Is Fifty The New Forever?

That table of students having coffee over there – all of them are dressed identically, all of them sound alike when they talk. Same clothes.  Same speech patterns.  Nothing odd about that, right? 

Except two of them just stood up to leave and someone at the table addressed one of them as “Mister” somebody and the other one indicated that they’d better hurry or they’ll be late for his class.

It’s official.  I can no longer tell high school and college students from the teachers and professors.  Not when they all look like they could be anywhere from 15 to 35. 

It’s not just because I’m getting old.  (I am, but that’s not the point.) The ageless look of this group is partly due to the fact that no one is wearing adult clothing anymore.  Some of the boys-to-men are wearing today’s iconic cap.  Some are in hoodies.  Everyone’s in soft shoes.  Everyone’s in jeans.  

And now my doctor has moved his practice to a huge group where no one wears doctor coats anymore and it’s nearly impossible to tell the young patients from the young doctors. 

Clothes used to be labels unto themselves – not the inside label, but the statements we made by what we put on. How we look offered clues about other things.  We did that on purpose.  Used our clothes to make a statement. Our statements probably offered comfort to some and consternation to others.  Genius or goof-off?  Can’t tell by the clothes anymore.

Here comes the back-in-the-day part:  When we were in our teens, we couldn’t wait to be adults.  Adolescence held no great appeal.  It was pre-Summer of Love, before the culture switched to worshipping youth.  It wasn’t a lot of fun to be a teenager.  In fact, nobody even called us anything except maybe “young people.” 


So we copied older people.  We dressed like them as soon as we could.  For my girlfriends, and me it was high heels all the time, tight skirts (think of the Office Manager, Joan, on Mad Men) with loads of makeup and hairspray.  Since there was no glory in staying young, the natural progression was to dress like adults soon. We didn’t hate it. 


I must have missed the memo about it not being okay to dress my real age.  Not that getting old is a picnic, but it’s also not awful and doesn’t need to be a secret. 


We can’t blame the 60’s and free love for everything.  We all bought into this whole switch from natural aging to forever young.  How come we ever thought it was okay to say “Don’t trust anyone over 30?” 


Fifty seems to be the outside age that my friends are comfortable with.  Some of them have already been in their fifties for quite a while and now staying fifty forever doesn’t seem like such a stretch.  Heck, it might even be medically possible one day soon.


Ó Anita Garner 2008