Readers, occasionally I have random thoughts about various topics, none of which warrant a blog post all their own, or which I might flesh out sometime in the future -- or maybe one of you would like to develop one of them on your own blog; feel free. So here goes:
At the library yesterday, I passed a display of Suzanne Somers' latest diet/health book, Sexy Forever. And I found myself wondering: sexy....forever? Is that the new benchmark for health and happiness in the Twenty-First Century? I'm exhausted and I haven't even read the preface!
There are -- and probably always have been -- celebrity women I'll call "professional beauties." These are people for whom looking younger than their biological age isn't simply a goal, it's their job. Suzanne Somers is one of those people, and you can probably say the same about octogenarian Mamie Van Doren, Victoria Principal, Connie Stevens, Jane Fonda, and even the late Mae West, though she (thankfully) pre-dated the infomercial. They are their own guinea pigs for all sorts of (sometimes controversial) health, beauty, fitness, and diet regimens which may help them -- and us -- or not, but either way they rake in a lot of cash promoting them, and themselves.
I don't want this to be a judgment on Suzanne Somers and her personal self-help industry; a lot of women (her primary audience) relate to her and find the information she provides helpful, and she has always seemed like someone who'd be fun to have lunch with. In the end, we all die, though, and while I can certainly relate to wanting to remain vibrant and lucid as long as we can, I'm just not sure if these rich celebrities are the best role models for the rest of us, though they certainly have the loudest megaphone.
On a somewhat related note, occasionally I visit the Advanced Style blog, which is very beautiful and fun, but there are times when I look at those stylish elders and think 1) when you're affluent (as most of the subjects appear to be) you can afford to dress well at every age, and avail yourself of the services you'll need to keep up appearances when you're too old to do your own laundry; and 2) there's so much more to life than the way we look and so much freedom in letting that go. I already feel that way now (at nearly fifty), and I hope that just because I make my own leopard pants, you don't think that's the way I dress every day, or expect other people to.
This is not the same as not caring about oneself, but rather about focusing on the myriad aspects of being human that have nothing to do with how we assemble an outfit. Personally, I think we can learn more from, say, frumpy Eleanor Roosevelt than the "fabulous older ladies" portrayed at Advanced Style. Perhaps there's inspiration to be found from both. Thoughts?
I think it was Erica Jong in Fear of Fifty who wrote something like -- I remember this from the book review -- as an older (post-menopausal) woman she could finally focus on being a subject rather than an object. Even though I'm not a woman, let alone post-menopausal, that line stayed with me.
As a gay man, I experience a lot of the same pressures to continue to look "sexy" and appealing to others. It's a basic human need to be seen (just as an infant needs mirroring from the parent to develop a healthy sense of self) and treated with dignity, but I hope that being considered "sexy" isn't a requirement too. To me, the word sexy implies awareness of one's own sexuality and the implicit promise (or suggestion) of sexual availability -- hence, we considered Marilyn Monroe sexy (she seemed to be very aware of her own sexual power over others and flaunted it) and Eleanor Roosevelt considerably less so. Errol Flynn was sexy; Gandhi not-so-sexy.
My point is not that it isn't nice to be sexy -- and, of course, living in a part of the world where youth and youthful sexuality are prized above all else, it makes sense that many of us will have internalized those values to the point where believing we look sexy feels good, if only because we're winning at the game as the game has been presented to us. Nor am I saying that octogenarians aren't sexual. I'm arguing that there are other games in town, games which don't sell diet books, beauty creams, or Thighmasters -- or anything at all.
Oh, my, I have gone on!
I wanted to share so many other things today. My daily ditching continues! I have gotten rid of a pile of tee shirts that were ill-fitting, in unflattering colors, never worn, or some combination of all three. They didn't make me feel sexy.
Here are the dog stairs, now placed in front of the hot air blower in the living room. As you can see, the dogs love lying on it.
Friends, I slept nearly twelve hours last night, and I attribute at least some of my success to herbal sleep aid, valerian. It also helped that the dogs and Michael, who came in late last night from the opera, slept on the sofa. Anyone who has taken valerian will attest to the fact that it smells absolutely awful, but I find it effective -- a mild relaxant more than a sleeping pill, though you're not supposed to take it and drive, so don't.
Do I need my own room?
In closing, friends, how do you feel about the concept of sexy forever? If you're on the far side of fifty, do you still feel as sexy as you did at, say, thirty? If not, do you long for those sexier days, or have you found that there are sources of satisfaction in life that, if not entirely balance things out, then certainly compensate?
Are there ways to be fabulous in our later years that don't involve big hats and flamboyant eyeglass frames?