serene ambition™

transforming the culture of aging

Exceptions Prove the Rule

Posted by Jim Selman on 10/10/06

My AARP magazine arrived today…the October issue with Sally Field on the cover. She is great, and as the article said over and over, she’s still a pretty powerhouse at 60. It was an inspiring story, but then I have always been a fan of hers. As I was thumbing through, however, I then found another article about Ann-Margretstill fit and sexy, thank you. Then another about Robert Duvall and how cool he still is. And let’s not overlook the spread about fashion models over 50 all looking swell.

Wait a minute…! This isn’t People magazine or Cosmopolitan. Here is the biggest association of ‘older persons’ selling glamour, celebrity cool, and all the same messages we’ve been getting all along. Our hair color is different and we may have a few wrinkles (and perhaps a degenerative condition or two), but otherwise we’re just the same happy clams in our designer wardrobes, with our personal trainers and our very exclusive combination of anti-aging creams and therapies.

It’s perplexing to me why there were no ‘ordinary’ people on display: no inside exposés of nursing home neglect, no stories of people desperately looking for meaning and purpose after retirement, no tales of individuals striving to find love and a sense of being valued. I admit that I love celebrity stories. I admire and appreciate anyone who is still active, involved and making a difference as they grow older.

I just don’t want all the models for growing older to be gorgeous celebrities, ‘stars’ promoted as the same ‘beautiful people’ that left me feeling slightly out of it most of my life. I’ve heard the “If only I was as talented, rich, beautiful, intelligent, well-connected, interesting and so on” conversation play out too many times. Those who buy into comparing themselves with these glamorous icons of beauty, fame and power end up despairing about their shortcomings and their lives. Little wonder anti-depressants are among the top sellers in the pharmaceutical industry these days.

Now the media-selling machine is starting to crank up for Boomers. It doesn’t want to ever let us forget that we aren’t ‘there’ yet—we need more potions, more of this or that special something to get there. And if we need images to remind us of how ordinary we are, well then, there are the beautiful people having champagne on their yachts and looking fabulous. In my dreams, I still see Sophia Loren. Only now she has gray hair, and I have to cash in my 401k to buy the Porsche that will make me more desirable to women like her.

By my 60th birthday, I was finally comfortable in my own skin and didn’t compare myself to others (at least not too much). I no longer defined myself by who I wasn’t and what I didn’t have…I think I had finally grown up or grown out of the consumer-oriented, “this isn’t it”, need to get better and better rat race and could be truly happy with life the way it is and with the way I am. As part of that acceptance, I began to appreciate my age and to see the possibility of creating my future as the best time of my life.

I know that the AARP has to sell magazines, but couldn’t they at least run some stories about real people and show us how great life can be for ordinary folks who are as successful and happy making a contribution as Sally Fields? Then she can become an example of who we are and can be, rather than an exception reminding us of who we are.

© 2006 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.

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One Response to “Exceptions Prove the Rule”

  1. Hi Jim,

    I’m new to the Time Goes By blog and I saw your post there today. I wanted to meet you so here I am at your blog. I am impressed by all your experience and ways you are working to make a difference. I will be sure to stop by from tine to time to glean more from your wisdom.

    SageCoach Verna Fisher
    http://www.claimyoursage.com

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