By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note. The world is graying as the Baby Boomers, now millions of us in our sixties, get older and older still day by inexorable day. Farseeing Stephen Sondheim, who I once met when I was at Harvard many years ago, wrote the musical for us back in 1971. It’s called “Follies”, and it has the perfect music for today’s article…a knock-out number called “Beautiful Girls.”
If you know it, you’ll be glad to hear again the lyrics and music to age by… and if you’ve never heard it before, you are in for a treat you’ll want repeated over and over again, not least for its profound message that, aging, we are yet deeply and profoundly desirable…and that if we’re lucky we have the empathetic people around us, especially that special person, to say so… You’ll find this song in any search engine. Go find it now… and listen to it, really listen… You are about to make a very special person so very happy….
Can you even remember the last time…?
The problem with relationships is that the good thing, having it there every day, is the bad thing. It’s comfortable like an old shoe or bunny slipper. You don’t have to do much, maybe nothing, because it’s right there, right now…. and so it goes until you are well and truly in a rut, devaluing and taking for granted the most important thing you’ll ever have.
If I’m describing things at your home, then this article is for you, and not a moment too soon!
Not a woman’s issue, not a man’s issue, a human issue.
We humans are social animals. We do not do well alone which is why solitary confinement in prison is considered the ultimate punishment… to deprive us of the necessary company of our fellow beings is completely unsettling. Thus, because togetherness is not merely a nice thing to have but an absolute necessity, we spend our entire lives, men as well as women, working (and working hard) to find that “perfect” mate… the one who gives us just the volatile mixture of peace and passion we require. It is a tall order; many never find it, many have much of it, but throw good relationships away trying to get the rest. In many ways the struggle to find and keep the “perfect” person constitutes the most important of life’s many struggles.
People need to have their desirability noted, confirmed, extolled, especially as the burdensome years add up.
I am 64 now and acutely aware of time’s winged chariot; I often feel it is running me over… or at least that I am slower these days about getting out of its way. It is an irksome feeling, irritating, exasperating and shared by millions worldwide. “Why,” we wonder “couldn’t we have had just a bit more of the magic of being twenty, thirty, thirty nine… even an extension on yesterday?” We’re smart… we know why… but we never stop wishing for more of what we had.
But such wishes, as we know only too well, won’t add even a single moment to the brilliant events of our lives. Thus, we must focus on what we have, for that, too, will be gone too soon and deeply missed. Under such circumstances we must learn to enjoy… to appreciate… to celebrate… to exult. And that must start today.
First, understand that it is the universal human condition to experience dismay, despair, even desperation as we age. We see aging as a process of diminution and diminishment. As a society, we are fixated on the bodies, the looks, the capabilities and agilities of the young, often the very young. We are a youth-centered society and as a result end up depressing those whose youth is often a distant memory. This is wrong. And Stephen Sondheim knew it was wrong, a situation screaming for a different emphasis. And so he wrote “Follies”. It’s the story of 5 women, all stunners, who have aged through the engrossing, demanding high times and low of their lives…
Sondheim wants them to live again in all their beauty and jaw-dropping perfection. And so “Follies” was born. It was a great success, an enchantment that made an audience leap to its feet as one aging gloriosa after another came down the circular staircase into the limelight and applause she claimed by right. We all wanted her to have it… and we were all grateful to Sondheim for resurrecting the joy these women gave us, beautiful girls forever… whatever their chronological ages.
Now for you…
When was the last time you took a moment to consider the situation and desirability of the most important person in your life, the person who needs the balm of your reassurance. “Am I still beautiful to you?”
This question is a gamble, only asked in extremis, out of anxiety, fear that their entire world will crash if they get the wrong answer. And so, first, recognize the courage of the questioner. They risk everything by your answer.
In such a moment, seize your beloved as if this were your last day on earth and say, “Yes, yes, more beautiful than ever!”, a sentiment confirmed by the most passionate kiss ever.
This does not end the matter… it just starts it… for from such a moment a greater love is born… the love that is greater and more important than any physical perfection.
When you look at your beloved, man or woman, you are looking at the most significant person in your life. When was the last time you made that clear… clear that you understand his sacrifices, her unceasing focus on you and everything about you? Each wrinkle, each furrow on a furrowed brow is there for you… is evidence that you were wanted, desired, lived for and loved… You have been and are a lucky person indeed.
Don’t wait for a special occasion, the fact that you both are here now is special occasion enough. Taking action today, on an “ordinary” day gives whatever you do its poignant significance and power. You are saying, and saying loud and clear, that your so special being is not merely special on the days society has appointed for such matters… but each and every day… a day which touched by your inventiveness transforms an ordinary day into one of the days of your life.
Now use the magic of Sondheim’s music and profound understanding of the human condition to assist. in making a point which cannot be made too often.. Sondheim’s lyrics are about all beautiful girls; change them now to be solely for your special one:
Hats off, Here she comes, that Beautiful girl. That’s what I’ve been waiting for. Nature never fashioned A flower so fair. No rose can compare- Nothing respectable Half so delectable. Cheer her In her glory, Diamonds and pearls, Dazzling jewels By the score. This is what beauty can be. Beauty celestial, The best, you’ll Agree: All for me, my beautiful girl!
I don’t have to tell you what to do now… the stage is now set for a day you will never forget… and which is there to remind you that what you once had you have again… … thanks to that beautiful girl, or guy, in your life, in whose grateful eyes you see the resounding.
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