It is my considered opinion that our society is very sick.
I think pretty much everyone agrees with me and will hasten to diagnose a myriad of ills, some of them undoubtedly terminal. But the particular ailment I have in mind is usually overlooked: indeed, its symptoms are routinely mistaken for signs of health--which is, of course, the crowning proof of how insidious this disease is.
I'm talking about Fountain of Youth Syndrome.
In the western world, anything old is beneath notice. And the definition of 'old' is getting newer with each passing generation, to the point where I've actually heard "like, that's so five minutes ago" out of the mouth of a mere teenager. While her usage was obviously satirical, it wasn't as satirical as you'd think.
Yes, anything "old" is contemptible. And so, by extension, is anyone old. This maxim, which our society has elevated to the level of a Great Truth, has become so ingrained that it is expected of everyone to look as young as possible for as long as possible. Every gray hair is a sign of impending doom. Every wrinkle is a crevasse with Death waiting at the bottom. The thought of growing old causes sleepless nights. It's madness, I tell you: madness.
If there's anything our society's obsessed with more than youth, it's profit. And so marketing gurus have sought to spread the disease, with great, ringing success. Oil of Olay. Botox. Sculptra. Facelifts, tummy tucks, laser surgeries, hair rinses, collagen injections, breast augmentation, the Hair Club for Men, and on and on and on. It's a multibillion dollar industry...quite possibly the most profitable concern on the planet.
And what compels people to keep the snake-oil salesmen in business? Is it an overwhelming desire to be young forever? Of course not: only to look young, as if your body is the only thing that matters. More often than not, these people who are absolutely determined to save their bodies from the ravages of time spend precious little time on their minds, and even less on their souls (or spirits, if you prefer that word.)
What's so bad, I dare to ask, about growing old? It can't be a terrible thing: everybody does it, unless they die young first. The same goes for death. Everybody's got a theory on what happens when you die, but they all basically boil down into two divisions: either you go on to something else, or you don't. Either way, we're all in the same boat.
When I see someone who looks old, the very first thing that comes to mind is "wow. I bet she's lived a full life. What wisdom she must have accumulated!" I would have been right at home in a Native tribe, revering my elders. It saddens me to no end that this is far from the norm in our society.
At 33 years of age, I'm only just starting to feel like I might have a grip on this thing called Life. Doubtless there are many things waiting in the wings to bite me in the ass (why is it, pray tell me, that so many of life's nasties have a taste for assmeat?) and it's entirely possible that when I get to be 66, I'll look back at my naive and hopeless 33-year-old self with pity and scorn. But I do know one thing: when I get to be 66 years old, I'll look it. Proudly.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not suggesting we should all try to hurry the Reaper up. But I do think we should embrace our inner crone, and I can only hope the baby boomers, as they age, eventually come to that realization themselves.
I can only hope.