Remember John Cusack in Say Anything? Probably not.
What I mean is, you probably remember Say Anything (if you were alive then, and over the age of ten), but you probably don’t remember the ripped, youthful, smooth-faced John Cusack in that film. You might remember Cusack, but what your memory sees is a more recent image of him. Say Anything was a long time ago, in the eighties, when we all looked just as youthful. And how well do you remember that?
I recommend seeing the film again, especially if your only remaining impressions of it are a forty-something John Cusack and a memory of your then boyfriend sitting rigidly in the theater, tight-jawed and fuming and refusing to hold your hand because, earlier in the parking lot, you’d made some humorous remark that he didn’t think was so humorous. He was the first of many, you would later learn, whose egos could be smushed by the smallest of observations…
…anyway, forget old boyfriends.
I caught a few minutes of Hot Tub Time Machine last night, and Cusack was still quite delectable in 2010. At the time of the film’s premiere, he was exactly my age now, 43. He was in his youthful forties. I could see that adorable young actor under the lines around his mouth and eyes, under the thinning hair and emerging paunch. I think that’s what makes some men in their forties so attractive to women and men of all ages—they’ve got their shit together, and they’re still hot. Chevy Chase, on the other hand, the clairvoyant hot tub repairman, was starting to fall apart. Chase, a comedian that I and John Cusack might have enjoyed in our youth, was well past his forties.
Five years later, having completely shed that delusional aura that allows us to still see what we want to see, a youthful version of the person under the white hair and the extra pounds, Chevy Chase stumbled on the Saturday Night Live’s 40th reunion set. He tripped on a small step, on nothing basically, the way a 72 year-old man or woman might do. Twitter fans were all abuzz with concerns for his health. Without any sort of professional degree to back me up, I’ll contend that his health sucks. It certainly sucks in comparison to his kamikaze Saturday Night Live days, or his Vacation decade, or even his cameo appearance in the first Hot Tub Time Machine, and that’s because he’s old. And that’s what happens when you get old—you take funny meds, and you gain or lose weight, and you trip on shit, and people start treating you like you’re old, start tweeting about your weight gain and over-enunciating when they talk to you. Chevy Chase is lucky that it took this long for viewers to notice his age.
These days, when I run into someone I knew in high school, the encounter can go one of two ways: I might see the person through my memory lens, superimposing taught skin and big hair over the present image until I’m comfortable with the adult standing in front of me, or I might find the person to be completely unrecognizable. Either way, we’ve aged. And when the old high school acquaintance says something like, “You look exactly the same,” she means that she can still remember what she used to see underneath your starting-to-sag skin, your extra pounds, and your fly-away hair. And unless you’ve undergone some kind of aesthetic transformation inspired by money or fame or success that makes you appear way hotter than you ever were in high school, that’s what you want.
We want to be in that limbo state between young and old, where our accomplishments and our confidence more than make up for our once flawless appearance. That’s hot. And this could be our last decade of hotness. So carpe diem.