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The Cult of Youth | Note 40

Like many a loving parent, my mum often liked to tell me – in fact, she still does – how beautiful she thinks I am, how radiant my skin, how firm and toned my body. From an early age, I have felt uncomfortable with these compliments, feeling that something was amiss. Having witnessed my mum’s anguish at the marks left by the passage of time, I didn’t want to fall into the same trap. Although for a long time I wasn’t able to imagine how it feels to age – such is the privilege and the ignorance of youth – I sensed that giving in to celebrating my youthful looks would inevitably end in drama.

While research has proven ageism to incur massive economic costs and even to shorten lifespans by up to 7.5 years (although I’m not sure how the latter happens), it remains prevalent and even accepted. Our obsession with preventing ageing, which is as sensible as attempting to prevent ourselves from sleeping or eating, is its direct result.

The cult of youth is now increasingly challenged by queer theorists who link it to the future-oriented politics of hope. This “optimistic displacement of personal and political investment onto the Child and into the future” stems from the chase for an impossibly perfect, heteronormative love. It is the most important among the goals that society tells us to pursue – achieving them will endow our lives with meaning but, as they are largely unattainable, we must defer our self-actualisation further and further into some nondescript future. Unfortunately, hinging on the fleeting resource of youth, futurism is... continue reading now →


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