Lady Madonna- See How They Run
When I heard the recent uproar about the new look Madonna unveiled at the Grammy’s, I looked at my Swatch Watch to check out what year it was, thinking I must have slipped into a hot tub time machine and been transported back to 1986. But then I saw the picture everyone was all abuzz about, and I realized quite a bit of time had passed since then. Like decades. And while that may seem like a cold shot at the self-professed Queen of Pop, it really isn’t, because believe or not, I’ve aged since then as well. We all have. And it is the tacit acceptance of the conditions of aging that make all the difference in how we experience it.
Let’s face it- the world of social media can be downright cold blooded, y’all. The vitriol that was spewed in her direction was truly epic, with derogatory epithets ranging from a baby Godzilla to a puffy-faced alien. And while I cannot deny that Madonna does seem to be the case study in what happens when you have your plastic surgeon on speed dial, maybe we all could do well to have a little empathy.
After all, why is it that Madonna seems to feel the need to stuff her face with more Botox than Keith Richards with a tote bag full of cocaine? We live in a world where women are often defined by their appearance, far more so than men, and so, of course they are going to feel the acute sting of their declining sense of self-worth as they age. How did Madonna rise to prominence in the first place? Though videos where she pressed the boundaries of cultural mores by way of manipulating her physical appearance. But what happens when the luster wears off, and all you are left with is sagging boobs and mediocre talent?
Desperate to cling to the vestiges of her former self, Madonna, now 64, has dated boy toys for years, most recently 23 year-old Andrew Darnell. All of her actions and reactions over the course of the past several years signal that Madonna is struggling with accepting the realities of aging. But the truth is that she has not had a top-10 single since 2005, before my 16 year-old son was even born, though in a couple years, she might consider dating him.
But before we go judging Madonna too harshly, maybe we should all take a good, long look in the mirror. Or perhaps, more precisely, perhaps we should definitely NOT look in the mirror. All of us are aging, and while black may not crack, none of us look better than we did 30 something years ago. And none of us are any too psyched about it. We all engage in some sort of anti-aging regimen, be it it lotions and creams, hair dye or cosmetic surgery. Who is really to judge where that line of comfort should be? My girlfriend tells me that gray hair makes me look “distinguished”, and for some reason, I believe her, so I just let it go. And up to this point, it hasn’t seemed to hurt my teaching career. If anything, kids just seem to think that if I look that old, I must know something. But for someone who has defined themselves and their career on their youthful countenance, it stands to reason that they might just go overboard doing everything they can to subvert the aging process.
If anything, I am saddened that Madonna needs to fill her face with more toxins than an Ohio train derailment in order to try to stay relevant in the popular zeitgeist. Our society pressures us to resist aging instead of embracing every stage of the life process as a beautiful and inevitable part of the larger journey. On the one hand, we tell women that they are less valuable as they age, but then we tear them down when they do what they can to stop it. Yes, Madonna’s desperate attempts to look forty years younger trouble me as well, but not so much because of her own personal decisions, but rather because of what they suggest about our own cultural denigration of aging and our inability to accept its inherent transformations.
Of course we look more wrinkled and weathered as we get older. Of course our minds deteriorate with time and we start to forget where we left the house keys. Of course our genatalia begin to sag and dry up as we age. That’s just part of the process, and calling it what it is isn’t “ageism”- it’s acceptance. The more we embrace where we are on that spectrum, the more we can appreciate the gifts each part of our life has to offer. Now that I’m in my 50’s I may not have the sexual virility to satisfy the entire squad of Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, but I also have the wisdom not to try. I may not have the boyish good looks to get me into the club, but I have the trove of experience to know why I shouldn’t give a shit.
And therein lies the key to happiness in all of this: the gratitude and appreciation for where we are in life, wherever that may be. By aging, we realize that we are more than our physical selves. We define ourselves not by what we look like, but by who we are. And somehow I come to like myself a whole lot more in the process.
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com