Don Fried — Playwright & Author

Staying young and beautiful forever is an awesome responsibility

Posted on: December 6, 2008

One of the biggest cultural shocks in living overseas was the realization thatrembrandt-portrait I wouldn’t be required to live forever, and to be young and beautiful all that time.

Here in America, the prevailing impression is that everything is under your control.  If you just eat right, take the right vitamins and herbal supplements, exercise right, meditate right, go to the right massage therapist, the right psychiatrist, and the right plastic surgeon, shop at the right stores –you will never get sick or be unattractive or be unhappy or get wrinkled.  If you do, it is ALL YOUR FAULT!  Sounds ridiculous, of course, but think about it.  Deep down, don’t you believe that?  I know I did.

I moved overseas when I was 22 and was exposed to an entirely different philosophy.  Depending on where you are in Europe, you may be expected to have some degree of control or very little.  Germany tends to be close to the U.S. in this regard, while the Brits are generally of the impression that you are  going to get old and sick and ugly soon enough — if you aren’t already — so why bother.

Because I had spent my youth in the U.S. but left when I was young and moved from country to country, I ended up being schizophrenic.  Of course, I knew intellectually that time marches on and eventually destroys what genes hadn’t configured in the womb and bad luck doesn’t take care of in the interim.  But subconsciously, when I got my first grey hair and started needing glasses, I felt guilty.  I must have done something wrong.

But no matter.  I could fix it.  The same when my colesterol got a little high.  No drugs for me.  I’ll just go on a macrobiotic diet, run 30 miles a day and meditate, and everything will go back to where it was when I was 18 years old.  My British doctor’s response was, “Well, OK, if you want to.  But you’ll be exhausted and it probably won’t make much difference.

So eventually, I relaxed and started to go with the flow.  Yes, believe it or not, I have lots of grey hair, a few wrinkles, my feet and knees hurt after I’ve walked 10 miles, and my stomach — well, it isn’t the stomach of an 18 year old either.  What a relief.  Believe me, it’s a lot more relaxing than being responsible for eternal perfection.

But then I moved back to the U.S., to Boulder.   While Boulder doesn’t have the mania for artificially induced beauty and youth of much of the rest of the U.S. (yes, you occasionally encounter old, ugly people here), it is one of the world’s touchy-feely centers of endless happiness.  And, of course, I get ample exposure to the rest of the American ethos through the media.

So it’s back on the treadmill for me.  Age 25, here I come!

4 Responses to "Staying young and beautiful forever is an awesome responsibility"

But wait!??? How will you be a grumpy old curmudgeon if you are all young and beautiful??? If you look better than me, then what will I do?

We need to discuss this…..

Nah, you win hands down.

I like you very much, and I haven’t even read too many of your posts. I put you on my blogroll because I liked you right away.

You’re right about America’s obsession with youth and beauty. One of the things I think about is that this obsession leads people to believe that they can’t have sex if they’re not wafer thin, blonde, and taut. So sad! It isolates people and keeps them apart.

Anyway – drop me a line anytime – I hope we can be friends.

– Nina


Thanks for your reply. I’m new to this business, so any response is important to me. I’m traveling for the next 3 1/2 weeks and will have sporadic access to the Internet, so there will be limited new posting. I’m taking advantage of the hiatus to try to finish up my Postville play. (See the post, “They’re Hijacking My Play.”) Also, I’ve been doing family stuff, which is pretty time-consuming.

I’ll certainly be happy to be your email/blogging/posting friend.


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