In any truly civilized culture, older people are greeted with respect as pillars of wisdom to turn to for advice and comfort. But in America, old folk are generally discarded in favor of hot young blondes (except for Barbara Walters). The elderly tend to become invisible, greeted with a sort of pained indifference that says “We’re proud of you for surviving, yet embarrassed that you’re in the same room as us. Kindly go to a home–I mean home–and stop bringing us down with your depressing wrinkles.”
Partly that’s because people feel oldies have already shown what they can do, so there’s no more surprise or excitement in them. (They don’t realize that’s because they don’t OFFER them the chance to expand or experiment anymore.) But mainly the distaste about older people is a result of the fact that they remind everyone of their own mortality. No one wants to be around someone who’s a walking billboard for the fact that we all eventually wither and die–it takes all the fun out of the party! And for younger people who feel relatively powerless and unaccomplished, putting down their elders becomes a chance to feel important, to revel in the one thing they have in spades–a healthy distance from death.
So don’t get old, people. Get surgery!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 27, 2009