What’s In An Age?
I know people who feel old because they passed a certain age. For some it was thirty, for many forty. For a sickening number of others, the age “getting old” thing started in their late twenties. Seriously. They finished college and suddenly a certain depression about “not being young anymore” or “being able to do what I used to do” sets in. As my friends I want to support them in their “trying” time. As a person, however, I sort of want to tell them to get a grip.
Though I do admit I see age differently. I don’t think much about it, to be honest. Not yet, anyway. I’m not in college any more. I’m not twenty-one anymore, but what does that mean? It may mean I have a bit less energy than I used to have. That in and of itself could possibly be rectified by diet or something, I don’t know. But that’s the biggest, direct and noticeable difference between me now, and me when I was twenty-one. The rest of what’s supposed to be different, (and hence depressing) now that I’m older isn’t hitting home to me.
One reason I think it’s not affecting me as much as other people may be the simple fact that I have no children and am unmarried. I guess kids make you feel older. But I know people who don’t have children, and yet still lament their “lost” youth.
The bigger part of it, though is perception. And I don’t mean the simple “you’re only as old as you feel” philosophy, though I do believe that to be true. By perception I mean that my overall spiritual presence in life is much the same now as it was when I was “young”. Yes, I have matured in the usual ways, and some of my passions have been somewhat tempered with time. Yet there is this seed of consciousness at the center of everything I do or do not do that simply hasn’t changed all that much, if at all. Opinions have changed in some areas, but my overall perception of my consciousness has been the same almost as long as I can remember.
To put it another way, one of two things is possible here. First, I have never been truly young. In fact I’ve been accused of thinking and acting like an old man going as far back as my teens. Probably one reason I was never invited to parties.
The other possibility is that I remain young even now, when most of my contemporaries have resigned to the fact that they are not young anymore. I’ve often been accused of enjoying activities, seeking experiences, befriending people, falling “in love” with women and responding to the stimuli of life in ways that I am “too old” for. I’ve been nearly shamed by it at times.
How exactly, can I be an old man in some situations, and a Peter Pan in others? Probably because the whole notion of what is old and young to the world is so out of tune with my own definitions of same that I don’t properly fit into any socially acceptable definition of proper age. I act too old in certain places, and too young in others. Not because I’m thumbing my nose at social norms, but because I follow my natural tendencies, and those tendencies are not the ways of society. (Don’t ask me why, as I think society ages people and depresses them more often than it liberates them, but lets that go.)
Once everyone in the room is an adult, I base my actions towards them solely on what I think of them as people. If I’m in a play with someone that’s twenty and I like them, I engage them as I would someone my age. Society generally teaches them to be wary of me, or to assume there is something wrong with me, of course, but if they don’t buy into that shit, I’m more than happy to be friends with someone that age. Just as I was often the one who ended up talking to those my age when I myself was twenty. I wasn’t young then and I am not old now. I just…exist.
I have teen friends, after all. I try to temper my language or subject matter around them more than I would fellow adults, at least until I get to know them. But basically, they are still friends of mine. Why? Because I like them. I like what they say, what they think, how they behave. My priorities may not be their priorities, but should that stop me from liking good people that are not the stereotypical teen? I didn’t even like the standard definition of teenager when I was a teenager myself.
I think this may be why I hate coming of age stories. They either set up “youth” to be a dismal prison from which one cannot hope to escape, or a time of perceived immortality filled with mind shattering moments of at last getting lucky with the girl of your dreams at the party you weren’t supposed to go to in the first place. That carefree heaven to which you cannot return once you take that depressing step towards being twenty-two. Time to hurry up and get married and make your parent grandparents, after all.
In my adult years, all of my lovers have also been legal, of course. But even within that context, I’ve had to listen to the “Half and Ten” formula. That being that I must take my age, divide it in half and add ten to it. The result is the age of the youngest woman I can be with and not be considered perverted. Guess what? I’m not a lothario by any means, but not all of my relationships have fit neatly into this bogus algorithm, and I get weary of being made to feel as though that makes me somehow out of my mind.
I regret not having done things in the past, yes. I am quite depressed sometimes about how little I have accomplished in my life. By definition some of those failures took place when I was younger. And I may have happened to have been in a better situation to make certain things happen in a previous time in my life than I would today. But even then, I’m not lamenting lost youth. I’m lamenting blown opportunities, (which by the way I am foolish enough to fall victim to at any age.)
So, I am to many people a freak because I pay so little attention to age. I am also a lonely person because of this, as I have been excluded socially for most of my life either because I was considered to young to be a part of what was happening, or now, too old to be considered a part of it. That continues to sting, and I continue to get angered at why age should be such a block to my happiness, when legal issues are not in play. But what can I say? That’s been my lot for a while now.
So call me weird. Odd. Crazy, even. But don’t call me too old. Or too young for that matter. I reject both claims, just as I did ten years ago, and will ten years from now.
- Posted in: Days in the Life ♦ Miscellany ♦ Spirituality
A mutual friend complains about this a lot. I tell her to get a grip. Some of it is definitely fishing for compliments.
Understand, however, that it’s very different for men and women. There’s more pressure on young twenty-something women to get married and have kids by a certain age. If you don’t, or if you aren’t at least dating in a serious relationship — or God forbid, you don’t even want kids — you’re regarded as some kind of freak. Not everyone thinks like this, but a surprising number of people do. Certainly many more than I would have thought when I went off to college. It seems so…Victorian. Society still has this idea that if you’re 27 and don’t have a husband, you’re an old spinster (or a lesbian).
Also…and I’m not sure how to put this without being crude…women’s bodies change as they age much more differently than men’s. I’m sure I don’t need to elaborate. Menopause isn’t even the half of it. I think older women can be gorgeous, but society has built up this impossible image of the forever-young, beautiful female body in the 18-25 age range. If you’re too old, well hell, you’d better be married by now because you’re not an attractive woman anymore and no one will want you.
All that said, people need to stop bitching and appreciate life before they’re dead.
No doubt there are different standards by which men and women are judged (by some) as they age. Physically anyway. And while I don’t think the issue is inherently only of a physical nature, I can’t deny the physical aspect of it plays in.
Though I would say that with nutrition and other such knowledge, women tend to remain sexy in the superficial way of society longer than they used to. Not all of them of course, but unless you are conducting an…exam…I think the average 33 year old woman tends to still complete in the bedroom with the average 20 something…even though that may not have been so 30 years ago. One reason being, I think, because women who are in their 30’s (or beyond) have begun to refuse to resign to the very old spinsterhood fallacy you mentioned. It is still sadly prevalent, however, and it will remain so until more women (and men) refuse to give it power.
I also think that even though women age differently physically, a lot of women who have not yet done so to any great degree almost look for it. They check their eyes everyday, obsess over a curve in their body, until they can almost see age creeping up on them. They don’t seem satisfied until their mental construct of getting too old is verified by physical evidence of some kind, even if partially manufactured.
A greater part of it, then, is beyond physical. Attitude plays a lot into it. If it’s Friday and consistently refuse to say, go out for drinks (even a lot of them), or always turn down an invitation to a road trip solely because you’re 31 and, “too old for that shit”, you’re prematurely aging yourself, not matter which gender you are.
Yep. With a lot of people, it’s more the fear of getting old that they become obsessed with — like the people who obsessively check in the mirror, for instance. The fear affects them more than actually aging does. Again, I’m struck by the strange prevalence of this fear among women — going back centuries. It isn’t just our superficial society standards. How many fairytales feature a villainess who eats children to keep her youth, for example, or — like in Snow White — becomes insanely jealous of a younger, more beautiful woman because she’s getting older herself? Deep down, it’s probably some ingrained fear due to centuries of being told that your purpose in life is bearing children, and once you’re past the age of bearing children, you’re worthless/ugly/in an existential crisis.
That seems a bit deep for this conversation, though.
I don’t understand people who don’t want to go out for drinks on Friday. I get not wanting to stick out in a younger crowd, but seriously, 31? 31 and 21 is a much slimmer relative age difference than, say, 21 and 18.
Nothing is too deep for this blog…given its author…the sometimes brooding always introverted actor/writer that I am.
And again, I agree. It is no new construct. It has been ingrained for centuries, and will probably take centuries more to undo.