Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Princesses and hags: how we train ourselves to look at aging

Aging, Beauty, It's not easy

Yesterday, Rush Limbaugh asked, “Does our looks-obsessed culture want to stare at an aging woman?” The woman in question was Hillary Clinton, of course.

It's like almost an addiction that some people have to what I call the perfection that Hollywood presents of successful, beautiful, fun-loving people. So the question is this: Will this country want to actually watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?”

He illustrated his point with an exceptionally unflattering photo of the Democratic party presidential candidate next to an exceptionally presidential photo of Mitt Romney and concluded that the Republican is much prettier and therefore more electable. In other words, a better presidential candidate.

The same day, 24-year-old Amanda Hinsperger asked: “What is it about anti-aging?. . .Women in particular carry the anti-aging burden, since most anti-aging ads are marketed to women. Are we afraid of aging? Does the natural course of life disturb us? Nobody likes to admit their body is failing. With all the stress this worrying brings on, and with the aging impacts of stress, maybe we'd be doing ourselves a favour by embracing age.”

Offensive as Limbaugh’s screed is, his observations about our culture’s fear, even hatred, of aging, are sound.

I don’t know how to change that, but Gene D. Cohen, MD, PhD, Director of the Center on Aging, Health & Humanities at The George Washington University, believes the negative attitudes about aging get their start in childhood. Think of the fairy tales we read to our impressionable toddlers: they’re full of wicked witches, stepmothers who are ugly inside and out, old women who live in shoes and abuse their too-large broods.

The Center has compiled a list of stories for children of all ages that show older adults as kind, active, humorous, wise, creative, brave—all the rest of the admirable qualities we aspire to at any age.

That is, if we aren't aspiring only to looking good.

Seems we need to start at the beginning. Give a child you know a good book—and some real-life experiences with women (and men) who are older, but not worse for it.

This entry also is posted at Aging Maven.

3:30 pm: A reader wanted me to make clear that the photos came first (the Drudge Report) and Limbaugh's comments came in response to them. He also objected to my use of the word "screed," claiming Limbaugh's point was about society and not Clinton. I think everything that man says is screed, and I'm sticking to it. That doesn't mean that the observation of American attitudes about aging (especially aging women) isn't accurate: it is. At the same time, it's a Hillary slam.

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