Sunday, August 4, 2013

Twenty-Six For a Year, Immortal Forever

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Youth and Time

All my life, I’ve been getting into some variation of the following conversation:

Generally Well-Meaning Host or Recruit: “How old were you when you were sired?”

Me: “Oh, I was twenty-six.”

Generally Well-Meaning Host or Recruit: “And you’ve been twenty-six ever since.”

Me: “No. I was twenty-six for one year. And then I turned twenty-seven! Next month, I turn 143.

That’s what I’ve said to everyone who asked me that question this month. Yeah, it comes up a lot.

I was born on September 22, 1870. I’m not the same person I was in 1896.

This shows up all the time in immortal fiction. Nothing wrong with asking an immortal when it happened – the only thing I take issue with is the assumption that ‘twenty-six’ is was pretty much when my life and my personal development ended.

Some immortal fiction has that same conversation almost word for word. Tuck Everlasting, Let the Right One In, and Twilight all come to mind. Except the immortals almost always respond differently than I did.

Tuck Everlasting (2002 film) poster.jpg

And almost all of those protagonists were ‘turned’ as frigging children. I always hope that’s just for pathos and not wish fulfillment. Some days I don’t feel like giving the writers the benefit of the doubt.

Jessie Tuck says he’ll be seventeen until the end of the world. Eli says xe’s been twelve for a long time. Edward Cullen says he’s been seventeen for a while.

Edward Cullen.jpg
Seventeen for a while? Whose fault is that?

Guys – you’ve gotten older since this conversation started. You can’t stop chronological aging, and it will never be the same thing as physical aging.

My people don’t turn into vampires overnight. In most Vampire fiction, it happens in a few minutes, or at least a few nights. For us, it takes one and a half to three years between the infection and your full transition. Hell, it took me a full three years.

We’re not entirely sure when the aging process stops during the transition, so really: my age at my ‘time of siring’ was twenty-six to twenty-nine. God knows: you age so fucking much between the ages of twenty-six and twenty-nine.

And it doesn’t matter, because I’m still 142. But the idea is that I can somehow be over a hundred years old and only twenty-six at the same time.

Ah, but did I officially stop ‘aging’ when I was twenty-seven? Twenty-eight and three point five months? Really – what is my number?

I still remember what happened with my initiate Adam. He was getting nervous about his impending thirtieth birthday and tried getting me to sire him a few months early so he’d be sired at twenty-nine. I’d already spent the requisite five years evaluating him, so I did it – a few months weren’t going to make any difference to me. They apparently meant a world of difference to him, though.

Logan's Run came out the year the youngest Baby Boomers turned thirty. Clever.

Yeah, the Baby Boomer youth obsession hit him pretty hard. Trusting people over thirty was one thing, but being over thirty? I was quite a bit over thirty myself at the time, so you can imagine the depth of my sympathy for his plight.

To this day, he still insists he was just kidding. And to this day, after a round of chuckles, I still insist that I believe him. Yeah, we’re both liars.

Sigh. You know, as a sire, I was supposed to teach him to be a good liar, too. I failed.

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Dorian Gray: the Poor Man's Immortality

I’ve said this to every one of my initiates before and after: “Babe – I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but you will turn thirty. Vampirism only cures physical aging. We already have a cure for chronological aging – it’s death! The only alternative to getting old is dying young. And our business is saving lives, not validating absurd societal prejudices.”

People who actually care about things like chronological age don’t care how young you look or how healthy you are, not usually. If they did, they wouldn’t go by chronological age at all – they’d go by your appearance, health, and abilities. They sure as hell wouldn’t care about the difference between twenty-nine and thirty.

I know these people. I know that back when I was in my eighties, a lot of them would start getting real uncomfortable around me. I mean – I was older than their grandmother. Who cares if I look like I’m still a twenty-something?

Jeanne Calment, 20
I don’t have these problems so much anymore, though. I’m 142! They have no basis of comparison between this and what I’m ‘supposed to’ look like. There’s no accepted and highly stereotyped social role for a 142-year-old. I’m free from their expectations and judgments!

Yep. The Immortal Ageism Paradox. When I was eighty, I was a granny in disguise. Now that I’m sixty-two years older, I’m young again!

Other thresholders go through the same thing. 123: yeah, that’s pretty much a twenty-something, right?

It's actually considered a major threshold when you hit 123 in vampire culture (at least today). Jeanne Calment (RIP) was deceased at 122 and holds the record for the oldest verified human lifespan. If you're a 'thresholder,' you're older than the oldest human who ever lived. Naturally, that threshold is subject to change, with improved medical advances. I look forward to the day when the threshold is two hundred or more.

Jeanne Calment, 121

At 142, I’m not treated like a forty-something. But in my privileged position, I get to see how the ageists of the world treat them.

Jeanne Calment, 40

Aging and gaining life experience aren’t the same thing – you can stop your aging process in your twenties and it wouldn’t change your ability to accumulate life experience. Aging is the accumulation of damage, not wisdom. And maturation is kids turning into adults physically and psychologically – you can be mature and inexperienced.

Life experience happens just over the course of your being alive – twenty-somethings aren’t ‘twenty-something-shaped’ because their bodies are too healthy; they’re ‘twenty-somethings’ because they haven’t had enough years to be anything else (literally and metaphorically). Except for all those twenty-somethings who are wise beyond their years, of course.

People need to recognize aging and maturation for what they are. And they need to recognize chronological aging for what it is – the earth has made this many revolutions around the sun since you were born. Congratulations!

It is not a statement of a person’s worth, life experience, or even an exact measurement of the amount of damage they’ve accumulated, really. People can be healthier than their years, and visa versa.

This crap goes away in an immortal society. I figure it’s a relief for a lot of human members of the vampire nation. I mean, they turn forty, their American friends give them cards that say crap like: ‘you’re over the hill and its so fucking funny that we’ll laugh at you at make jokes about failing memory, weight gain (because that’s also so fucking funny), and other stereotypes that we’ve decided you’d love to hear about!’

Come to us and you can celebrate your birthday in a place where the forty-somethings are impossibly young, the people under three hundred are hip, and the people over three hundred are revered and respected.

There’s no double standard here – ask most vampires, and they’ll tell you that humans never get old. They all die far too young.

But obviously this stuff can’t go completely mainstream until we discover the cure for aging in humans. In the meantime, all we can do is try to fight this nonsense through education, cultural change, and as much mockery as possible.

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I am not Peter Pan.

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