For my birthday this week, the universe gifted me with a thrown-out back and a freshly illuminated CHECK ENGINE light on the dashboard. Subtle metaphors, these were not. I chose to respond as I might to a beware-of-yetis admonishment in Ethiopia. Which is to say: I ignored them, downing a fistful of muscle relaxants and merrily going about my dad-rocking business.
I was indestructible until I turned 40; I logged more marathon finishes than I did head colds and musculoskeletal ouchies combined. But despite my newfound susceptibility to hangovers and rogue strands of ear hair, being middle-aged ain’t half-bad.
Friendships and other relationships mutate naturally and largely without drama. Marketers have accepted that it’d take an act of God to prompt me to switch brands. In most ways that matter, it’s easier and more pleasant being 40-plus than it was 20- or 30-something.
That’s why I responded so positively to the premise of Philosophy’s “Welcome to the Age of Cool,” in which Ellen Pompeo smirks off all sorts of stereotypes about the acceleration of the aging process. The clip’s narrator, patterned after a typical ’60s-era tele-shiller, chirps about the inevitable loss of strength and flexibility (cut to Pompeo executing a superfecta of ninja-grade yoga poses). He advises the actress and her generational ilk to “shun the revealing clothes of yesteryear,” more or less suggesting that they outfit themselves in beige pantsuits and Steph Curry kicks (Pompeo models a handful of stylish dresses, ascending to a level of fabulousness usually only attained by… uh, Hollywood actresses). For all intents and purposes, “Age of Cool” is a rebuttal.
I wasn’t as swayed by the video’s execution, though, because it assumes a complete obliviousness to nuance on the part of the audience. The narrator doesn’t merely hint that middle-agers no longer possess the vitality, physical and otherwise, they once took for granted. Rather, he hammers home an overnight-apocalypse scenario, noting that “as your interior fails, so too will your exterior” and instructing 40-and-up viewers to “leave the heavy lifting to the younger, more able-bodied generation.”
We age by degree, not in abrupt bursts. As a result, it’d have been more effective if “Age of Cool” issued subtle jabs - maybe a bit on how product labels are harder to read than they once were? - instead of roundhouse rights (“it’s important not to exceed your dwindling capacities,” “only a miracle can save you now”).
There’s also a puzzling inconsistency in the tone of Pompeo’s responses to the narrator’s barbs. To some, she arches a skeptical eyebrow. To others, she undercuts his opinions by looking/acting in a manner inconsistent with them. Pick one approach and settle on it, okay?
And heavens, the “Age of Cool” social media campaign, at least as it’s described in the YouTube blurb, needs to be stopped before those crazy middle-aged Internet no-longer-kids get wise to it. It invites all comers to “join the conversation by declaring yourself or someone you admire a #CoolAger on social media.”
A “CoolAger,” eh? Am I the only one who sees this ending in chaos, as images of Viola Davis and Mariska Hargitay replace dollars and euros as the standards of global currency? I am? Must be that middle-age scatterbrain kicking in again! Gonna go chug some probiotics now - back in a few.