If old age is relative, we’ll all die young

A friend of mine had the honor of appearing on the Today Show with some other women who were modeling dresses for Women’s Heart Month.

One by one, everyone paraded out in red dresses. There were young women in fetching red dresses and middle-aged women in fetching red dresses. (After so many memos from the Human Resources department, I should know enough not to use words like “young,” “middle-aged” and definitely not “old” because you could get your pants sued off, not to mention your little red dress.)

Talking about age is as verboten as discussing politics, religion and sex used to be in polite company, but there’s no polite company nowadays and those topics are the only thing people seem capable of talking about, sadly.

As the young women pranced across the TV studio in front of the charming hosts, they were described as “cute,” “alluring,” “hot in red,” “on the make” and other descriptive terms for young women in tight, short, low-cut red dresses that occasionally, I feared, would impede their breathing and require EMT assistance.

Then, the middle-aged models waltzed out, and the emcee, who happened to be a young woman, described them as wearing dresses that were “age appropriate.” I thought, “What a curious term — age appropriate.” What happened to “hot,” “sizzling,” “stunning,” “traffic-stopper”? We had entered another demographic dimension that morphed from sexy to stodgy.

The women who were watching the show with me gulped or gasped, depending upon their age. I guess they understood the connotation of “age appropriate” because one of them snickered, “That means a dress you’re licensed to wear.” By the fashion police?

Does it mean the dress has an acceptably conservative hemline and neckline for a woman hovering around 60? (Sorry, I can’t get over the age thing.) What then, I wonder, is “age appropriate” for young women prowling the night spots in skimpy garments like Rihanna, who gave us a treat recently by dressing like a topless crocodile?

And while we’re discussing metaphysical questions worthy of Aristotle, is it “age appropriate” for women in their 50s to dress like women in their 20s?

Sad to say, I’ve seen my share of 50-something women and men who act and dress like teenagers, which I’d describe as “age inappropriate.”

Somewhere along the way, our society forgot the virtue of modesty, not to mention honesty and purity and maturity and so many of those “ty” concepts.

At the same time, you have to wonder what’s “age appropriate” in an era when everyone is saying 60 is the new 40. A recent poll by Marist College concluded that old age is relative. Baby Boomers, who are reaching retirement at a rate of 10,000 a day, say old age doesn’t start until 77, the Millennial Generation says the forbidden age is 62 and the Greatest Generation says 81.

When you consider the average life expectancy is 78.4, we’re all pretty optimistic. Nowadays, middle age is defined as everything from 40 to 80, and for some people, adolescence has been known to last until 60.

According to that logic, we’ll never grow old. We’ll die first.


Joe Pisani may be reached at [email protected]

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