My gawd, it’s been 25 years since “Titanic” was released

An email this morning from The New Yorker informs me that it’s been 25 years since the release of James Cameron’s blockbuster movie “Titanic”. (The New Yorker used the occasion to hawk the legendary Anthony Lane’s admiring review of the movie back in 1997.)

This is one of those points of information that, when it arrives, makes you stop to marvel at the arc of one’s life — what time lies behind you and (depending on health and fate) what time lies ahead of you.

It’s a trick of the mind that it seems to me that “Titanic” was released not so long ago. But it’s 25 years!

I decided to do a comparison.

Twenty-five years back from when I was 18 would have taken me to the following historical milestones in 1953:

  • Nikita Khrushchev wins power struggle in Soviet Union after the death of Josef Stalin.
  • An expedition led by Sir Edmund Hillary is the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest
  • James Watson and Francis Crick determine the structure of DNA
  • Alfred Kinsey publishes Sexual Behavior in the Human Female
  • First clear evidence linking lung cancer to cigarette smoking
  • Elvis Presley recorded his first song
  • TV Guide debuts; on the cover of the first issue are Lucille Ball and her newborn son, Desi Arnaz IV
  • The first color television sets appear selling for $1,175
  • Transistor radios start to appear for sale

25 years is indeed a long time.

These reminders keep arriving that you are an old person, but most importantly an old person in the eyes of the rest of the world. It can mess with your head. You are the age of your grandparents.

This can be the last great mindfuck of your adult life, this coming to grips with your identity as an elderly person. And the fact that your time left could be 1] extremely short, 2] 30-40 years out, or 3] anywhere in-between.

In truth, the end could come at any moment for any of our human bodies living beyond the years that nature most often afforded us for the majority of the time-span of human existence.

I notice that some people of my generation are having a particularly hard time of it. And who could blame us?

Many of us were only 21 when MTV appeared. Our youth was truly being chronicled for the first time on television and online. It seems like such a short time ago that I was hanging out with friends in the DJ booth at New York City’s Roseland Ballroom as some of the biggest names in music performed at all-night parties. But it wasn’t a short time ago. It was 40 years ago.

Nobody in their 20s cares what I think about anything. In fact, ageism is a dish served up by much of society, even other old people.

It’s that encroaching invisibility to much of the rest of the world that is most difficult for many of my friends. And I’ve noticed in my circle of acquaintances that it’s the guys who were considered most hot who are having the hardest time of it.

I totally get it.

Think about it. Not long ago you could walk through a bar or restaurant or mall and turn every head. Now you can’t get waited on in a coffee shop.

I feel for anyone going through this.

As for myself, I’ve now lived through two pandemics — first AIDS, now COVID — during which I was considered high-risk. I was sure, at the beginning of each, that I was going to die. That means I confronted my mortality for the first time in my early 20s.

After watching that many people die, twice in adulthood, I consider every day I am upright and healthy to be a gift.

So I don’t care much that people in their 20s don’t see me.

And this makes me one of the lucky ones: I love solitude and my own company. I am never truly alone because I have so many things to occupy my mind and time.

But, man, 25 years since “Titanic.”


Cheri Oteri in SNL’s “Titanic” alternate ending.

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