Ever been told to be careful about that sour expression on your face because “It might freeze like that?”
The truth is actually simpler and more complicated, and I offer up as Exhibits A (male) & B (female) our current mess of a president and one of his “counselors.”
Look at Donald Trump’s and Kellyanne Conway’s faces and try to imagine that you’ve never seen them before.
Now, picture yourself in a situation where you need to ask a stranger for some small thing – standing on a corner in a strange city and not being sure whether to turn left or right to reach your destination, wanting to know what time it is or whether you just missed the bus you’re waiting to catch.
Do they look like people you’d want to ask?
Over the past five years, I have been spending a lot of time hanging out with old people. And by “old people,” I mean the 80-plus set.
Back when 30 seemed like 100 and I blew out the candles on my eighth birthday cake, those people looked unimaginably ancient. Now, those eight and 30-year-olds look at me and see what I saw back then.
[Confession/digression: I kind of like it. Sure, mass media is all about youth and beauty, and it might be fun to be firm and wrinkle-free and all. But the truth is that learning to steer older has been a fairly smooth ride.
Benefits include the ability to call out someone with nothing more than a smile and a kind word or two. There’s zero attitude and the exchange often moves on from there, ending on an upbeat note for everyone involved. Which is, I think, is directly connected to my sense of entitlement – or lack thereof.]
An angry co-worker at a previous job once accused me of thinking I owned the world, and in my head I was l all, “Well, yeah, and so do you!”
Also at that previous job was an older female co-worker whose features could have settled into something pretty, or gentle, but didn’t. She looked mean. Because she was mean.
I’ve spent a lot of time since then observing old people – and that was way before Mom went to the nursing home. The result is my Old People Hypothesis.
Old People Hypothesis: As we age, we tend to look more on the outside like we are on the inside.
In other words, that mean-looking older person (assuming they haven’t had “work” done or been caught up by some disease that changed their physical appearance) is likely to be a mean older person. Conversely, the one whose default expression is soft and kind is also likely to be soft and kind.
I see it with the residents in Mom’s nursing home, and I see it now with Kellyanne Conway, who, at 50, already is well on her way to a truly gruesome old-person face. Then there’s her boss. Who, at 70, looks on the outside the way he is on the inside.
The Old People Hypothesis doesn’t extend to spreading that ugliness around. But after his first week in office, I’m pretty sure of one thing for those of us out here on the ground.
Killing ‘em with kindness has never mattered more.