Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Older and younger

I was thinking about ...

... being on a beach with some women friends who commented on how bad they felt about themselves when they saw young girls looking good in bathing suits.

... being at an author event where an approximately-21-year-old female author was actually apologizing to her fellow (older-than-21) panelists for being published at such a young age.

... a review I heard of a movie version of Snow White, which reminded me of that central conflict between the wicked queen and Snow White, and how the queen fears Snow White's youth as much as her beauty (and how that story links youth and beauty).

It's an interesting dynamic, perhaps not unexpected in a culture that prizes youth and beauty, that encourages older people to mimic the unlined faces and anything-but-gray hair of the young for as long as possible. It's a dynamic that I don't think is discussed much in the YA books of today. Offhand, I can't think of an example since this conversation from Norma Klein's It's OK If You Don't Love Me, between a mother and a teenage daughter:

"[Mom] looked at me. 'You know, I wasn't going to bring this up, Jo, but I think we're heading into a potentially dangerous time, you and me.'
'We are?'
"Yeah, I mean, I have to be frank. You're looking fantastic these days, and there are times when I can't stand it. ... I just don't want you to take it personally. ... I guess I'm just not ready, at thirty-nine, to pass on the torch to the new generation and all that.'
'Why do you have to?'"

Parents in YA books are usually absent/abusive/neglectful, or else involved and sympathetic. The close-but-fraught-with-conflict parent-child relationship isn't discussed as much nowadays, I don't think, and there's interesting potential there.

On the other hand, there is the work of May Sarton, who respected (often revered) her elders. At the age of seventy, she talked about how she felt she had come into her own, how powerful she felt. She spoke of the beauty of her elderly friends, and never seemed to envy her younger friends. I can easily imagine a parent, teacher, or grandparent character espousing this view in a story.

There are so many ways to look at age, and at intergenerational relationships.

9 comments:

  1. And yet another thought-provoking post from Jennifer Hubbard. I remember the precise moment when I realized my younger peers no longer considered me one of them. It was an odd feeling.

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    1. I think it starts in high school when, senior year, you start asking, "Gee, are the freshmen getting younger or am I getting older?"

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  3. You are right that that kind of parental-relationships hasn't been explored to its full potential in YA. I recently read Olive Kitteridge and her relationship with her son is so reflective of this kind of a relationship. It would be interesting to explore that from her son's teenaged POV.

    Hmmm...

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    1. It was fascinating to read Anne Lamott's latest book, which she co-wrote with her son, because she wrote so many books about parenting him. Now we hear his POV as well!

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  4. You, as always, come up with such brilliant thoughts - I always appreciate your visits to our blog and your responses to things.

    I am shooting this post to a specific member of my writing group whose work on writing mother-daughter tensions is so brilliant and tautly written - but she doesn't think it's important or interesting. It SO is, and now I have more proof to back me up!

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    1. Thank you, Tanita, and I enjoy Finding Wonderland as well.

      Oh, yes, the mother-daughter relationship is important! (And the grandmother-granddaughter, too.) Literature for adult women tends to address it more, I think, but it can be fresh material in the YA world.

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  5. Such an interesting post! I've always wanted to get older, haha, as odd as that sounds. I think it's because I just look young, and people don't seem to treat me the age that I am. I feel like I get less respect, which is odd since it seems from your post that people should give me more respect if I look young! But I'm also short. So, in all honesty, I've looked forward to my 30's and 40's for quite some time. Now that I'm in my 30's, I'm really happy where I am, but also excited for my 40's too.

    In The Breakaway there is some relationship stuff with the teenage daughter and her mother, but like you stated, it's one of those already explored - neglect.

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    1. True, sometimes younger (or younger-seeming) people have an uphill battle being taken seriously in certain situations. So prejudices can go both ways.

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