Age. Why is it such an important issue? Or rather, why is youth?
I don’t feel like I’m getting ‘old’. I don’t really think I look it, but lately the slew of advertisements and movies starring people born in the eighties, and (gasp) even the nineties is striving to prove me wrong. Everywhere I look, teen appeal is pounding into my brain the fact that youth has somehow crept away from me in the night as I slept, and I’m well over the age where hippies of old insisted I could no longer be trusted.
As I blame society and The System for most things, I think I’ll stick to my usual for this as well. Someone, somewhere along the line said, “Youth is where it’s at.” And everyone followed. True, there can be arguments made about evolution and the drive to reproduce with the youngest, and thereby most virile, of the species. Yet, I can’t hold our base nature responsible for the total disregard our society has for those who’ve crested the ripe old age of twenty-five.
Young people are dumb. It’s not their fault. They just have no experience. They run out in the world thinking they know everything, and find out they know nothing. I know; I’ve done it myself. Even though I’m lamenting my fate as an initiate of the wrinkled set, I really don’t know how far back into my youth I would go to reclaim that former idyllic visage. Being young was the hardest thing I had to do. So why am I in such a huff about its demise? And why, when most people recognize this fact, is youth so revered?
I think it’s all about ideal. An unlined face. A supple body. A muscle-to-fat ratio that isn’t tipped crazily in the wrong direction. It doesn’t matter what’s under the hood, as long as the looks are there. Take Anna Nicole Smith (I know, we’re all sick of hearing about her, but she’s a prime example, so bear with me). Anna was dumb as a bag of bricks. But, she was beautiful. She graced the cover of Playboy and became a Guess model (something, I’ve heard, that’s difficult to do). Her beauty outweighed her lack of mental ability. Whatever she did, whatever she may, or may not have injected into her system, she was beauty incarnate — and all was good. Then, age began to creep up. That bright red lipstick only served to coarsen her tanned, slightly weathered face. Her mouth sagged just a bit. Even thin again, she wasn’t the Anna she used to be. She was ‘old’ and her looks no longer buffered her from those who sought to exploit her deficits. She became the media’s clown. That’s my theory, anyway.
Unfortunately, I’m not immune to this societal disease. I’ve made Resonance twenty-three (of course, if I were to make her any older the fact that she still lives with her mother would start to veer away from irritating and dive straight into creepy). Still, I could have made Quinn much older. Instead, he’s twenty-five — shouldering just enough years to appear mature without having him suffer the burden of all those gross wrinkles. The characters in my next book are also young (physically, at least). Why? Why am I feeding into this misconception that those who’ve reached over a quarter of a century are nose-diving into the grave? Maybe because I know what sells, and, in the end, I’m still society’s bitch, whether I want to be or not.
I do admire the fantasy writers who’ve broken free of this chokehold. Kelley Armstrong has Paige, a thirty-something witch with a few extra pounds gracing her frame. A. Lee Martinez’s Duke the Werewolf and Earl the vampire were well into their middle years when made immortal. Even Laurell Hamilton’s Anita Blake storms through her thirties with way more vigor than I can muster.
Maybe this is all a bout of hypersensitivity because the face I see in the mirror is no longer the one I remember. Up to a point, every year brought positive changes — the chubby cheeks and the diminutive features morphed into a larger head, more defined jaw line and adult-sized bits and pieces. Then, the changes seemed to stop. For a few years it appeared that time had indeed ceased to march on and I would remain in that state forever. I was fooled. Robbed. The first lines began to appear at the edges of my eyes. The creases of my mouth sagged a little more. And I realized that time was nowhere near finished wreaking its havoc on my face.
Even more disheartening is the never-ending parade of youth marching behind me. For a while I could pretend we were the same age — almost. Now, though, there’s no getting around the fact I’m no longer carded in most establishments. Luckily, I’m in a profession where my brain is more important than my appearance. And, when it comes time for that headshot, well, I’ll be happy that some time-reversing prodigies invented filtered lighting and Photoshop.