Just The Way You Look Tonight
Sunday mornings are my trip through the New York Times. Our local paper actually prints the pages, and I go to the national news section to read the obits. To be sure I am not inadvertently there. The paid ones are on the right-hand side. I look at the photos and invariably there will be at least one hardly matching the deceased’s age.
Usually a woman who was once a model or actress. The softness of the tresses catching alluring eyes, a tight chin and lovely neckline. Then, right under the photo the story begins, “94, etc., Etc.”
Looking at this model’s face taken at least 70 years ago, who will recognize the obituary save from photos kept her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, hardly the intended readers. It reminds me of a once famous Hollywood minor star noting that Italian recently told her, “you must have been so beautiful…” To her chagrin at 88.
It turns out that psychologists have been studying our unconscious biases. Things so ingrained it out early life, they contradict what we perceive ourselves. One of them is our perception of age. We know we aren’t the life of the party anymore, nor can we dance all night or do fifty push-ups. But these psychologists have a very accurate test of our unconscious beliefs, and 80% of us oldsters deep inside think Age is Uugly. Never mind what youngsters think.
Maybe I am being ungentlemanly towards these obit pictures taken so many years earlier. I have one photo of my wife in her prime that I adore. It catches her energy, smarts, humor, zest for life and beauty all in one unconscious pose. She’s still all those things inside, so why not show it outside?
There are men, too, shown in their prime with a rugged trim faces. If that’s what they wish, so be it. But I suspect most of us would feel it shallow, vain, accepting at the end we’re just “old farts,” anyway.
Age is many things, too many unpleasant, some full of new joys and unexpected pleasures. Don’t ask me to name three. But it isn’t ugly. And since all of us, young and old, have taken the same road, undivided, towards growing old, I would suggest to my beloved if she asks me, “What picture of you would you want on your obit?”
I’ll say, “Just the way I look tonight.”
Reprinted with permission
“Life Begins at 70”
by Gerald G. Hotchkiss
c. 2015 Sunstone Press
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