Why Betty White Doesn’t Look 88 Years Old (Yes, She’s a Vegan)

Thank you for being a host.

For me, no episode of SNL could ever be funnier than when Justin Timberlake hosted his first time in 2003.  But finally, thanks to Danish-Greek American actress Betty White, someone has come pretty close.  In fact, her hosting job earned Saturday Night Live its highest number of viewers since November 2008 when John McCain hosted and Tina Fey snuck off the set of 30 Rock to parody Sarah Palin.

It’s not necessarily easy to keep me laughing with TV shows and movies that are supposed to be funny.  But watching sweet little Betty White for nearly 90 minutes was the most consistent “LOLing” I’ve done since the first time I saw I Love You, Man.

Every skit was hilarious: “Delicious Dish”, “MacGruber”, “She’s a Lesbian”, “Scared Straight”, “Thank You for Being a Friend”, “CSI: Sarasota”, “Census”.  Which means all the hype leading up to Betty White’s hosting gig, including the facebook petition and the countless Internet articles speculating her success at hosting, actually were worth it.  Betty White as host of SNL will be right up there with Christopher Walken’s “VH1’s Behind the Music: Blue Oyster Cult” (“more cowbell”) in the SNL Hall of Fame of our minds.

And I was so amazed to find out that Betty White is 88 years old.  It’s natural to say, “But she doesn’t look 88 years old…”

Betty White at the 1988 Emmy's, age 66

I know that’s what I always think of people I see on TV who are celebrating their 100th birthday.  No one who is 100 looks 100.  But what does 88 years old look like?  What does 100 years old look like?

 

Eighty-eight looks like a 68 year-old who hasn’t taken very good care of themselves.  For example, perhaps a regular smoker who after their retirement doesn’t continue to live an active lifestyle both physically and mentally, nor do they take deliberate notice of what they eat and drink.

It involves some circular reasoning: People who look young for their age are usually in shape- and because they are in shape, they look healthier and younger than most people their age- and because choose to stay in shape as they get older, they tend to be the ones who live to be the longest- and they tend to become the longest-living and youngest-looking people.

Enter Betty White, a vegan.  While I could never be that disciplined, I do recognize it’s no coincidence that she’s still so full of life.  And spunk.

On top of that, I’ve learned that people who continue to look younger than their actual age in their younger years, continue to look younger in their older age.  Like Dick Clark (80), Chuck Norris (70), Harrison Ford (67), or Johnny Depp (46).  So of course, genetics is a big part of it.

It’s sort of like a man’s receding hairline.  I’ve noticed that by observing the hairline of 21 year-old man, it is easy to predict how much hair he will have at age 40, 60, and 80.

Looking back at pictures of a young James Taylor, he already had a receding hairline going on.  By his 40’s, he was pretty much completely bald on top.

Robin Williams, who I would say best represents the average American man’s rate of hair loss, showed very minimal signs of balding when he made it big with his sitcom Mork and Mindy back in 1978 at age 27.  But by the time he did One Hour Photo in 2002 at age 50 (one of my favorite “scary” movies, though most people I talk to don’t feel the same way), it was clear he was losing some hair, but that he would not be going completely bald in his adulthood.

In other words, whether it’s a general youthful appearance or an extremely slow rate of hair loss, these “signs of youth” are obvious when a person is a young adult and they stay that way throughout the rest of their lives, given they take care physical and mental care of themselves.

So that’s why 88 year-old Betty White looks like she’s 68.  And why so many 68 year-olds we know look 88.  And most 100 year-olds look 70.

But most important isn’t how old or person looks on the outside, or even how young they feel on the inside.  What’s most important is how young a person’s body thinks it is- which is largely controlled by how well they take care of their own body.

Sure he's bald and 57, but LOST's Terry O'Quinn is one bad arse!

Because what good is it too look younger than your actual age your whole life only to die at age 60 (while “feeling 30”) because of heart disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure?  All of which could have been prevented or severely slowed down by carefully limiting sodium (meats and packaged/processed foods), sugar (other than from whole fruits), and saturated fats (animal fats, not fats from nuts and oils).  And replacing them with fresh produce, high fiber, plenty of water, and regular exercise.

 

I want to be like Betty.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on Betty White, why not read my perspective on: being a dad.  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog”:

dad from day one

Show Me That Smile Again, Don’t Waste Another Minute on Your Cryin’

There’s no around it.  We  lived through a couple of decades of gathering around the fake wood grain Zenith TV on shag carpet to watch what we knew as the American sitcom.

Laugh tracks.  Freeze frames to conclude the episode.  Inspirational advice during the 23rd minute of the episode accompanied with soft and cheesy keyboard music (made famous by Danny Tanner and Uncle Jesse).  Annoying catch phrases like “Did I do that?”  And most importantly and best of all, their wonderful theme songs that are so just you just want to cry, which featured a few seconds of footage from each main character for that season as the show came on.

That was 1977 through 1997.  Two solid decades of pure delight.

But these days, what do we consider to be the 30 minute sitcom?  The Office.  30 Rock.  There are others, but certainly the list doesn’t go on like it did in the days of Mr. Belvedere.

Now the theme songs don’t have words.  And we have to figure out on our own when to laugh.  And typically there’s no moral lesson to learn.  Just ironic humor.  By the 28th minute of the episode, the characters are not necessarily any better off than they were when the plot was introduced at minute 3.

But those good feelin’ sitcoms of the 1970’s, ‘80’s, and ‘90’s can never be revived.  Because we as an American audience have outgrown them. We couldn’t take The Office seriously if there were laugh tracks and if at the end of every episode Michael Scott gave Jim a heart-to-heart talk about what it takes to be a good leader.

Our preference of comedy has evolved from lighthearted insults and sight gags to dry humor stolen from the British.

Speaking of irony though, we live a double standard.  What we will not accept in modern comedy, we still accept in reruns that come on in the evenings right before our new shows.  Shows like Friends and Seinfeld which followed much of the old-school traits of sitcoms, though they weren’t family sitcoms.

We differientiate:  It’s 6pm and laugh-track infused Friends is on.  Something in our subconcious says, “It’s okay, that was the ’90’s.”  Then a few hours later 30 Rock is on and we hold it to a different standard.  We’re more sophisticated than we were at dinner.  Because we have to be clever enough to get the jokes of our dead-pan humor queen Tina Fey.

What caused us to change what we accept as humor?  The dynamics of the modern family.

Something that has a lot to do with explaining why classic family sitcoms have disappeared from cable TV is The Disney Channel, which is now included with basic cable.  But when we were younger, it cost extra every month.  So back then ABC, NBC, and CBS had to make sure the majority of their comedies were family sitcoms. 

Now, kids can watch their corny shows like iCarly in their own bedrooms while their parents watch something cooler in the living room.  Man, I miss Tony Danza.