America's Youth Obsession (and Why We Need to Get Over It.)

We have all heard it before, Sixty is the new Forty, and now, the recent corollary, Fifty is the new thirty. Well, having turned 56 this past March, I am taking objection. Yes, that's right, you heard me: I am fifty-six, dammit, and I don't want to be thirty again. Being thirty again would mean I would have to give away 25+ years of hard-earned experience, and I am not willing to do that. Being 30 again would also mean I have to: Throw out two-and-a-half  decades of learning and knowledge. Hell NO! Wipe clean nearly a quarter century of memories, both good and bad. Nahhhh. I earned every grey hair and wrinkle, and I am going to keep them. There is a greater point here, though, and sooner or later I am going to get around to making it. (But I'm 56, so it takes me a while.)


We live in a culture that is dominated by youth. If you need evidence of this, just turn on the TV. In less than one program, you will be assaulted by advertisements promising you that you can look younger, feel younger, and, yes, even be younger. (Just order before midnight tonight.) Not convinced? Try checking out of the grocery store. Look ten years younger in just a week! Who do you see on the cover of those glossy magazines?


Yup, you guessed it, a half-dozen supermodels and actresses, all in their teens or twenties. Still not convinced? Turn on your computer, switch on your radio, read the paper, and think younger, dress younger, act younger.

The question is: Why? Why are we so obsessed with youth? I have my guesses, as I am sure you do, but I wanted to focus on something else, namely, what we are giving up on when we focus so much on youth. There is a sacrifice inherent in our culture's youth obsession, and that sacrifice is that we don't rely on experience, wisdom, and knowledge as much as we should. This is a steep price to pay, and the sad fact is that many people don't even realize we are paying it.




I could go on, but the soap box I am standing on is teetering (my balance isn't that good anymore) so I will make just one last point. I am fifty-six, and I want to be fifty-six (until next March when I turn fifty-seven.) I had less grey hair and fewer wrinkles when I was thirty, but I had less perspective, and I find the added perspective lends itself to being more content in my own (more wrinkled) skin. And that's the biggest problem, really, with our youth obsession: since there is neither a cure for aging nor even a way to slow it down, our inexorable climb to getting older becomes an inexorable climb to discontent, unhappiness, and frank depression. But, unlike the climb to being older, the climb to discontent is a climb we can abandon. All we have to do is to give experience and wisdom the respect they deserve, and the climb in years is something we can accept and appreciate, even look forward to. 

And, although I would love to see us do this as a society, you don't have to wait for that: you can do it on a personal level. That's how you effect a culture change, from the grassroots level. One person does it, then the next, and soon enough our depressing obsession with youth will just be another ill-advised fad in the rear-view mirror.

On another note, check out The Intern (TouchPoint Press, 4/2020) on Amazon (and write a review if you want.) 

Cheers, peter

:)


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include The Intern, TouchPoint Press, 4/2020; The Vatican Conspiracy, the first book in the Marco Venetti thriller series, October 2020, Bookouture/HachetteUK; Doubt, Marco Venetti #2, April 2021; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets. Peter is the creator, producer and host of Your Health Matters, a health information program, which airs on cable television, streams on YouTube and sounds off on podcast. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peterhogenkampbooks@gmail.com or on his Facebook Page.

Comments

  1. Hear, hear.
    Someone who was an adult in the Fifties once commented that hers was the last generation to want to be just like their parents. I wonder sometimes if our obsession with youth comes from our contempt for old people, and not the other way around? Our world changes from year to year now, instead of generation to generation, and we older ones tend to appear feeble-minded as we try to upload the latest apps, use the gear shift that’s now on the steering wheel, make things like ‘streaming’ work on our TVs (what the hell is that, anyway?), and try to understand how not to get scammed online. I once had a girl at the bank ask me if I knew how to get “on the web”. I almost told her I’ve been on the web since before she was born (true, but I still don't want to be like my father!)
    My gray hair is a fashion statement. And “because I’m old” has become a handy rejoinder to things like “Gramma, how come your teeth are yellow?” (Ask me again, you little twerp – do you know what ‘rope a dope’ means?)
    And as someone else said, “Getting old isn’t great, but it beats the alternative.”

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  2. I couldn't agree with you more. This was an excellent post.

    One thing I'm doing to effect change on a personal level is to only say positive things about people's age/appearance (on the rare occasions I mention those topics at all).

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