All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
The Eight Ages of Modern Humans
Most of us have heard Shakespeare's "seven ages of man" monologue from As You Like It.
I browsed the greeting cards at the grocery store today, and this is what I found. Except for the 40th and 50th birthday cards, they were each the only card for that birthday. There were three options for 40th birthday, and five for the fiftieth. What do you think these cards can tell us about aging culture in the United States today?
"The scary stuff about aging is real, but our fears are hugely out of proportion."
Sometimes research takes writers into territory that is not only unfamiliar, but unpleasant. The unfamiliar I can deal with, but this was the first project where I dreaded the so-called “review of literature”. As it turns out, slogging through the massive body of literature on aging and women was as miserable an experience as I’d expected, but also disappointingly familiar. This was especially true of the information on the biological aspects of human aging. “Hair sparse and grey”: check. “Skin like parchment”: check. “Fewer curves”: check. “Wrinkles”: check. My posture is pretty good so far, but I am no longer 5’ 9”. I walk more slowly, descend stairs more carefully. Less hair in “those” places, but more facial hair, though "rarely to the point of disfiguring”, as one author helpfully adds. The word “atrophy” stops me in mid-sentence and I smile. Tell me something I don’t know.
My intention in this chapter is to provide some context for the stories in the chapters that follow. For readers who, like me, have reached their seventies**, it’s old news. But in the optimistic thought that the book might be of interest to younger readers, I will try to summarize existing works on the topics of aging, gender, and fashion succinctly and practically. For serious scholars who want more, I'll provide a bibliographic essay in the appendix.
**The beginning of my chapter reviewing the literature on aging, women, and fashion. Comments and suggestions are encouraged.
*I am actually 69 and 3 months, but will be 70 by the time this gets published.