Perceptions.

We all perceive things in our own way. We own our outlook on life. When I read or see something, I am going to interpret it differently than anyone else based on life experience, maturity, intelligence level and inborn prejudices. No two people experience something in the exact same way.

I recently read a book The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni. There was nothing extraordinary about this book except the one line where it really made me mad.

When Sam talks about his youth, specifically his Mother, he talks about how utterly gorgeous and sexy she was when he was a child. He talks about all the men that wanted to get to know her just a little bit better. But make it clear that he, and apparently others think she is movie star glam and gorgeous.

She is supposed to be in her late twenties at this point…

Let’s skip to her at Sam’s high school graduation:

“My Mother had aged. We had celebrated her forty-third birthday that year, and now, standing so close to her, I could see the depth of the crows feet at the corners of her eyes, what she called her “worry lines,” and how her once unblemished skin now displayed the inevitable markings that only time delivers”

Robert Dugoni

Really?

She was 43…

43

There’s so much anger and resentment in me that I don’t know where to start.

Is 43 even old? I mean, I get that it’s probably a fair number for middle age, but middle age means the middle. Old implies the end.

43 is the MIDDLE.

Of course we age. When you have kids, boy, do you age. We are supposed to age. Unless your name is Dorian, but then you’ve got a whole set of other problems…

But back to my anger…

Do we spend too much time discussing looks?

This is rhetorical to a point, because based on the billion dollar beauty industry, we spend a lot of time discussing looks…and aging…and how to look younger…

Is aging worse if you’ve been considered attractive your entire life?

Is it OK to decide not to fight aging, but to just accept it? Or do people think you’ve “given up”?

Would it be worse if a woman had written this line as opposed to a man? Or does it not matter who wrote it?

How often do you look at someone you’ve known for awhile and say to yourself- “Wow- they’ve aged?”

How do you perceive aging?

How do you perceive what is old?

Discuss…

108 thoughts on “How Old?

  1. Watching “The Undoing” and saddened by how old Hugh Grant and Donald Sutherland look. Makes me feel older. On the plus side, Nicole Kidman looks as young as ever.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. OH MY GOSH– I was thinking the same thing watching The Undoing. Poor old Hugh was SOO wrinkly but STILL soo sexy! Now if Nicole Kidman had those same wrinkles, we’d probably not think that was in any way attractive. Why is this??? (So unfair!)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yup…FYI..a few years ago my daughter and I saw Hugh Grant speak at a forum and he’s pretty hot. Now, a lot of it is because he’s so funny, but yeah…

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh GOSH YESS! And that accent.. YOWZA!!!–I don’t even hold his crooked teeth against him.. total double standard I have with men- I admit it!!! What the heck??

        Liked by 2 people

      4. I was ready for you to rake me over the coals…HAHA..I’m just being honest and I admit, it’s awful..but if Nicole Kidman had a ton of wrinkles and crooked teeth I’d be like why isn’t she taking care of that? With Hughie-baby.. it’s like an actual plus.Kinda like male actors can have a scar on their face and it somehow looks sexy..women actors..nope. AM I the only one who thinks this? If I am..I will go into self-imposed hiding (AKA quarantine) for at least two weeks till I get my mind straight.

        Liked by 2 people

      5. We have to admit to ourselves that we are doing it. If we own it, and are aware of it…it’s better than saying one thing but believing another. However, I don’t like when thirty year old women get cast as fifty year olds, because that’s just ridiculous. And I don’t
        Ike it when young women start having plastic surgery. We need to tread carefully. Like, I think Sophia Loren looks pretty fantastic…

        Liked by 3 people

  2. I’m watching “The Undoing” and am saddened by how old Hugh Grant and Donald Sutherland look. It makes me feel older. On the plus side, Nicole Kidman looks as young as ever despite her age of 53. These comments may seem superficial, but I’m a big fan of actors, and something tells me the Universe should make some exceptions and leave them ageless. Aging is cruel, especially for artists with public exposure.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Not superficial but real. And you’re willing to admit that men have aged, which people don’t normally do. We were at the spy museum the other day, and my daughter was shocked at what Sean Connery looked like when he played Bond…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sorry, but I don’t agree. She’s an actress. She’s obviously driven to perform. And it becomes increasingly difficult for aging female actors to find rewarding roles. Kidman is an immensely talented and courageous woman.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I don’t think that it makes a difference to who says it. I might be said to be fighting aging as I do dye my hair and use multiple anti-aging creams etc. I think it is a personal thing, I will say I am probably vain and do not want to look “old” whatever that means. My husband saw an old classmate of his and commented on the fact that he looked old and wanted to know if I thought he looked that old. It was a silly conversation that I took no part in to be honest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess I don’t like men saying it about women because that feeds into a woman’s need to be attractive to a man…if women think that men think they look old, and work on their looks only because of that, I think this is where problems start…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. In some circumstances, yes. I think we are a society who builds our self confidence from external sources. We are constantly comparing, keeping up the Jones family, etc. we buy things so it looks like we’re better than we are. Influencers, etc. people will spend money on products instead of finding something that makes them happy inside. No one wants to look behind the curtain too much

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  4. On Big Bang Theory Penny at one point made a remark toward Lenard that they should do x or y before they get ‘old and disgusting’.

    Now, I get that millenials may talk this way. But it kind of threw me for a loop.

    Do their parents who are old(er) look disgusting? I mean, at one point, Sheldon’s mom and Lenard’s dad were hooking up? Neither is unattractive, or disgusting.

    That fictitious comment bothered me enough to store in my brain.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Agism, along with other unfortunate ‘isms’ , is a part of our society.

    I am a happy septuagenarian.

    I do cringe,however; when someone says to me : ‘You must have been attractive once’.
    This is known as an ‘uncompliment’. 🤗⚘

    Liked by 5 people

  6. In my experience, that would be unusual for a high school kid to view their parent in this way. Sounds like the author should be old enough to know better, even if he had started writing the book ten years previously, as an interview with him says. I do think our perceptions of aging change as we get older. Maybe this author was a late bloomer:)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Aging. I suspect this is a topic for the over-50 group. I think it begins around the age when we start wondering how well (?) we are aging. Women tend to age better because in my opinion they take better care of the basics such as skin care. Men as a majority don’t think about moisturizing their faces etc. I thing worrying about aging decreases as you age and you just want to stay healthy and being able to do what you like and want because you see those abilities diminishing for some in your age group. Over 60, you think of yourself as “middle age” but actually you have “rounded the corner”. Youth is wasted on the young said George Bernard Shaw because they were oblivious I suppose. How young are you on the inside? I would suspect that LA feels the same now inside as when she was 25 and will always be so; full of feisty energy.

    Liked by 7 people

  8. As someone said, age is just a number. What is important is how you feel. You can be @30 but you look as if you are at 50. Maybe depending on how you take care of yourself. However, aging can also be brought about by health issues. Just recently, I met a girl I taught 3 Years ago. She is married with one kid. Though she was my student, she looks older than me.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I reckon if you have been considered ‘attractive’ in your youth then ageing must be a bitch but then again you should have worked harder at developing your personality instead of being so damn vain and relying on your looks!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I’ve heard said fabulously beautiful women can be the most miserable in old age, Candice Bergan told the story of how her father would remind her of the fact, remind her that beauty is transient and not to be relied on for future happiness……… many times at work I’ve watched middle age men drop everything to help a pretty student over the more plain Jane’s.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. This makes me think about how some people “age well” and others don’t. It is about how you and your body carry your age, I think. Some people go gray and it looks amazing on them. Others go gray and just look old. The same goes for wrinkles. There are those that, again, just make a person look old and worn down and others it gives them a kind of character. A part of how that comes across is a person’s attitude and how they act. Those that have a fun loving outlook and attitude tend to feel younger than those that are grumpy and unhappy all the time. My grandmother has always looked young for her age. Part of that was she didn’t go gray for a very long time, but a big part of it too was that she was always cheerful and energetic. It took until she was well into her 80’s before she started to look “old”. Most of the women in my family are like this, though I think my age is catching up to me quicker than it did my grandmother, probably because I’ve gone more gray a whole lot sooner than her (thanks, dad!) and, so far, it isn’t an interesting gray.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I had never given age much thought – until I got here! I think we are a youth orientated society. Look at this pandemic and the number of seniors dying in so-called “care” homes during this pandemic (at least that’s the reality here in Canada). And so much marketing is focused on youth, being thin, being perfect – cuz, you know, if they can keep us all worrying about our appearance (especially women, but men can be prone to it too) they can keep selling us the products promising health, happiness, and most of all beauty.

    Have you read “A Prayer for Own Meany” by John Irving? I was uncomfortable with how the lead character portrays Owen’s crush on his mother. Is it because we tend to de-sexualize motherhood? Like, mothers are not supposed to be viewed as sexy or beautiful? I don’t know.

    There’s a lot of food for thought here. Like why aren’t more elderly women considered beautiful? I loved the movie (the name escapes me atm) where a group of older women pose nude for a calendar to raise money for a hospice so families would have somewhere comfortable and quiet to be when visiting dying relatives. It’s a wonderful movie. Wish I could remember the title.

    The whole emphasis on outer “beauty” infuriates me. People should be valued for their spirit, their personality, their kindness, and so on and so forth. Oh I could go on and on, but I think that’s enough.

    Liked by 4 people

  13. To borrow a line from Indiana Jones, it’s not the age, it’s the mileage. I used to think I would grow old gracefully, but now I look in the mirror and wonder who this old woman is….well past 43 years old. It is an unfair condition of our culture that is obsessed with youth and perceived outward beauty. This is why I like the Dove brand and their focus for women to see themselves as beautiful at every age. I think TG is correct in that attitude also plays an important part in the aging process, both physically, emotionally and psychologically. Some days beat me down so badly, I have a hard time maintaining a positive attitude. And, I know it shows in my face.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. It’s kind of funny to read this post because just yesterday I saw a movie on Netflix where Helen Hunt plays the mom. I couldn’t get over how old she looked. I mean, it was something I brought up to my kids…it was just unexpected I guess. And now I feel bad…lol

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Youth IS totally wasted on the young.
    But I am a vibrant 54 yr old, compared to how I remember my Mum being at 54…

    Still, my 20yr old son can always bring me back down to earth: we were looking at photos of me when I was 20, & he said ‘jeez, you were pretty good looking Mum, what happened??’
    I glared at him. ‘YOU happened, & Life happened!’ He just grinned ❤️

    Liked by 3 people

  16. I must say 43 is not old. I don’t like that statement either. As a matter of fact, I am in a much better place now at 54 than I was at 43. I feel much younger and vibrant than I was so it is all really perspective!!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I will never forget going to my 18th HS reunion…Wondering who are all these old people ? Am I in the correct reunion ? We were all only 36…but so many people I went to school with tanned, smoked, drank, did drugs or had kids and the wear and tear was very noticeable unlike me at the time (square, sober and single). I also find it funny if someone questions “Why don’t you dress your age ?” Or if seniors see horror flicks, youngin’s always question if they are at the right movie.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I work with a woman 80 years young who does not have to work. Her humor, her new boyfriend from Manhattan, her 8 grandchildren, and her flying time during COVID have me exhausted! I guess it is all perspective. She saw much of the world travelling with her exec husband, now a widow, and appears to live a charmed life. She arrives at work 45 minutes to prepare to teach students 45 minutes ahead of us young uns. I need some of what she smokes or lives on!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Obviously this topic has hit a nerve, LA!

    I think there’s some part of all of us that considers looks to be a part of vitality – it’s a biological urge. How we define looks in the modern age, though, has definitely been shaped by the entertainment industry.

    Take some time to look at old portraits of couples from the 19th century and see if you don’t silently ask yourself, “How did he end up with her?” or vice versa. Now, we expect couples to have rough equivalence in the looks department. Not so back then.

    I’ve been looking at a lot of photos of my younger self as I go through the labeling process. Never considered myself all that good-looking, but sure would like to look like that now.😁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I admit when I’m at museums I do think to myself,…she was a renowned beauty in her time….but then I shake it off…😉 it’s an interesting point about biological urge though…probably some sort of survival instinct

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Hmmm. Well, the way that gender and sexualituy are socially constructed in this country, speaking of genderism and sexism (and misogyny), I think the comment is, well, unacceptable, and yet all too typical. Interestingly enough, the poll in yesterday’s post, or whatever day that was, where the question was about gender mattering when shopping for a book. I answered yes. Yes, because I intentionally shop for women (especially women of color) authors because they are still very underrepresented, especially in certain genres. Okay, no more ranting. As to my conception of age. It is also a social construct, so I don’t put too much into it. Too much meaning, that is. Though, I know plenty of people that do care, and put lots and lots of meaning into age, going so far as to worry about it. Unhealthy. Nice post, as always, LA.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The amount of time we spend on outward appearance….bleh…..but on another note I just read A Woman is No Man….good book (though to be fair I’m assuming it’s a woman author and I actually don’t know if it is….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have a few scheduled posts about my fave books that I read this year. Lots of women authors. If you’re around, check me out the last week of December.

        Liked by 1 person

  21. My mom would have been 42 when I graduated. I can’t recall giving her that much scrutiny—-just that she looked like others of her age. I was older than that when my two graduated so who knows what he would have said about me.
    I think the passage you quoted is weird–my eyes sort of glaze over and sometimes I will skip passages like that. Why not use that space to say something positive about his mom’s smile etc.
    I LOLed at the unblemished skin of her twenties—-as I struggled with adult acne and roscea which have subsided now.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This statement in the book made me so mad…it gained the rest of the book for me..but I can’t help but wonder who else feels like this

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  22. Old is such a subjective thing. I remember when I was in my early thirties, and a friend turned 45, and I thought 45 was incredibly old. Now I think it’s rather young…. But yeah, we have been brainwashed into believing that we must look young no matter what our true age is. There are a lot of people who would be out of work if we stopped buying all the anti-aging stuff, and that’s without even taking plastic surgery into consideration.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. When I read A Man Called Ove, I couldn’t believe that his age was listed as 59. I knew the book was an end-of-life curmudgeonly man’s interactions, and kept mentally thinking, “He’s ONLY 59! That is NOT old!”

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      1. I think my version of 60 is very different than others view. I’m surrounded by older people who are amazingly vital, but I’ve been places where it’s quite the opposite

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  24. I’m reading this way after it was written, sorry….but this line would have made me throw that book at the wall. First of all most, men don’t notice how much their moms’ aged, especially if she’s only 43. I had my oldest son at 24 so I was only 42 when he graduated high school. He’d get embarrassed because everyone thought I was his girlfriend, or his mother and I was pregnant at 40 with his brother and people would look at us funny sometimes when we were together thinking he was my husband. ( He was over 6 feet and he’d be mortified.) But the reality was that ALL the moms looked young. I once overheard my son’s friends talking about how hot their girlfriends’ moms were. I chucked because the boys were out back playing basketball and shooting hoops talking about the MOM’s! Boys at that age think every female under 60 is fabulous. They have raging hormones. It’s the nature of the beast. And they don’t look closely at their own mothers. We are just mom. When they DO start to notice age, it isn’t until they reach middle age themselves. My oldest is now 47. (Sigourney and I are exactly the same age) and I commented to my son about how I noticed she had suddenly gotten old. ( she was in the new Daredevil series and my son was a big daredevil fan when he was a kid so we watched it together.) I said she really looked middle aged. My son got hysterical. He commented, “Middle aged? Mom she’s old! No offense, but neither you or she is middle aged anymore . I’m middle aged! “ And suddenly a light bulb went off in my head.
    I realized that the moment he thought of himself as midd aged, then I became old. Lol
    But that’s ok, because when he took me to and from my cancer treatments, he held me up or wheeled me letting me cling to him, and then when I started getting better he commented, “ Mom you look great! You’re back! “ So it wasn’t my age he noticed but my health.

    Children don’t notice small lines or aging. Not really. But they do notice themselves aging and then realize their parents must be getting old. Until I got cancer neither of my sons noticed I had gotten older. I think because my “ spirit” was youthful. However,
    I noticed aging in my 60’s. My 60’s kicked my Behind. As Bette Davis once said, it’s not for sissies! But having survived cancer I can tell you that aging is a real gift! I’ll gladly take it!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I remember watching an episode if Frasier. Frasier is contemplating Botox or some sort of plastic surgery and his father says to him “you feel old? My son is talking about plastic surgery. How do you think that makes me feel?

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  25. First, great essay with obvious thought-provoking conflict!

    I’ve never thought I was attractive and over time I guess I could say, and hopefully it’s the truth, that I value people more for what’s on the inside than what’s on the outside, including but not limited to actors and models.

    For instance, many male actors, including those who first came to fame because of what audiences could see on the outside, don’t really seem to have tried to do much of anything to preserve those first impression/acceptance looks. They’ve just honed their crafts along with their actual lives. My appreciation for many of them, including but not limited to Sean Connery, Harrison Ford and Hugh Grant, has remained or even grown accordingly.

    On the distaff side, I have to say that the Cover Girl commercial featuring Maye Musk irks me a bit, just on the face of it. However, given her unusual and sometimes difficult life story, I might be willing to cut her some slack. Clearly she’s a woman who struggled to come into her own she achieved that later rather than earlier. Here, from Wikipedia, is a summary of her most recent “beauty” accomplishments.
    Her modelling career continued in Canada and the USA.[5] She has appeared on boxes of Special K cereal,[2] in Revlon ads,[2] in a Beyoncé video,[2] she appeared nude on the cover of Time magazine for a health issue;[5] also nude on the cover of New York magazine in 2011 with a fake pregnant belly;[5] she was on the cover of Elle Canada in 2012;[5] and starred in advertisement campaigns for Target and Virgin America.[5] In 2015, she was signed by IMG Models.[5] In September 2017, she became CoverGirl’s oldest spokesmodel at age 69, which one news story reported as “making history”.[10][11]
    In addition to modelling, she has a business as a dietitian and gives presentations worldwide.[5]
    She wrote a memoir titled A Woman Makes a Plan: Advice for a Lifetime of Adventure, Beauty, and Success (2019).[12]

    I think Nicole Kidman has made a conscious effort to maintain her looks and by that I mean really protecting her milky white skin, which is probably not easy to do. Helen Mirren may have maintained her radiance over the years by utilizing a similar approach, but I really don’t have any idea. Besides those two, though, there are so many actresses who are older than I am that I’d consider to be as attractive now as they were when I first saw them, and they may not all have been considered to have been beautiful way back then. Examples: Meryl Streep, Mary Steenburgen, Carol Burnett, Diane Keaton, Julie Andrews, Sophia Loren, Sally Field, Jane Fonda. I don’t care what their bodies look like now or if they’ve had plastic surgery or not. They were and still are classic beauties.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. I think everyone perceives aging differently. Some people are ok with wrinkles, sagging skin and uneven skin tone as they get older, they wear them as battle scars. And that’s ok. While others find these “imperfections” unacceptable. How you, yourself perceive these changes will depend on what you choose to do about it. If your skin changes make you feel insecure, then you should do something about it. Don’t let the beauty industry tell how to feel about your aging skin, you get to choose. And if you choose to correct the skin damage then that’s ok too! Personally I’m all about looking and feeling good about myself and I’m not ashamed of getting some work done so I can feel good about the way I look. 🙂 Thanks for the great article!

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