browning's vision had not been dulled by the constant assault on our values that Madison Avenue has waged. Staying young is a large industry.
The "best of life" is spent on a beach in a bikini surrounded by the adoring eyes of the opposite sex. Mr Browning has been spared this revulsion.
When my 22 year old was but a two year old, we spent each Friday morning delivering Meals on Wheels. One of our customers has deposited himself forever in my memory bank.
Fred was close to 90 and yet he would walk to the library everyday. He was an avid reader and writer. He dazzled me with stories about his boyhood in Wisconsin and told me of the various jobs he had performed along his path. He had even written a book, but stated, sadly, that there was no demand for it. I was delivering the meals and yet this gentlemen was nourishing me.
Who are our role models in this culture? Are they the super models and rock stars? How many little Britney Spears wannabes do you know? (or is she already over the hill?) Does anyone on television ever age or do they just grow gracefully into alienhood, like Joan Rivers.
An internet friend of mine recently wrote me a beautiful letter referring to women who hang desperately onto their looks.
He said, "A woman who clings to her sexual identity and wants to continue to be "attractive" is holding herself back from the next stage for her, which, traditionally, is the elder stage. What has she learned about being an illuminated woman and what does that portend for her younger sisters? If the answer is Not Much, then do a makeover and good luck.
Making oneself over and becoming "attractive" is an understandable strategy for a woman who feels uncertain and confused about real feminine power. It is a substitute for real power and merely continues the earlier, once appropriate attribute of the woman, which was to be beautiful and attractive to male interest. But now, it is up to her to be more deeply herself, to be fully realized beyond the biological imperative"
I thank my friend for his wisdom. Perhaps we can set an example for our children and help our brothers out of the trap in which they, too, are caught.
We are a warlike culture and, at this point in history, we are waging a battle with Mother Nature. And yet, Mother Nature has enlisted Father time and together they are a formidable pair. I am not a betting woman, but, unlike the upcoming election, I know who is going to win.
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