What Sam Wrote: Oh, grow up!

Pamela Anderson is two years older than me, which means I wrote this article back when I was 33 — nearly a decade ago. I remember becoming a total Sandra Saoud disciple after interviewing her for this article — her take on “age-appropriate behavior” turned out to be pretty close to how I perceive it today: Have fun and look good, but remember that you’re a grown-up now and act like one.

For example, I consider myself too old to use the word chill as a synonym for “cool” or “neat.” And chances are, if you are my friends, you are too old to use it that way, too. (Consider this your PSA.) On the flip side, I recently bought a pair of … long shorts? Short pants? Not-quite-manpris? Cuffed manpris? … which I happen to be rocking to great positive effect. So there.

Marilyn Powers, meanwhile, went on to do a Model Citizen interview in which she described herself as “a frisky pony, or a panther whose energy ROLLS” in her answer to the very first question. It got better from there. (I wish I had kept a copy.)

The caricature was done by our illustrator, Mike Ritter (who now contributes to GA Voice), who saved our asses all the time whenever we came up with a concept that would be impossible to photograph. (“What if we had each of the various stereotypes of the performing arts all shoved in a phone booth?” “What if we had Pamela Anderson jumping out of her own birthday cake?”)

Rereading this article, I can tell I was in my “trying to emulate Robin Givhan” stage; I had admired her writing since she was at the Detroit Free Press and was half-consciously trying to mimic her ability to imbue her personal take on topics without necessarily turning the piece into a commentary. I had various degrees of success before I realized that I was, essentially, copying someone else’s writing style instead of developing my own. (And Robin Givhan would never be able to pull off as many parenthetical remarks as I do!)

Oh, grow up!

As Pamela Anderson turns 35, it becomes clear aging today doesn’t mean acting old

BY SAM MITTELSTEADT
TRIBUNE

Acting your age really isn’t proper anymore. The once-rigid delineations of appropriate behavior have been worn down by changes in American ideals, society and expectations.

Pamela Anderson on Monday turns 35, not traditionally an age associated with sex-kitten behavior, gallivanting around with bad-boy rock stars or clothing most notable for its strategic lack of coverage.

It used to be that women put away their miniskirts at 35 or after a certain number of kids, and men who wore their baseball caps backward after they received a college degree looked like fools.

But such rules are being swept aside by the same folks who set them. Baby boomers have reached the age at which they swore wearing a miniskirt or driving a VW Beetle was pathetic — and they realized they aren’t willing to reach for the caftans or Cadillacs just yet.

The new modern maturity is more about a mindset than a number system: You’re now only as old as you feel, so just because you’re older doesn’t mean you have to act old.

“We have a cult of the youth,” said Michael Winkelman, professor of anthropology at Arizona State University. “Getting old is about the worst thing that can happen in our culture.”

It’s not that way elsewhere: French actress Catherine Deneuve (58) told the Reuters press agency, “In the States there’s an obsession with age and youth. It’s scary.” Ivana Trump (53), a native of what is now the Czech Republic, looks great but acts grown-up. America has Cher (56), straddling cannons in the sort of revealing lingerie usually reserved for pole dancers.

The American inability to act our age may be driven by Hollywood ideals, but it doesn’t afflict only celebrities. Like all trends, it trickles down, and suddenly mothers are wearing the same midriff-baring shirts as their daughters. (Having confused their ability to do so with the suitability of doing so, this is not always the best option.) “I saw a lady at the grocery store and said, ‘How did she not look at herself before she left the house?’ ” said Chandler resident Sandra Saoud, founder of Sincerely Sandra, which she describes as a “modern-day charm school” that addresses, among other things, age-appropriateness. “She was in her mid-50s with a short-short top showing the stomach and some hip-hugger slacks, so there was a large . . . space,” Saoud said, her hand indicating a large expanse of abdomen. “You couldn’t help but stare at her.”

Now, Saoud is no proponent of mandatory black dresses and buns. A self-confessed “sparkle” addict even in her early 40s, she’s a stout defender of a woman’s right to have fun with her makeup and clothing.

“Some women just think when they hit 40 or 45 it’s time for caftans and beige lipstick, but some people can still handle a lot of things, like slimmer pants,” she said.

“They don’t have to wear old-lady clothes. It’s a lot more than just age — it’s figure and attitude.”

Marilyn Powers, a Scottsdale visionary leader, author and motivational speaker, has retained both her figure and her attitude, even at 59. She has no intention of going gently into that good night of gray hair and knitting.

“Age is not a number, it’s a state of consciousness. It’s how you act in it and how you feel,” Powers said. “I’m 20 pounds thinner than I was in my 30s and 40s. I’m wearing skimpy tops and tight jeans that I never would have considered before.”

Even if she’s wearing the same garments as a woman in her 20s, a woman in her 40s or 50s is not going to dress the same way, Powers said. “It’s about where she is in life,” she said.

“In your 20s, your intention is to dress to get the approval of what is socially acceptable,” Powers said. “When you reach a certain age of 40s and 50s and you have that self-confidence and esteem, it’s more about what makes you happy and what you want to communicate. You feel good about yourself from the inside.”

Saoud warns, though, that you can’t stop time forever. “We need to be secure where we are with our age,” she said. “I keep seeing new wrinkles and you don’t look exactly the same. You just have to adjust your clothing as pretty as you can, as good as you can, with what you can. It’s hard.”

One reason: Old is relative. Those who uttered “Never trust anyone over 30” started rethinking their stance when they hit 29 or so. Remember how old the high school seniors looked when you were a freshman? Do they look that old now? Adulthood is no different.

“When I was in my 20s, the 30s seemed old,” Winkelman said. “Now that I’m in my 40s, I’m thinking, well, there are some good-looking 50-year-olds.”

Middle age isn’t what it used to be. The average American born in 1939 has a life expectancy of 60 years, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, the federal government’s principal vital and health statistics agency. Americans born in 2000 are expected to live an average 77 years.

“Because of the longevity factor and the possibility of living to 100 is a reality, when you’re 40 or 50 you don’t want to be labeled senior citizen — senior anything,” Powers said. “To say that you’re junior, what you really want to feel is, ‘I’m young, strong and vital, my body shows it and I know it.’ You don’t want to be identified as old because old means outmoded, no longer dynamic, no longer with bubbles in the champagne. You don’t want to be pigeonholed.”

Middle age isn’t where it used to be, either.

“People don’t follow a single developmental trajectory,” Winkelman said. “Middle age for the working, laboring class is mid-30s, whereas for upper middle class it’s the late 40s to mid-50s. When do you hit your prime? It depends on urban vs. rural, even the whole ethnic thing comes into play. Traditional Japanese-Americans aren’t looking at maintaining a youthful appearance, because they earn the respect by being older. But we try to stave off aging.”

Even the traditional definitions of adulthood are changing.

“Developmental psychology in the 1950s categorized life in four stages: Infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood,” Winkelman said. “In the ’60s and ’70s there was more differentiation of lifespan — middle adulthood, late adulthood. I think it’ll be even further differentiated as time goes on.”

And Powers said it won’t be the young leading the way.

“Once we ended the 21st century and once we all know that we’re living to 100 or better, we’ll never go back to the old way of thinking,” Powers said. “We’ll never go back to age-appropriate behavior.”

WHAT SAM WORE (before he showered): 7-13-11
The shirt: “Roll Tide” T-shirt — it’s so soft and comfortable! —
from the unfortunately named Junky Trunk Boutique in Mesa.
The pants: Yoga/lounge pants by Go Software, a brand I’ve
only bought at Pride events, so probably Phoenix Pride.
The shoes: Flip-flops by Quiksilver, from the Quiksilver store in Honolulu.
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