OK, people. Grandma is going to rant.
My topic today is "The Big Machine called Popular Culture and how it's in control of your attitudes."
Ha, ha, you say. I'm smarter than that. I am not being controlled.
Well, I say, you definitely are. And I'll concede that it's hard not to be. On a daily basis we are all bombarded by media messages. And the sources of those messages generally come from a handful of big guys at the top of the communication chain who are deciding for you what you should be thinking and buying.
I know you're listening. Why else would those horrible Spanx that suck the life out of you be such a hit? Why else do you have at least three mascaras in your cosmetic case when they all do exactly the same thing. Why?
And, why, why, why does everybody want to be HOT? Even toddlers are now posing with one hand on their hip looking back at the camera. C'mon people. They are learning it from you, and you are learning it from the media.
Which brings me to a subject dear to my heart. Aging and you and the media. Something, at the age of 75, I live and breathe daily. Believe me, I'm not dead yet. But HOT?
C'mon! Tell me I'm worldly. Tell me I'm wise. Appreciate my fashion sense. Tell me it's a pleasure to be in my company. Compliment my travel writing or even my eyes. That's how you (and the media) should be looking at me. I'll consider all those endearing sentiments. I look like who I am. Me at 75 with the genes my mother passed down to me. Not HOT. Not aspiring to be young. Got it?
I just watched Helen Mirren's moisturizer commercial. Notice I chose not to mention the brand? I did that on purpose because no matter if I soak in tubfuls of that cream, I will still have wrinkles all over my body. And that cream will not transform my normal wrinkles to sexy older wrinkles. And, I'll bet that in real life, Ms. Mirren does not make eyes at all the young boys either (at least, I hope not). She seems much too elegant and sensible for that (at least, I hope so). Besides, I also recently saw pictures of her riding the New York subway. There she looks far from HOT, just a regular older sophisticated woman going about her day. Now that would be a moisturizer commercial I'd sit up and pay attention to.
Last weekend many of us watched the Grammys. Everybody seemed to be very excited that Madonna would be headlining and I was curious. Frankly, all I saw was a bunch of bull(s) and a matador in a sexy red costume. She pranced, she danced (kind of) and she sang (kind of). I was puzzled. This woman seemed to me a big showoff with more 'look at my body' than actual musical talent. So, I turned to Twitter to take the pulse of the viewing audience and what I got were non-committal comments with lots of exclamation marks. Wow! or She's still got it! Look at that body! She's 56! and lots of HOT, HOT, HOT! That's what we applaud? An older woman with less than stellar talent who refuses to grow up and believes that baring your toned bum is what makes a star? Shame on all of us. We do aging a disservice.
Want to know who I believe rocks the aging process? Annie Lennox. She's now sixty and she unintentionally uses her age to her advantage. Her hair is still cropped short, she pays no mind to her wrinkles, and she dresses simply in black. With little extra adornment to distract, the viewer concentrates solely on Annie and her delivery. She begins to perform and you are immediately mesmerized by her talent and the passion driving that talent. At the same time as you are thinking, how old is she now, you are countering with, it doesn't matter. This woman certainly has what it takes and more. In a word, she is authentic with a capital A.
That is the magic that we should be applauding - Annie Lennox, a wonderful talent and a woman who is aging gracefully. We certainly don't need People Magazine to teach us that or Entertainment Tonight or any silly red carpet host. Know why? They will take a perfectly wonderful, flawless performance and boil it down to, 'Still Sizzling at Sixty, Annie Lennox is HOT.'
Surely that is not a compliment. That sentiment is sadly just a reflection of this generation's blatant ageism.
I recently was on a Viking European river cruise with my daughter, Erica. I'm a travel journalist and this was a work assignment for me. For Erica, it was a much needed holiday away from work and a mom's daily routine. Before we left I shared with her, "Please feel free to do what makes you happy. I love having you around, but if you choose to stay behind while I tour, go for it. You are obligation free." And that's how the week went, together sometimes, and apart for others. We shared a cabin and both agreed it was a lovely seven days in each other's company.
At one meal that week, a fellow passenger remarked, "You and your mother seem to have such a good relationship. Was it always like that?" Erica rolled her eyes and said, "Of course not. I was once a teenager, too." Then she went on to say, "She still sometimes treats me as if I'm 10 years old. But, now I don't get upset; I think to myself ... what will I be like when my kids are grown adults? I'll probably do the exact same thing."
I thought a good deal about Erica's remark. What had I said recently that would make her think she wasn't capable? I honestly couldn't think of a thing. I know there's the old adage that no matter how old your children are, you are always their mother and you always want to protect them. So yes, I admit to a little bit of that 'parental instinct' but not enough to make my daughter think that she's still a kid. And then, it hit me.
Your children will readily accept advice from their peers because that's just what it is: a helping hand from a pal. However, parents are not pals. They are the people who have protected you, taught you how to be in the world and then, if they are wise parents, they set you free to cope on your own. Children, no matter how old they are, want to know that their parents believe in their abilities, that they have your vote of confidence and that they no longer need to be parented (thank you very much).
So now I am extra mindful. You see, if I am travelling with a friend I can say to her, "Did you remember your gloves?" And she will say, "Thanks for reminding me. I left them behind yesterday." She appreciates my reminder. After all, I'm NOT her mother.
However, If I'm travelling with either of my daughters I will never say as I can innocently say to my peers, "Did you remember your hat?" Because ... you know what that will provoke, don't you? An eye roll and a "Mom, I'm not 10 years old!"
But we mothers have our ways. So, when your grown daughter says after 10 minutes outside, "Darn, it's cold! I should have worn a hat," you can casually reach into your bag and say, "Here; I have another one I always carry with me - it even matches your coat!"
Moms rule! (wink, wink)