MIDDLE-AGED PLAGUE - Grown-up world is life without soundtracks

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Movies aren't real.

While, ostensibly, most grown-ups agree on this, we frequently don't act as if we do.

It's not so much that we look over our shoulders for zombies or vampires as that we gaze at our bathroom scales, willing the needle to move to the left. From that point we advance to the mirror and pull back the skin around our eyes. Then the bravest of us step back, turn to the side, suck in and peer quickly at the result.

Gwyneth Paltrow? Nah. Matt Damon? Yeah, right.

In the movies all normal people are skinny and young. Sometimes, when a movie wants to be grittily authentic and show actual real people like the residents of Iowa, say, they make the actor gain weight, change the hairstyle to something flat and lifeless, dress in sloppy clothes.

This, it is understood, is reality.

But most of the time they feed us skinny and young with thick glasses and sweatpants, who later morph into ordinary office workers in contacts, short leather skirts and stiletto heels that amazingly do not preclude performing martial art feats.

Regardless of whether they are falling in love or being chased by rogue federal agents, the skinny and young, airbrushed and Botoxed characters of the movies hold down ordinary jobs as magazine writers (do you know anyone who works for a real magazine?), although they never actually spend any time in the office.

Nevertheless they're paid well, judging from the size of their New York apartments - all with views - most of which are larger than our houses and certainly better appointed.

Everything they do looks cool, which isn't surprising because they're young - or made to look that way - and skinny and rich and well dressed and continuously surrounded by background music.

Most people, when they text, look kind of silly. But not these people, because they can text with one hand, while ice skating, and with a few button pushes they manage to access internal State Department satellite sites closed off to the rest of us.

Car crashes are no big deal, even multiple car crashes that generally end by vehicles flying through the air into the water. But that's OK because our skinny, young protagonist can hold her breath for six minutes. (I should clarify: females are skinny; males are buff, and even if they are accountants or insurance agents they manage to casually rip off that dress shirt and flex.)

They down whiskey like water; never exercise; speak multiple and obscure foreign languages; and number their close, really close, friends in the dozens.

None of this would be a problem if we truly separated reality - the jobs we go to, the people we see, the bills we pay, all done without background music - from the imaginary world of made up stories played by people whose primary job is to exercise for hours, eat very little, and never go out in the street without bodyguards, nannies, or make-up.

Movies are pretend. Actors are people who pretend well. The two provide entertainment, respite from our real world of unemployment, insecure bosses, rude customers, broken down appliances, anemic bank accounts, overflowing toilets - the boring stuff that makes up our everyday, difficult yet beautiful lives.

Let's give ourselves a break. Take a walk, by yourself, with a friend. Sit around the table and eat with your family. Read a book, pet the dog, write a letter, call your mom, learn to knit, close your eyes and just daydream.

Then, when you get bored, consider watching a movie. But make it a good one that afterward makes you feel good about being yourself and living your life, and not wishing that you were living the life of someone else - someone who doesn't actually exist.

Dayton columnist Carolyn Henderson, who manages Steve Henderson Fine Art, can be reached at 382-9775 or via email at carolyn@stevehendersonfineart.com. More of her writing is at middleagedplague.areavoices.com.

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