Youth is Pain

I saw two excellent HBO documentaries this Labor Day weekend, seemingly unrelated. On Sunday, Youth Knows No Pain and then The Last Truck: The Closing of a GM Plant on Monday.

The former is an exploration of the US’s cult of youth by way of Restalyn, Botox, eye lifts and a zillion other quasi-medical treatments to not look one’s age. It’s a pretty brilliant title. First off, all of these treatments are painful, how expensive they are is the least of which. But the result, to look younger, should take some of the pain of life — of being old — away, right? One of the youth-obsessed women quotes Nora Ephron: if I knew what I know now, I would have wore a bikini every day of my 26th year. Ha! Yes, I hear that sister.

The sage quoting Ephron here is Julia Allison who, when she was 26, read that and built a philosophy around it, Botoxing regularly among other age-defying procedures. She’s hot, true as blue. But as we see Julia’s derm stick needles in her face it’s clear that she’s a pathetic hot girl, obsessed with her looks, shallow, self-absorbed and myopic. She can barely look up from herself long enough to faintly disdain her best friend in the doctor’s office.

It’s true, youth is wasted on the young. But of all the things that youth wastes on the young, looks hardly make my top 10. Knowing what I know now I would have worked harder, been more honest with myself, respected myself more, demanded more from my friends, my lovers, demanded more from myself. Maybe I would have worn more bikinis too. No, actually Nora, I wore just the right amount of bikinis.

And then tonight, the doc about the GM plant. It’s winter in Dayton and the workers are red-faced, clad in down and work boots and unflattering jeans. Most of them cry on camera on the final day in the life of their plant. They take group photos with the last car on the line. The women don’t wear make up as they heave tools into their trucks. The men use the word love over and over. Dammit they’re OLD.

Maybe it’s because the subjects are filmed so lovingly here, they all are so fucking beautiful. And not beautiful in some nobility-of-the-proletariat way, though there’s that too. But they’re hot, sexy, vibrant. They work hard and have an emotional connection to their people, their lives. And clearly they have better sex than Julia Allison.

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