WHELAN: I’m over the hill

Feb 052003
Authors: Andrew Whelan

In the past, people weren’t “over the hill” until they hit 50 – sorry, Mom. Welcome to the new millennium; it’s a young person’s world.

Sadly, I am “over the hill” at age 21. In fact, I’m solidly convinced that I am past my prime. Just turn on the TV; you’ll agree with me.

The entertainment world is built on youth. Singer Aaron Carter, 16, is “in.” His brother Nick Carter, a member of the Backstreet Boys, is age 23; dare I say he’s already “out?” Not that I’m sad to see him go; but why is someone younger going take his place?

Look at Lil’ Bow Wow. That little bastard has more girls than a Kid Rock roadie. I doubt a 16-year old kid even knows what to do with female admirers. But the music industry is pushing product to pre-teen girls; what else can they sell? If that’s the excuse for musicians, then what can I say about the professional sports?

The world of sports, which is dominated by middle-aged men, is equally obsessed with youth. Analysts have been talking about Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, and Chipper Jones since they were in high school. Jim Ryun ran a 4-minute mile when he was 17. Tiger Woods played in his first PGA event at age 16.

My dreams of a sports career were shattered in the eighth grade. By then, agents already knew who was going to make it big. Now I have to watch high school basketball standout LaBron James, 18, drive around in a Hummer.

But it isn’t just boy bands and sports stars that start young. Our “sex symbols” aren’t even adults. In 1999, 18-year old Brittney Spears hit the sickening mainstream music scene dressed as a Catholic schoolgirl. But Americans were ready too drool over much younger girls. Just ask singers-turned-pedophile-fuel Jessica Simpson and Mandy Moore, both age 16 when they became icons.

Still, it is the 16-year old Olson twins that epitomize America’s obsession with youth. Don’t you remember those lovable twins who played half a character each on the show “Full House?” They have literally built an empire by being too young, but so enticing. One horny fan has a Web site counting down until the day they can legally appear in Playboy. In my old age, I look back and wish Internet losers worshipped me.

But we, the elderly, are being shut out of mainstream culture. Last week, 50-year old Drew Cummings slapped a lawsuit against FOX’s “American Idol” for age discrimination. According to the show’s rules, contestants must be between the ages of 16 and 24. Cummings believed he was denied an opportunity on the show because of his age. I’m surprised that a 50-year old man has the energy to sing.

So at least by the “American Idol’s” definition there is still time for me to make it big. But let’s be realistic, last year’s winner (Kelli Clarkson) was 20. Plus, I can’t sing, dance or stick out my chest out like she did.

I guess Americans love youth, just like R. Kelly. But it seems to me that the obsession has gone too far. Do we really need to exploit our youth?

I am 21. I could be exploited and no one would feel bad when I am a wash-up on VH1’s “Behind the Music.” I could be a star.

In reality, I’m holding onto a dream that’s gone. I know the truth; a 21-year old kid is too old to make significant contributions to society. I should have started years ago.

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