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Peter Pan

My mother took me to see a production of Peter Pan when I was about 7 or 8. After seeing the play, the concept of never growing up struck me as a supremely worthwhile goal to pursue. I figured that if I really, really wanted to never grow up, my will alone would make this possible. And for years, it seemed like I was successfully achieving this goal. While my body changed, my essential boyishness never did.

Well, decades went by, and I wondered if it was not inevitable that at some point I would be forced, against my will, to make a quantum leap into adulthood, to become a qualitatively different person, a fuddy-duddy.

It never happened. I look around me, and I am surrounded by grownups, but I am not one of them. I look in a mirror and see clear signs of physical aging (particularly rapid the past few years raising teenagers) which allows me to blend in and be mistaken for an adult. But those appearances are totally misleading.

I hope no grownups are reading this, lest my secret be revealed.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 4th, 2006 03:23 am (UTC)
Your Secret is Safe...
Well...you have the wisdom of a sage in your youthful heart.
Aug. 4th, 2006 04:02 am (UTC)
growing up...
Your secret is safe with me, brother!
Aug. 4th, 2006 04:25 am (UTC)
Good for you. I highly approve of not growing up. Oddly, though.... part of me always kept hoping that one day I'd feel all adult and have a grip on things like a normal person... but either I'm defective, or all grown-ups are faking it.
Aug. 4th, 2006 05:15 am (UTC)
i think all grownups are either faking it or delusional.
Aug. 4th, 2006 01:04 pm (UTC)
Sad, isn't it?
Aug. 4th, 2006 01:12 pm (UTC)
I think that "getting a grip" means being willing to give up hoping to be someone you are not. If by "defective" you mean "not perfect," don't worry--you've got plenty of company.

As Gina pointed out, all grown-ups are either faking it or delusional. We don't want to go there, do we?
Aug. 4th, 2006 07:09 am (UTC)
I'm beginning to realize that people don't actually "grow up." They just look older. When you're a kid, the world seems so strictly divided between the kids and the grownups, and only on leaving the world of kids and entering the world of adults do you realize that there's really no difference. We're still that same person we were only a short time ago, except now in a bigger body. It's not "the kids" and the "grown ups," but "the short people who don't know a lot" and "the previously short, now tall, people who know a bit more but not by much." I think we're all just completely delusioned as kids into thinking that adults are some totally separate entity, and upon becoming an "adult" ourselves, we're all just confused as to how we still feel the same and don't have that magic "adult" handle on things yet.

Right now I'm more afraid of the physical part of getting older. Our culture is just so highly youth-infused that it's hard to imagine not being a part of that. What happens when you look older? At least for girls, you no longer can be valued by the culture, and I'm sure that this affects the individual's view as well. A man can look older because the culture stresses success/power in a man, but only the physical in a girl, so we're all pretty much screwed once we're out of our teens. Ah but this is a totally separate rant.
Aug. 4th, 2006 01:48 pm (UTC)
"the previously short, now tall, people who know a bit more but not by much."

That is just about a perfect capsule summary of what it means to be an adult.

I hear your Angst about the emphasis placed on a woman's physical youthfulness. That doesn't seem fair at all. Please feel free to rant on.

The situation is even worse than you outline. Even if a woman does approach physical perfection, that will not get her everything she wants nor will it protect her from criticism for what she lacks. Of course the same is true for men. Having a shitload of money and status will not bring an older man everything he wants, nor will it protect him from age discrimination.
Aug. 5th, 2006 12:39 am (UTC)
I hate the nearl cult-like adoration and idolization of youth in our culture. It definitely takes something away from the whole experience of being young.

I can't imagine that this doesn't permeate the individual psyche on the expectation of what to expect from women in terms of their physical looks. There's no escape from the constant showcase of beautiul young women. I don't watch much TV, but even standing online at the grocery store where every magazine cover pictures some smiling beauty, driving through the city and seeing the billboards, the subway ads, the ads hanging up in the mall, etc. Even though we all say we know the difference between media images and reality, it's got to register unconsciously that this is what the females in the vicinity look like, and alters the individual's expectations of women.

The problem is that the male standard still exists. Feminism has allowed women to work on the same level of men, but they're still defined through their femininity and the sexualized male view of her. What we've been allowed to do so far is to "shed" our femininity (which is tied up to youthfulness, unlike "masculinity", which seems to be something that can exist regardless of age) to achieve an equal position to men, but we'll still be made fun of for looking older, not dressing as nicely, not being "feminine enough" (even though being "feminine" could compromise the job position), etc. Meanwhile male success doesn't seem to come at the compromise of a gendered identity. That's because the male is the standard for success, so only the feminine has to be sacrificed to fit in with that. But since women are still seen basically in a sexual light, that comes with a cost.

Note that when I use terms like "masculine" and "feminine," I believe that they are social constructions, not some inherent sex-specific trait.

Um I just completely lost track of the point I wanted to make, so I'll end it with this.
Aug. 6th, 2006 04:53 pm (UTC)
I can't imagine that this doesn't permeate the individual psyche on the expectation of what to expect from women in terms of their physical looks. There's no escape from the constant showcase of beautiful young women.

I've heard this many times in my life, and I'd like to give you my perspective. I think that the media present a particular image of women because they expect men to be captivated by that image (and therefore buy whatever product is being sold). And the media are correct, for the most part, in that men are visually captivated by 23ish-year-old women with smooth skin, silky hair, and a .80 waist-to-hip ratio.

But that does not mean that the media represent a male conspiracy that is defining arbitrary standards of female beauty. Those standards are nonarbitary, evolved preferences based on signals of fertility and health in potential mates. Men can't help but be attracted to such a visual display, and the media exploit that.

The media also exploit women's sensitivity to wanting to be attractive to men. What I find offensive are the dozens of glamour magazines filled with images of beautiful women that claim that any reader can obtain secrets about looking just as beautiful as these models. That is a scam that exploits women who wish to look like a model.

So, when I hear women's bitterness about "the constant showcase of beautiful women" in the media, what I hear is Angst about not being able to compete with models and a fear of not being accepted by men because one does not look like a model. All the stuff about masculine/feminine standards of success seems to me a bricolage of rationalization that obscures more deeply felt (if unacknowledged) feelings.

I think it is important to keep in mind that fashion models represent a tiny fraction of all women, and that this exclusive group is unavailable to 99% of the male population. Men know that, and we are realistic in what we expect from women. Yes, models and actresses are nice to look at, and so we will look at them in magazines and movies. But we don't expect the women who really matter in our lives to look like models and movie stars. And we think it is sad when ordinary women mistakenly think that we expect women to look like models before we'll give them the time of day. That kind of suffering is self-afflicted and unnecessary.
Aug. 8th, 2006 02:15 am (UTC)
Oh I definitely don't think it's some sort of male-conspiracy. I was really thinking of this: http://www.psychologytoday.com/rss/pto-20010701-000023.html article when I wrote that first part. Yes, I won't deny that the first part is part jealousy. I don't think I'm bad looking (and neither do truck drivers and construction workers! haha) but I definitely consciously or unconsciously compare myself to what I see on the cover of magazines all the time.

However, the second part I don't think is quite related to the first part. I wrote an entry about this about a week or so ago actually, about how I believe the "male standard" of success still exists. Generally, physical characteristics that are closer to male characteristics are associated with intelligence (shorter hair, smaller breasts, etc), and femininity is something that's not considered "professional." Not that I don't think we're a generally tolerant and accepting society that does see the two sexes as equal, but I think there's still a masculine standard for what's considered professional or intellectual and that now women aren't held to such strict gender roles, but in order to succeed have to adapt the standard, aka male, gender role. Then again, this could just be 14 years of backwards Yeshiva education influencing my view as to how this all works.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )