The Invisibility that Cloaks Power
Commentary: I watch entertainment news more sparingly than actual news. I aim to be well out of the loop before my kids head into the obsessive spiral of the celebrity machine. I already nod sagely at award shows as more and more names start to sound like adjectives and nouns Mad-Libbed together.
Being out of the loop also works in reverse. Lamplighters that influenced the art and activism for the previous generations may have different connotations for me. Sure, I know Neil Young. He's married to Daryl Hannah.
Of course, his musical influence looms into overall common cultural knowledge. Still, I did have to manually investigate his work — around the time he married the gal from "Splash" who also starred in "Kill Bill." For Neil Young, his hits reminded me of the music I heard in the car as a kid, when my dad tried to get me into bands he valued, from Pink Floyd to Duran Duran.
My vote was yes to the latter, no to the former. My dad told me I might need more access to blacklights and illegal substances to appreciate Pink Floyd.
So, years later, when I studied Young's music, I wanted to see if my musical tastes might still absorb the lessons those artists brought to their work — lessons that I may have missed in the back of the car. The songs, as the kids would say now, "hit different," with my older age and experiences. I wish I might have had different conversations with my old man.
When alerts popped up that Neil Young was not dead, but instead pulling his music from Spotify, I recognized him as the man of his age in the posts: 76, portly, with gray mutton chops, instead of the dark-haired, wild-eyed man from the 1970s that came up when I had searched his music.
Yet, when Joni Mitchell followed suit, I thought they were "in memoriam" posts. All the pictures that linked with posts about her solidarity with Young showed pictures of her in her late 20s and early 30s. I saw so many pictures of the straight-haired Joni that I went hunting for what Ms. Mitchell looked like now at 78.
From what photos I could find, she looks her age. I think how that simple statement is a double-edged sword for women and reminded me of an aging female friend.
My friend, who must have wielded her beauty in ways that I never had the chance to, talked about aging with tones of regret. She spoke about noticing the creep of invisibility, that she didn't take up the same space on a sidewalk or that her voice was only amplified in a meeting when a man would repeat her ideas. It made her sad, and really, it worried her. All of her work to build her career had come to being swallowed by the machine when experience gave her tracks on her face she couldn't hide.
The invisibility of women aging already is a studied phenomenon, but I wonder how invisibility just cloaks a power that is hidden due to fear of what that power could spark.
Recently, a man closer to my age fielded controversy online for highlighting on his podcast that his woman, after giving birth, needed to return to her pre-baby form post haste. He was lambasted by all genders, but what I didn't see questioned was whether he was afraid of the power that was laid on the woman he loved when she received the veil of motherhood.
Regression back into a pre-baby body is possible, but regression into the same soul may not be. The effort of life to beget life changed me, and other things await to change our minds about how our powers might enhance with age.
Even if there was derision on Young and Mitchell from my generation — what would it matter if they left Spotify, they were "just old people" — their power was in spurring on the conversation. Those conversations might be enough for others in my generation to look up, learn lessons and continue more action.