Is Ma Kent Old?, by Martha Thomases
As I sit here, it’s Monday. TCM is kindly running The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca so I have snappy dialogue in the background. The sun is bright, my blueberry bushes are full of flowers, and it looks like it’s going to be a beautiful week.
However, as you read this, a momentous event is occurring. It’s my birthday. I’m 55 years old. When I was a child (until I was 31, at least), I thought 55 was old. People I knew who were that age had grown children, and were either biding their time towards retirement or starting out on new careers. How could they do it, I wondered, when so much of their life was over?
It’s a good question. How can I do it? I don’t feel like I’m 55 (see Column #47). More to the point, I’m not sure what 55 feels like. I don’t know what it looks like. Do you see women of a certain age in the media? Yes, you do. However, most of them have had so much cosmetic surgery, or Botox, or hair-dye, or liposuction, that there’s no way to see what they really look like.
In fact, I don’t have the personal medical records of famous women my age. It may be that Katie Couric or Diane Sawyer, for example, just naturally looks the same as they did 15 years ago, with no gray hair and full cheeks, while Tom Brokaw gets white hair and laugh lines. For women, wrinkles prevent one from delivering the news. Goldie Hawn is older than I am, but you can’t tell by looking at her recent photos.
One of my favorite parts of the film Good Night and Good Luck, aside from the fact that it’s about what of the most inspiring and heroic characters in American history, is the way men and women are presented as having wrinkles, lumps and meaningful lives, all at the same time. They smoke, they drink, they work too hard at sedentary jobs, and their faces show the wear and tear. Take a look at AMC’s Mad Men and you’ll see a much more conventionally photogenic portrayal of the same era.
Comics are worse. Which major characters are older than 50? Perry White? Jonah Jameson? Both are curmudgeons who may or may not have hearts of gold. Jonathan and Martha Kent don’t have given ages, but we can assume they are at least as old as other parents of teenagers (mid-40s?) but have gray hair, thick bodies and no apparent social lives outside of their son. Even the refurbished, modern, post-Byrne Martha Kent spends an inordinate amount of time baking pies.
I’m sure that every generation finds its own adventure in the journey through life. As a baby-boomer I’m used to being the center of attention, the market that advertisers want to attract, the ones to define cool. We don’t go gently into the good night of adult diapers and denture crème. So maybe it’s not surprising that so many of us still insist we’re part of the young, desirable demographic.
Personally, I think it’s embarrassing. This is my body. The lines and scars and lumps are souvenirs of the life I’ve led – the lovers, the races, the kid and the sitting. And this body is ready to eat cake.
Martha Thomases, Media dess of the ComicMix galaxy, thinks it’s really great that Reed Expo invited so many of her friends in for the weekend.