The Big Issue : Edition 485
culture police Fiona Scott-Norman THE BIG ISSUE 29 MAY – 11 JUNE 2015 29 ILLUSTRATIONBYGREGBAKES;ORIGINALPHOTOGRAPHBYMILESSTANDISH AGE IS A STATE OF MIND...UNLESS YOU’RE IN THE PERFORMANCE BUSINESS. Acting Your Age Aaaargh. So frustrating. Right up there with, “What time is it?” “A hair past a freckle.” At the time, turgid with aggravation, I could not understand why my seniors and betters weren’t ponying up the info. But now I get it. Firstly, it was none of my business. Secondly, when you’re 10, finding out that someone is 39, 47 or 64 is useless data. Because from a child’s perspective, anyone over the age of 15 is simply older than God and has one foot on a banana skin and the other in the Pleistocene era. I remember two of my school-teachers dating, and being comprehensively bewildered. I considered them sexless and Long Past All That, but Miss Rigg must have been all of 24. The top spunk at my boarding school was a boy called Andrew Handley, who loomed like a fully formed Adonis to us girls. I have a photo. He’s spotty, glowering, shabby and still a bit baby-fatty. And as much a man then as I am currently a Dalmation puppy. Knowing someone’s age is useless, because age is fluid. Our perception of it shifts according to where we’re at ourselves. When I was 17 I dated a 21-year-old, and I considered him tremendously old and mature. By the time I was 25, a 21-year-old man was pretty much a foetus. I have now reached the venerable stage of noting that the police are getting younger and younger, and have passed the point of seeing all men in uniform, particularly firies, as fantasy strippers. When you’re 20, 40 is old. By the time you’re 40, 50 is no more than the gateway to middle-age. When you’re 70, have a wine with an old flame and presto, you’re 20 and as firm-skinned as a summer peach in their eyes. Your children will always be children, even when they’re about to retire. As my dad used to say, “You’re never too old to go over my knee, young lady”. And as I used to say, “Good luck with catching me first”. Rebel Wilson could be 18 or 80. I don’t give a steaming damn. May she prosper. It’s the people queuing up to expose her who are the real children. I FEEL SORRY for actor Rebel Wilson, who was recently outed as being ‘not actually 29’ by the meedja. She arguably brought it on herself, in part, by fibbing about her age (she’s dog paddling around her mid-thirties somewhere), and by disingenuously saying she didn’t get cast in the all-lady reboot of Ghostbusters because they ‘went for an older group’. But still. The finger-pointing seems as mean-spirited as it is redundant. Guess what, the Rebmeister’s not a natural blonde either! Cue outrage. Personally, I can’t even manage to raise an eyebrow at the revelation that a performer ‘wiped off five’. The horror. What an isolated incident. That’s never happened before in the entire history of actoring except always. For an olde timey example, Gracie Allen – the American comedian and wife of George Burns – was born in 1895, but barefacedly dropped a decade and said she was born in 1906, explaining her birth certificate had been destroyed in the San Francisco earthquake. Genius. Ye Olde Women’s Daye would have splashed it over five pages when they did the maths and discovered the earthquake happened three months before Allen was ‘born’. Why, I wonder, is it anyone’s business? Whatever happened to the notion of mystique? Acting is all about suspension of disbelief. Storytelling. Make-believe. If an artiste fudges the truth, and has us convinced their age is otherwise, well, that’s being good at their job. Olivia Newton-John was 29 when she played teenager Sandra Dee in Grease, and the entire school cast of Glee are knocking on the door of 30. It’s called acting. Comedy trio the Doug Anthony All Stars used to lie to journalists just to see what nonsense they could get printed (which was almost anything: The Times printed that Doug Anthony was a Prime Minister of Australia who’d been assassinated by right-wing extremists). They were never ‘exposed’, because they were comedians. Doing their job. It used to be rude to ask people how old they were. Female or male. Full stop. It fell under ‘personal questions’. As a child I’d quiz an aunt, uncle or family friend about their age, and always got the same answer: “I’m older than my teeth, and younger than my gums”. » For virtually more FSN, visit fionascottnorman.com.au or follow her on Twitter @FScottNorman.