Picture of Dorian Gray
Posted on April 18, 2012
America’s Oldest Teen-Ager died yesterday and with him passed something far bigger, the idea that America’s baby-boom generation could remain young forever.
Dick Clark, the man who became famous spinning records on American Bandstand, became even more famous for staying unnaturally young.
For decades, he would ring in the New Year with Dick Clark’s “Rockin Eve”, never seeming to age a bit.
He was the American ideal of youth captured in perpetuity. There was something eerily unnatural in his ever-youthful appearance. He didn’t age gracefully. He just didn’t age.
And then, he had a stroke, and it all changed utterly. He went from being unnaturally young to too naturally old, and the contrast was jarring and profoundly sad.
For some reason, the life of Dick Clark reminds me of Oscar Wilde’s “Picture of Dorian Gray.” For those who don’t remember, Wilde’s Gray sold his soul so that he could keep his youthful appearance as he lived the life of debauchery. The only price he paid was a portrait of Gray that aged instead, and it didn’t age well.
Clark, of course, was no Dorian Gray. He was a real life icon of American culture.
But he led us all to believe that it was possible to stay young forever, up until the point where we learned that it isn’t possible to stay young forever.
At some point and time, we have to accept the fact as a society that while youth is wasted on the young, that doesn’t mean we should all strive to act or look unnaturally young.
This reality is especially hard for the baby-boomers to accept. More than any other generation, they have tried the hardest to postpone the inevitable. If you don’t think that 70 is the new 40, you haven’t been paying attention to Mick Jagger lately.
I suppose there is nothing wrong with trying to stay younger than your years by staying physically fit and mentally alert and open to new ideas. But there is something profoundly pathetic about 60 year-olds trying to act like they are 30.
And there is something weird when a 75 year old goes around trying to look like he is 40.
It is all well and good to age gracefully. But we should all accept the fact that we are all going to age. It is all part of life.