Friday, November 25, 2011

On (Not) Staying Young

Okay. So am I the only one who is on Twilight overload and wants to stand up and yell, "Death to all vampires!" before breaking out the wooden stakes or burning torches or whatever it is that will make all the Breaking Dawn commercials stop airing every five minutes?

I didn't read the Twilight books, and I only watched one of the movies. I didn't like it. It just seemed too melodramatic to me, and I kept cringing whenever Edward said anything that was supposedly romantic. I kept thinking, Real guys aren't like that.

And maybe it's because I haven't watched the other movies, but is it just me or does Edward not have any flaws (except for the whole undead thing)? It bothers me when characters are too perfect. There are some things about guys that bug me, like how they act like they won the game when their favorite teams win, or when they do that chest-bumping thing with each other when they get excited. But on the other hand, I wouldn't want to date a guy who was perfect. Then I'd feel like I wasn't good enough, because I am definitely far from perfect. And I think that our flaws are part of what makes us interesting.

But I'm not trying to criticize or judge anyone who does like Twilight. We like what we like, right? And I will admit that I thought David Boreanaz was cute as Angel; somehow he seemed more "human" than Edward does. (But that's just my opinion.) And believe me, it's not like I'm immune to that whole romantic melodrama either. When I was a teenager, I was obsessed with boy bands. I actually believed that the guys meant every word that they sang, and I liked to pretend that they were singing for me. But then I grew up. And when I was watching Twilight, it kind of seemed like a really long boy band music video. Except there was no synchronized dancing.

I've never really gotten caught up in the whole vampire craze. I don't see what's so attractive about some guy who is really pale, hundreds of years older than me, and murmurs sweet nothings in a girl's ear right before he makes that hissing sound and sinks his teeth into her neck. Not sexy.

I read somewhere that some women like vampires because they're the alpha males: strong, powerful, and handsome. I think I'd just feel nervous around a vampire all the time, because even though he may promise to love me forever (literally), there's also that whole drinking blood and instinct to kill thing.

Or maybe people like vampires because they get to stay young forever. I think that women in particular are under a lot of pressure to look young. Why else would plastic surgeons be making so much money?

I suppose I'm lucky because I've always looked young for my age. When I worked at the Tourist Trap last summer, most of my coworkers were in their late teens or early twenties. They were all surprised when I said that I was thirty; they said that I looked like I was their age. Maybe it's because I don't wear makeup or nice clothes (I can't afford it). Or maybe it's because I eat Froot Loops and listen to Miley Cyrus.

I've been doing the online dating thing off and on for two and a half years now, and I've joined four dating sites during that time. One thing I've learned from all of those sites is that the men (old and young) typically prefer to date younger women. The guys in their twenties usually don't want to date anyone over the age of thirty; the guys in their thirties are willing to date women who are ten or fifteen years younger than them, but not two years older.

I was watching an episode of Millionaire Matchmaker, and there was a fifty-eight year old client who was looking for love. He said he only wanted to date women who were in their twenties; he also said that he might be willing to date someone who was in her thirties, as long as she was fit and gorgeous, even though he was far from gorgeous. He said it was because he wanted to have children. Right. I'm sure that was the only reason.

And of course, women do it too. There are plenty of cougars out there. If they want to date someone who's young enough to be their son, that's their prerogative, I guess. But teaching twenty-year-old guys on a daily basis has pretty much eliminated any possibility that I will ever be a cougar, partly because I've seen several of them throw tantrums (complete with stomping their feet and screaming) when they don't get A's.

There are some things I miss about being young. When I was a kid, Christmas was a lot more fun because I believed in Santa and I got to play in the snow. Now that I'm older, I usually just associate Christmas with last-minute shopping and navigating the crowds on Michigan Avenue while muttering, "Don't kick the tourists. Don't kick the tourists. Don't kick the tourists," because they take up all the space on the sidewalk and move too slowly.

Growing older is scary, though. It scares me that someday I won't have as much energy to go to the gym four or five times a week. I can't imagine looking in the mirror and seeing a bunch of wrinkles in my face. (My hair's already started turning white, though.)

But if I was given the choice, I wouldn't want to stay young forever. Just imagine what that would be like. You'd have to watch all the people you love grow old and die. Would you want to go to high school again and again? I wouldn't. High school was full of parties that I was never invited to and cliques who acted like being popular and having a boyfriend were the only things that mattered. Grad school is also full of cliques and parties that I'm not invited to. The difference is, now I'm old enough to know that there are other things that matter more.

I also wouldn't want to be in my twenties again just so guys would want to date me. If I'm going to be with someone, I'd want to know it's because he likes me, not because he likes the fact that I'm young. (But I have to say, it does really bother me that a lot of guys in their thirties and forties would probably think I was too "old".)

I wouldn't want to be a teenager again because I wouldn't be as independent as I am now. I like living in my own apartment, paying my own rent and bills, and doing what I want to do.

So I'd have to say no if a vampire offered to make me young forever. (Or maybe I'd just run away while waving a wooden stake at him and screaming, "Get back! Get back!") I'm not really big on werewolves, either, because I don't like it when men have too much facial hair. (I think they should shave their legs too. It's only fair! If women have to do it, they should too! Or maybe I'm just weird like that.) On the other hand, I will admit that I don't mind it too much when Taylor Lautner takes his shirt off.

I think that growing older means accepting that things can't stay the same forever. It means taking responsibility for your actions instead of playing the blame game. It's about going through experiences that change you and make you see the world and other people differently. It's about taking care of yourself instead of expecting someone (like a good-looking vampire) to swoop in, rescue you, and solve all your problems for you. It's about growing up.

What about you? If you could stay young forever (though not necessarily as a vampire), or if you could go back to a certain age, would you?


  1. I wouldn't want to go back to my youth or teens or even single years. My happiest time of life was when we lived in California and my kids were all ages and we had so much fun going all over the place enjoying the beach, malls, Garlic World, strawberry patches, etc etc. But then it wasn't perfect either since my husband's job wasn't working out and we eventually had to leave.

  2. Hmmm...interesting post. No, I wouldn't want to stay young forever-- I see the appeal, but its just unnatural. And women (and men) who try too hard just look wrong.

    Interestingly, I'm young (twenties) and my Boyfriend is significantly older than me (twice my age territory here). He definitely wasn't going after me for my age - I actually had to pursue him for quite awhile before he came around. Neither of us have told our families about the relationship and age difference. Though his golf buddies will like, give him a high five or something when he tells them my age, he definitely wishes we were closer in age. And is kind of embarrassed at the assumptions people draw when they see us.

  3. Hi Karen,
    Garlic World? Sounds interesting. I've never heard of it, but I wouldn't mind going there. Your time with your family does sound like a happy time; it makes me look forward to having my own children someday.

    Hi Gia,
    I'm afraid that if I were to get plastic surgery it would look wrong on me too; there are some people who are able to pull it off, but on other people it doesn't look nice.

  4. I wouldn't like to be "younger" young; but at age 71 going on 72 I WOULD like to be maybe 50! It's all perspective, I think. At 71 I might like a book about vampires if it was as stunning as the classic stories are. I did get through 2 1/2 books of Twilight though, and did see the movie when it came out on Netflix. I kind of liked it, probably I suspended all "literary" judgments.

    I have found there are things in life to enjoy no matter what your age is. I'm enjoying myself now, having published a full length book for the first time in my 71 years. And I'm trying to keep a positive attitude. This, I think, is most important. I agree 100% with what you say: that "growing older means accepting that things can't stay the same forever." This is so true. We all do have to "grow up."
    Ann Best, Memoir Author

  5. Hi Ann,
    I think I probably would have liked Twilight better if I was still in my boyband phase, because I think back then I was less cynical about guys and romance. Good for you for having published a book! That's definitely something a lot of people at any age want to do.

  6. It's too bad we can't have it all: the physical health and energy of our teens + the emotional maturity and self-assurance of being older. You do always meet those people though who look like they're 25 and end up being 40 (my friend is dating one - it's almost vampire-like, to be honest). They usually tell you their secret is limiting refined sugars or something.

    Twilight is truly terrible. I powered through a book and a movie because it was such a cultural phenom, but no.

    The best new young adult series though I think is the Hunger Games.

  7. Hi Anna,
    I'm not sure why I look young; it's definitely not because I limit refined sugars, since I'm all about junk food. That's why I have to work out so often.
    I'll be relieved when the Twilight saga finally ends, because then all the hype will die down. I admit that I stood in line for an hour to get Harry Potter tickets when the first movie came out, but I don't think it was like it must have been when the Twilight movies came out.

  8. Twilight does follow fairy tale characteristics to a T and I don't think that makes it a bad things. Fairy tales are an integral part of childhood development and it is not a coincidence that all societies have them. I wrote a paper about Twilight, back in my teacher school days, about its correlation to fairy tales and young adult development and I have to say, the sources swayed me from loathing the series to understanding their value to youth.

    And yes, I would totally stay young forever if it was possible. I enjoy getting older only insofar as I am getting smarter and knowing more about the world and experiencing more things. I see no perk to allowing the deterioration of my body.

  9. Hi mmarinaa,
    I've always loved fairy tales, especially ones like Cinderella. I didn't mean to make it sound like fairy tales are bad, but I do think that the problem with the Twilight saga is that there is the risk that it can make people have higher expectations of what relationships and love should be like. I read a letter in an advice column once that was written by a single woman in her fifties or sixties; she was upset over the fact that she couldn't find a guy who was like Edward in Twilight. I can see the attraction in dreaming about Prince Charming (and I won't deny that I've done it too), but it can make dating in real life a lot tougher, because in real life guys aren't like Edward or Prince Charming.

  10. I'm so not into the vampire thing, either. I don't get it. Suck my blood? Um... no thanks. How about some wine instead?

    I definitely would not to be young forever, or even go back to a certain ago. Every year has had its ups and downs!

  11. Hi Talli,
    I suppose that one good thing about going back in time would be that it would give us all the opportunity for a "do-over", but then we'd have to go through everything else all over again. But if we were young forever like vampires are, there wouldn't be do-overs. It's like we'd be stuck in that one moment of time, so to speak, forever, while everyone else's lives moved on.

  12. Aw, can't I stay young AND skip high school, stay independant, love Christmas and... you get the picture ;)

  13. Hi Lynda,
    I can't help wondering what life would have been like if I had skipped high school; I think my teenage years would have been a lot easier. I do miss the way Christmas used to be for me when I was a kid, though. It just isn't the same now that I'm an adult.

  14. I'm a Twilight fan but i also realise how ridiculously cheesy it is. What can i say? i like cheesy! You are right about perfect characters though, they can be incredibly annoying in literature and i do think that Edward is a bit of a Gary Stu. However i think he has one other flaw in the fact that he's a bit of a stalker when it comes to Bella.

  15. Hi Alice X,
    One of the things I liked about David Boreanaz as Angel was that his character did have flaws, even though he was the "hero" of the show (though I also liked that Buffy typically saved herself more often than not, which is why I think she's the anti-Bella). And it was even more interesting when he was Angelus. I think it would be interesting if Edward had his own evil alter ego.