Many believe the old saying that youth is wasted on the young. It is very common to wish that you could go back and live a part of your life knowing what you know now. High school, college, young adulthood — all seem like they could be better lived with the knowledge and experience you gain by age 40.
For most of us, reliving our 20s is not an option, but that is exactly what Liza Miller, the title character in the TV Land series Younger is doing. Played by Sutton Foster, Liza is a 40-year old, recently-divorced mother. Liza left the workforce to raise her now-teenaged daughter, but her ex-husband’s gambling debts leave her in desperate need of a job. Ivy-League educated, Liza finds that no one wants to hire a “middle aged” woman who hasn’t worked outside the home in over a decade.
After another dead-end job interview, Liza goes out with her BFF Maggie (played by Debi Mazar) and complains that everyone wants to hire someone much younger than her. Maggie suggests she become just that.
With thrift store clothes, a new hairstyle and a new attitude — Liza becomes a younger version of herself. Ah! If only it were that simple. All the beauty companies selling anti-aging creams would be on the unemployment line, chatting with all the plastic surgeons of the world. Immediately, with her new look and changed dates on her resume, she is hired at a publishing company.
In truth, Foster does look younger than 40 years old — her real age — but playing a 26-year-old is a stretch — especially in this day of high definition TV. Even if her face didn’t give her away (one co-worker does ask about her premature “crows feet,” and she says it is a hereditary trait), it is hard to believe that the inevitable sagging of naked lady parts wouldn’t raise suspicion that she is not actually in her third decade.
Since Liza is fulfilling a fantasy of so many women my age, I am willing to let that all slide. After all, who doesn’t wish they could go back in time and live as their younger self with the knowledge that maturing brings?
Watching the charismatic Sutton shave 14 years off her life and go from Tuesday night snoozing to midweek bar boozing is a lot of fun. I especially relate to Liza’s struggle to be current. Even though she has a teen daughter and has heard of Snapchat and Twitter, she still needs to ask if “trending” is a good thing.
One of the funniest scenes is when Liza is seen naked by some female co-workers at the gym and they are horrified to see that she is not bare down there. Fifteen years of marriage and fidelity have left her in the dark about the modern woman’s grooming rituals. But Liza is no “old dog,” and she picks up new tricks quickly. Soon, she is setting up Twitter accounts and off to the bikini waxer.
I also connect with Liza’s journey as she goes from being a spectator in life to a more active participant. In an early scene, 40-year-old Liza video-chats with her daughter, who is spending a high school semester in India. It is clear that Liza is thrilled to support her daughter having an incredible adventure and very interested in hearing about it while sitting at home alone in her half-packed suburban living room.
Conversely, as 26 year-old Liza, she lives her own adventure. While not as exotic as India, her days and nights in Brooklyn give her own life excitement and purpose. She takes chances, makes mistakes, meets new people and has more fun.
As my own children go off on new adventures, I want to watch and support them, while also setting off on my own adventures. I don’t have to be 26 years old to learn new things or stay current. I too want to make some changes, not be afraid to make mistakes, continue meeting new people and have some more fun. I may not be able to get “younger” like Liza, but I can become younger at heart.