IF you go by its literal meaning, the term “did not age well” refers to a person or a thing that has worsened or been passed over by time.
I know some people who did not age well, victims of the ravages of age, dissipation and neglect and sometimes their own arrogance.
One acquaintance, a top performer on campus who seemed bound for success in the post-graduate life, was almost unrecognizable when I finally saw him after 50 years. He looked frail, spent and dispirited like a pendejo (loser) as someone warned me beforehand. It explains why he had been shying away from attending class reunions and even occasionally posted bitter comments on the group chat about those who are eager to show off on such occasions. He could barely afford the cost of his medicines. He kept shifting the conversation to a topic he was more excited about: the prospects of his daughter landing a job in Canada; apparently she was his saving grace.
As I am writing this, my wife showed me pictures of her aged aunt and husband in a nursing home in California, taken by their adult children during a visit. The aunt looked shockingly grotesque, her head almost bald, her eyes bulging, reminding me of the sculpted gargoyles perched on facades of ancient European cathedrals. Just 10 years ago, when they last visited the Philippines, she and her husband were haughtily showing off their good fortune as American citizens, looking down on relatives who did not prosper because they chose to stay in the Philippines, and casting aspersions on poor relatives as totally lacking drive and ambition. To the unsuspecting poor relatives who went to face her, the said auntie would look down on them and hurl insulting remarks about their physical imperfections: missing teeth, dark skin, flat nose, and so on, while she patronizingly handed out dollars.
Did that attitude of hers age well? What I see now in that image shared on social media among relatives is a face that would fit in a poster for a horror movie. The malice in her inner self still shows even with the passage of time.
“Did not age well” can also refer to beliefs, pronouncements and predictions that did not come true. There are old posts that make you shake your head and think “they could not have been more wrong considering recent events.”
For my generation, one prediction that did not age well is the world of the future as envisioned in the movie “2001 Space Odyssey.” When that particular year came, we were nowhere near the age of space travel as wondrously portrayed by writer Arthur Clarke and director Stanley Kubrick.
Can the same thing be said about the novel 1984 by George Orwell? The totalitarian society of the future he depicted where “Big Brother is Watching” was way off when we reached the year 1984, although arguably some brutal aspects of it became real during the Nazi regime in Germany and the Stalin era in Russia. Some say, it’s now occurring in China where technology is enabling the collection of personal data and the surveillance of facial images of citizens through ubiquitous cameras installed in public places.
Many things that were once innovative, revolutionary and groundbreaking have become obsolete, swept into oblivion. In the past 20 or so years alone, VHS tapes, the video laser disc player, pagers, audio cassettes, CDs, MP3s, and floppy disks are some of the things that have almost completely disappeared. Who still remembers Polaroid camera? Haven’t you noticed that the once familiar Kodak processing lab outlet is nowhere to be seen anymore? How about the fax machine? What happened to CD-R King, which was once the go-to store for computer gadgets? Even the landline phone seems destined to become a thing of the past.
There’s one widely accepted practice that has not aged well: physical punishment and verbal abuse by parents and teachers. My father often employed the belt to punish us when we were kids, and no one objected. Our classroom teachers were allowed a lot of leeway to discipline unruly or negligent students: spanking, hitting, pinching, slapping, threatening, insulting, humiliating and shaming them.
In my early years as a baby boom parent, in instinctive imitation of my father, I would obligatorily spank my kids (not too hard) when they wouldn’t listen to their mother’s admonitions. Then I stopped altogether when the practice went out of fashion and I became more enlightened (the truth is I didn’t have the heart for it).
Now, millennials and Gen X parents appear to be spanking their kids less than previous generations. A study reveals that younger parents of today “tend not to hit their children…there’s been a growing rejection of any sort of violence within the home, including spanking.”
In hindsight, it was never a good thing to begin with. At least, 75 studies on spanking found that it contributed to aggression, mental health and social esteem problems and antisocial behavior in children, who were more likely to be violent toward women later in life. I sincerely hope that these studies will convince parents and educators that raising one’s voice will not raise their children’s grades and that spanking and other punishments are not necessary to bring up well-mannered educated kids.
Being philosophical about it, human history teaches us that all things must pass.
Everything has its allocated time in which to shine. A time for every purpose under heaven. We have all our entrances and exits.
However, there are current trends that I specially like to age badly soon: social media platforms and digital channels that provide the stage for vanity performances and self-promotion, anonymous bots peddling lies and falsehoods and Internet sites that instigate hatred, spew toxic comments, and badmouth other people without remorse or accountability.
On a deeper level, there are things that we have the duty and obligation to ensure that they will not only age well but would last as long as humanity.
I can point out a few: the arts, the legacies of the past, which are conveyors of our culture and our natural resources, an inheritance, which must not only be respected, protected and conserved but renewed. Then, of course, there are the immortal lessons from the spiritual masters.
You know what I also like to see get better with age? You.
Mark Twain once said that ageing is “a privilege denied to many.” So make the best of this privilege. “Getting old is like climbing a mountain,” the actress Ingrid Bergman noted, “you get a little out of breath, but the view is much better!”
Age well like a good wine. Grow mellow. Become more aromatic and flavorful.