It won’t come as news to many that our culture is obsessed with youth and beauty. This consuming vacuity is slowly rotting our society from within and perverting our very psyches, but can you blame us? Ugly people are unpleasant to look at, and old people contribute little to economic productivity. Nevertheless, many observers, themselves often somewhat homely and long in the tooth, argue that this pervasive fascination with youth and beauty leads us to a shallow outlook on the world that ignores the precious, essential roles played by those who lurk agedly and unattractively in the grody depths of society.
This is not the only way our culture ignores the variegated richness of reality in favour of a cleansed, artificial world. This relentless push to sanitize our surroundings and reduce complexity to one-dimensionality extends even to how we talk about the taste of food, where in our everyday language, the taste of sweetness is glorified above all. And if we look further, into the realm of romantic relationships, we find that these kinds of simplifications and idealizations intersect and combine in even more troubling ways. All of our terms of endearment embody our obsessions with youth and sweetness: we call our lovers honey, baby, sugar, sweetie-pie, baby-cakes, honey baby, sucrose fetus, aspartame zygote. This is symptomatic of our tunnel vision as a society. We should be broadening our horizons, savouring the wealth, the diversity and depth that the universe has to offer. To change our culture, we need to lead the change as individuals, and we can take the humble but powerful first step of focusing on our intimate relationships and starting to use new terms of endearment that expand beyond the narrow-minded exaltation of youth and sweetness above all else. Salty codger, bitter centenarian, umami matron, spicy and earthy geezer, lightstruck, corked, and musty fossil — would it not be a better world where we cry out to our lovers like this in the throes of savage passion and in quiet moments of tenderness?