Friday, December 25, 2009

Sunset Boulevard And The Tragedy of Aging Women

"There;s Nothing Wrong With Being 50, So Long As You Don't Act Like You Are 25." So said Joe Gillis to Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. So I ask: is there any group more discriminated against in our society than an aging woman? I think not. While we have progressed mightily in social and economic terms to tear down the barriers of prejudice in most all areas of American society, there remains that pitiful group of aging beauty queens, wrinkled faced former princesses whose implants and facelifts have long outgrown their warranties and against whom Hollywood and Madison Avenue have turned a cold shoulder and closed the door of opportunity with a proverbial "Old Ladies Need Not Apply." And for what reason are they ignored and put down? They are old and getting older by the day. A man ages gracefully, the specks of gray hair and leather like skin are held out as assets to which younger women are attracted. Age is equated with maturity, sophistication, and, most important, money. It is an unfortunate fact of life that the one attribute that a women has to snare a man, her beauty, depreciates once she turns 40 like an ice cube in the hot August sun. While Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood, and just about any male actor continues to be hired, the same cannot be said of their female counterparts. Kathleen Turner may be the modern equivalent of Norma Desmond, except she is not dumb enough to believe otherwise.
The social ostracization will continue forever. While racial prejudice could be alleviated through economic progress and integration, the problem for older woman is that they are confronted with a force far more powerful: vanity. As long as our society treasures youth as the ultimate symbol of female beauty, the aging woman whose face is dropping to her shoulders and whose bottom resembles dried up flour, life will continue to be ever more miserable.
Of course there is a solution. Unlike Norma Desmond, refuse to play the game. I really think that a plain Jane has the advantage in the long run. South Florida is overpopulated with young twentysomethings for whom physical beauty is a measure of their self worth. And I include not only strippers and models but professionals as well. You seem them everywhere. You can also simultaneously see them twenty five years later. Go to Aventura Mall or Coral Gables on a Saturday night. The aging hotties try gamely to reach back and grab a piece of yesterday despite their made up faces and plastic filled bodies. It must be tragic indeed to look at the younger women in their midst who are competing for the affection of the same men they are and knowing, like some 20 handicapper teeing it up against Tiger Woods, they don't stand a chance. But if a woman was not born with the necessary social graces or beauty to enter the race to begin with, she is in the long run better off . She will have achieved a degree of contentment by the acquisition of a skill that will grow in value as she grows old with it. Not yielding to the temptations of vanity in one's twenties and instead pursuing a less ephemeral goal in life will yield a degree of happiness and solace in one's forties and beyond that her superficial sisters will never experience. In the long run, men get old too. They may go through their fifties popping Viagra and able to feel no different than they did in their twenties but the dark horizon is not far off. That arm candy will be replaced by a colostomy bag sooner than they think and a woman half a man's age is not going to stick around for very long when the highlight of the evening is not wetting the bed. The old geezer will forever regret dumping wife number one.
To every Norma Desmond in the world, I say do not look back but look ahead. Invest not in your body but in your mind. Make your own rules and don't play by those under which you cannot ever win.

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