I’ve reached an age when my grandmother, at the same age I am now, was an old woman. She wore black orthopedic shoes, a corset, and had tight blue curls for hair. She’d had an interesting life traveling the world when she was first married. She’d been one of the first women ever to attend Stanford University. But in her 70s she seemed Past Prime Time. Looking at photos of her as a young woman I found it hard to believe she had ever been young. What did that degree from Stanford mean? What did she do with it? She could have done anything, but she retreated while my grandfather, who looked like an Italian movie star, was an engineer, went all over the world while she stayed home, and when he came back, had a studio out behind their house where he painted; a pool table where he taught me to play pool. He was older than my grandmother by three years, but acted years younger. I thought he was ageless. I never thought of him as OLD. Even in his 80s and 90s he wasn’t. But certainly my grandmother was.
I am extremely lucky. I was around and involved in the civil rights movement. I burned my bra in the late 60s and was in line to get the first birth control device.
Now I am lucky enough to be in an age where “Old is the New Young.”
What we used to think of as old isn’t anymore. Age is redefined. There are women and men in their 70s, and 80s writing books, painting, sculpting, curing diseases, traveling, working along with people of all ages on archeological digs, helping build houses for Habitat, getting additional degrees; starting second or third or even first careers, starting up businesses, falling in love again, marrying at an “elder” age. Running for President.
Rock groups from the 50s and 60s are back on the road. Sounding pretty much the same. The music from 30 years ago sounds good; the musicians’ ponytails are grey, but the songs haven’t aged. Their audiences are made up of those of us who went to their concerts years ago; now we’re back taking our kids and grandchildren to their concerts with us.
While older male actors are not new to this “Old is the New Young,” you don’t often see three men who have been icons for years together in the same three- hour movie, each man at his finest, reminding us of all that talent at their age and what each has to offer. “The Irishman,” up for Best Picture of the Year. It was directed by Martin Scorsese, age 77. De Niro is 76, Pacino is 79 and Pesci is 76.
While ageism still exists among women in the movies, it’s beginning to break down, come apart. Some light coming in from a crack in the glass ceiling. Salma Hayek played “Frida”, Diane Lane stars, along with Kevin Costner in “Let Him Go”, Jodie Foster took a break from acting to direct, Jennifer Jason Leigh appeared in “The Hateful Eight.” Diane Keaton in “Poms.” And then there’s Jane Fonda who will remain 30 forever.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a rock star. Nancy Pelosi … well … a woman, an “older woman” could be president.
Then there’s Emma Thompson, Judi Dench, and Charlotte Rampling, all of whom give “sexy” a new and deeper meaning. Not to mention Meryl Streep, age 77.
And it’s not how they look. It’s what they’ve gained with time. More talent and wisdom. Written in their beautiful older faces. A lot to be said for what we learn getting older.
Discrimination against old age is breaking down.
Maybe this “Old is the New Young” movement will help end other forms of discrimination and the paranoia that exists when we’re not all the same. Maybe it can help build trust and equality between the right and the left, standing right now on either side of a huge divide.
My grandmother, I’m sure, would have loved to have burned her corset, taken off those awful black shoes, gone barefoot, and let her tight blue curls grow out to blow in the wind.
And if she could do it over, she’d have done something spectacular with that prestigious degree from Stanford.