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Aging is our greatest equalizer

How is your aging going? Are there more surprises like wrinkles or more gray hairs than a while back? Do you need more sleep? Has anybody whistled at you lately, or have you whistled at some beauty recently yourself? Relax, this is not a real physical inquiry. Actually, it’s a bit more metaphysical — whatever that means.

If I could address this to the folks who keep wasting my time, I would, but as they don’t seem to have addresses or phone numbers that connect to living people (who at least speak understandable English), I guess I’ll just air my difficulty on you.

Okay, if you’re still holding the paper, let me recount an experience from last night. When I logged into the internet, my browser came up on the Yahoo news page, which it was supposed to do. Good, so far! Then the scrolling of stories that I might be interested in began to come up, some with small images to sweeten their appeal. And there, about six down was a fantastic picture of Grace Kelly. Remember, the lovely lady who married the Prince of Monaco? Well, at least I thought she was lovely and, more surprising in a movie star, she was elegant — a standard rarely achieved then and certainly not these days in Hollywood.

The headline beside her photo (probably taken in the 1950’s) asked if I had any idea what the lady looks like today. Well, I had them on that because I knew full well that her beauty is no longer with us. But I let myself get hooked and clicked on the button. And therein is where aging bursts onto my scene.

Two photos came up, one of an actor when he was just starting out and another of him when he was in his seventies or even later years. More clicking brought up more stars: actors, actresses, radio and television personalities, announcers, tv series folks. But there was more data on each screen. Below their photos and names were the dates of their fame, each birthday, their net worth at the time of the latest shot, what they are currently known for, and where they are. Yes, even O. J. Simpson’s residence in the Nevada prison was noted, as was the $4 million he still has.

Someone went to a great deal of trouble to assemble all that information and those images. As with the people revealed, this too will — sorry, has already disappeared from the digital universe! One of the surprising revelations was that most folks don’t improve with looks as they age, particularly true when they’re caught without their makeup artist nearby.

Some of the pin-ups that were so alluring in their late teens and twenties didn’t always ripen well. Perhaps there is a limit to what plastic surgery and botox can do to a face. And expensive corsets and girdles can only hide so much living! One ravishing beauty — whose Playboy foldout page once hung on a shared dorm wall — has lost all her charm. Oh, how I wish I hadn’t seen her.

Not surprisingly, great disparity showed up in what each celebrity is now worth. Folks that might once have been five-star box office attractions showed up with $100,000 while some people who make TV ads showed $400 million. A recent ad for something or other showed three or four women pitching the product. I noticed one of them because of her pink hair. Seems she is (or was) a singer named Cindy Lauper. Her current worth was listed at $30 million, which is plenty to afford a good dye job.

My firm intention is not to take the bait on any more of these then-and-now pieces. I’ll be content to believe folks don’t change with time, hoping of course that it’s not happening to me. And I for sure don’t want to see the future. Remember that wonderful Christmas movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” from 1946? Jimmy Stewart presented a great updated view of what Christmas Future may become. I think I’ll just wait for its release and enjoy it then, without a crystal ball to warn me.

 

T.J. Ray is a retired professor of English at Ole Miss.