I recently took part in an experiment at Goldsmith College. I was asked to pair up, Noah’s Ark-style, with another creative. We were handed a folded note that, once unfold read: “Ageing”. We were requested to imagine a solution of benefit to society related to this inevitable occurrence. At a Reiki treatment last Saturday, the practitioner asked: “Are you okay if I ask you how old you are?”. That very same morning in the underground, I noticed among the passengers someone that I have known for ages, sat next to an older lady who happened to be his mother. They were catching a flight for the weekend. Young man, old lady. So not your usual pairing, because, how often do you see mothers traveling with their 35+ sons? He told me that he was consulting with a major drugs company on the subject of “Death”. So, three times lucky in seven days, kind of forces me to address the issue because I am noticing this stuff way too often to deny it.
Anti-ageing creams. Anti-perspirant, anti-wrinkles. We have been conned to such degree of moronity that we actually believe the media advertising conjuring spells. “Visibly reduced fine lines” sounds as flippant as “almost no calories”. What is of concern to me is not if the products work to an extent or not. What rises my disgust is, “why is ageing something presented negatively to humans?” Why, when it is something that has so many perks and positives, and that it is as inevitable as gravity?
The prefix “anti” is harsh, unkind, aggressive, combative. Why do consumers tolerate it preceding something as vital as ‘ageing’? Pharmaceutical companies are careful enough not to brand their anti-conceptive pills as “anti-menstruation”. In essence, that’s what they really are: they stop your period. Having sex or not is secondary, as many women will testify being put on the pill because of non-sex related issues such as heavy clotted menstrual periods, endometriosis pains, etc. An anti-menstruation pill sounds against nature. It actually borders on the anti-female of the species. Why don’t we care when it’s used to bar life’s journey itself?
Who is the weakest, a toddler or an 80 year old person? Kids miraculously bounce off the floor when they fall. Ageing humans, on the other hand, are extremely breakable. You do not force a vintage 1920s car into sand dunes. You ease its journey through the windy roads. Ageing is what makes it special for a good number of reasons. An ageing human is an anomaly. It is a small victory of perseverance. It should rise in our hearts compassion and love, not disgust. Ageing should be an achievement, not a doomsday.
I’m in love with an octogenarian gentlemen in New York. His name is William J. Cunningham (born March 13, 1929) a fashion photographer for The New York Times, known for his candid and street photography. Bill is an institution. Bill laughs like a child and says things that come straight out of 1940s movies. He calls people “kiddo”. He washes down burgers with soda. He buys in thrifty stores and refuses to live conventionally because he is too busy doing what he loves 24 hours a day. He rides his $20 bike up and down Manhattan, being blown off the road by flying yellow cabs, and dashing through traffic as a two-wheeled Don Quixote. Bill is loved, respected, beheld by mighty powerful people because of his talent and endearing integrity (he never accepts freebies, drinks or invitations that are not part of a fashion assignment). If you watch the incredible documentary of a year in his life (also on Netflix) you will also fall in love with Bill. You’ll want to adopt him, like most of us. I promise that you will want him to live forever because the fashion industry, Manhattan, and life itself will truly not be the same without him.
Ask yourself this (and I shall do the same as well): how many people over 80 do you know? what would your life be without their input and presence? Why don’t we work harder and smarter into protecting and preserving the incredibly precious thing that a human above 79 years of age is? Ageing humans are an excellent opportunity for us to engage in random acts of kindness. We speak to them when we cross paths in corridors, we help them if we see them hesitant at the supermarket. They get us to behave in ways that we do not feel compelled with other humans. When we turn around and proceed with our lives we feel a fuzzy feeling in our hearts that warms us up as much as stroking a puppy, rescuing a scared kitten, consoling a child, hugging a loved one with passion. Ageing humans are a treasure. Why are we so mean with our advertising? What? Like they are blind and deaf when our campaigns slap them in the face?
We need to ban the word anti from our lives. I blame the creatives and their naff story lines for brand campaigns. Be bold: ban words, prick up the consumer eyes, deliver Dylan Thomas lines that move people to read his poems, Good Will Hunting scripts that make young people study math with love.
Ban, ban the word Anti into the Night.