Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

How Old are You Really?

Greta Garbo (1905-1990) in the 1930s. Image Source: MSN.

At a Christmas party recently, an interesting topic came up among several Baby Boomers. 'How old are you in your head?' Meaning, to what age does your mind hearken back as some point with which you associate your core identity? Two men in their 60s said they felt inside that they were in their late 20s. I, the Gen Xer, said I thought of myself in my early 20s. No one, including the older people from the Silent Generation who were there, went above their 30s. There was a consensus that a cognitive dissonance arises, wherein everyone is still 20- or 30-something in their brain, and meanwhile the body ages and becomes more and more at odds with the mind. I don't think the age of one's core identity coincides with one's mental age. The three are distinct: age of self-identity; mental age; physical age.

Joan Crawford (1905-1977) interviewed on The David Frost Show in 1970. Image Source: My Pretty Baby Cried.

This is similar to something one of my friends, C., noted about women: many of them style their hair for the rest of their lives with the same look they had when they felt they were at their most attractive; for many, that decade is apparently the peak of young adulthood. I don't think this is the case as much as it used to be. There used to be a Gloria Swanson parodied stereotype of older women who were young in the 1930s walking around with turbans in the 1950s or even the 1970s (by which time they had come back into fashion). Perhaps this lagging hairstyles trend among women has waned. We can all be thankful that we don't see many Gen X women walking around with late 80s' hair.



  1. There's a really interesting exchange between James Hillman and Michael Ventura (their book WE'VE HAD 100 YEARS OF PSYCHIATRY AND THE WORLD IS GETTING WORSE) about this phenomenon and how it kind of causes us to wrong ourselves. I'm badly paraphrasing here, but they talked about how shunning or mistreating people who either actually are or whom we perceive to be older than ourselves sort of strikes blows at the older person ourselves will become someday. We grind her down, yell at her, avoid her, ridicule her, call her ugly, get impatient with her, every time we honk at a slow driver or tell a reminiscing geezer to get to the point -- and if we do it often enough over a long enough period of time, that older version of us waiting for us to become her has just shrunken down or melted away, and so when our time comes we don't know "how to be old." Hillman pointed out, I believe, that this doesn't happen everywhere, just in cultures that have decided not to honor age.

    I don't want to be that. I want always to be the age that I am. Right now, that's 42. This is how it feels to be 42. And I kind of like it. I hope I can keep liking it for a few more months, until I'm 43 and have to find what there is to like about THAT.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Kate - sounds like we are almost exactly the same age! I agree that being comfortable in one's own skin at any age is essential. That includes ignoring or not internalizing the ageist prejudices of a huge youth culture. You can see some popular figures have aged well by being at peace with themselves somehow, by not regarding ageing like a combat zone (e.g. Helen Mirren or Catherine Deneuve - contrast their grace with someone like Madonna, who plainly is not quite accepting the ageing process). Part of that peacefulness comes from reconciling the different 'ages' one is - mental, emotional and physical. Ironically anti-ageing treatments being funded and researched frenetically by Boomers right now will prolong life, but their founding principles are based on conflict with age, not finding peace in it.

    Upcoming posts deal with what happens when ageist misconceptions get out of control and skew our society and politics.

    The elderly have been treated with less and less respect over the past century and into the Millennium. I noticed a lot of Boomer sites and services aimed at dealing with elderly parents; now the Boomers are becoming those elderly parents themselves, and the youth culture from which they once profited is alien to them.