Snow White Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Laughter, pleasure, malice, and the pursuit of adult fun

Are You Older than Edith Bunker or Norma Desmond?

How old is Norma Desmond? Be honest.

It is astonishing how young a woman may be and yet be thought of as old, and how old a man may be and yet be thought of as young.

I've been considering it. A lot.

This started after I had my gallbladder removed, although I don't think that everyone necessarily experiences this as a side effect.

When I was recuperating (already I'm introducing a wonderfully youthful phrase, right?), I caught the end of one of the world's best movies, SUNSET BOULEVARD. 

Enthralled, I watched it for the twentieth time, but--and this is the crucial factor--for first time in about ten years.

Let me ask you: without checking-- no Googling now, no going to IMDB--how old would you say Norma Desmond is? 

C'mon, be honest? When she's clutching her neck, gritting her teeth, having lost her mind over her younger lover, saying in her delirium, "I'm ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille," 

How old do you think she is meant to be?

Ready?

Norma Desmond is 50. Gloria Swanson, when she played the character, was fifty. You don't believe me?

Here's what William Holden says to her: "Joe Gillis: There's nothing tragic about being fifty. Not unless you're trying to be twenty-five."

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She shoots him pretty soon afterwards.

BANG. BANG. BANG. As far as I'm concerned, the fact that she only fires three shots shows enormous, not to say superhuman, self-restraint.

I would have murdered anybody who said that to me a whole bunch more, then revived him, and then murdered him again. And I would have been confident 

that had I been tried to a jury of my peers--my actual peers--not only would I be acquitted, I'd be thanked individually by each and every one of those women. 

Maybe they would throw me a parade.

When I was ranting about this to my friend, Santa Fe artist Ines Kramer ((www.InesKramer.com) but since we've known each other since junior high, however, I usually just call her Ines), she immediately

started her own list. Said Ines in yesterday's email: "'I'm older than Norma Desmond' is the name of a fab new game. I've begun thinking of others."

I think she's right.

These are the folks who came to mind for Ines; she figured out she is older than: Baby Jane Ralph Cramden Miss Jean Brodie Butch Cassidy Ethel Mertz

Once I saw Ethel Mertz on Ines's list, I instantly thought of Edith Bunker (alliteration will do that to a girl). It took a little while, but I figured out that since Edith's character was meant to have graduated from high school in 1943, and the show debuted in 1971, Edith was (wait for it) 46.

I'm going to say this again, okay? Ready? Edith Bunker was 46.

I am SIX YEARS OLDER THAN EDITH BUNKER.

I don't know how old Aunt Bea from The Andy Griffith Show was meant to be, but I'm probably older than she is.

Once parting shot before I go: I was desperately, pathetically grateful to discover that I am still younger than the old Italian ladies in the movie MARTY--but not by much:  

“Aunt Catherine: So I'm an old garbage bag put in the street, huh?... These are the worst years, I tell you. It's going to happen to you. I'm afraid to look in a mirror. 

I'm afraid I'm gonna see an old lady with white hair, just like the old ladies in the park with little bundles and black shawls waiting for the coffin. 

I'm fifty-six years old. And what am I gonna do with myself? I've got strength in my hands. I want to clean. I want to cook. I want to make dinner for my children. 

Am I an old dog to lay near the fire till my eyes close? These are terrible years, Theresa, terrible years... It's gonna happen to you. It's gonna happen to you!" 

And you want to know what's really amazing? The actress who said those words, Augusta Ciolli, was only 54 when MARTY was filmed. It's not that I'm bitter, though. Really. Who else can we think of? Help me out, seriously. Give me some more examples, please.

Trust me, there will be more about this in a later post.

Gina Barreca, Ph.D., is Professor of English at UConn, and author of It's Not That I'm Bitter: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Visible Panty Lines and Conquered the World.

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