Saturday, May 31, 2008

How Old Are You? No. Really.

The other day I heard an older woman defend a man who’d done something ridiculously stupid by saying, “Well he’s only 25 you know. He’s just a kid.”

My initial reaction was, “Is not!”

Granted, stupid knows no age limit. That‘s easily demonstrated by most politicians who speak in public. But the woman’s logic made me wonder if the fact we‘re living longer is making us cling to “childhood” for too long? Has our society become so focused on refusing to age we’re actively trying to erase ANY line which indicates ADULT? We have creams, lotions and Botox to erase physical lines of aging. We play head games by proclaiming that “40” is the new “30” and “50” is the new “40”. My mother-in-law gave me a birthday card this year which read, “If life begins at 40, then you’re only 10 years old.”

Gee, I was kinda proud to arrive at 50 without any major accidents or murder charges. Hey, don’t judge. You didn’t share a room with my kid sister. :)

Mom was 21 when she married Dad and he was 25 when I showed up. This meant in addition to spousal duties, they now had parental ones. Neither ran home to their parents. No, they raised me to be self sufficient while instilling the belief that the goal of an 18 year old was to graduate from high school…preferably without wrecking the car or calling from jail. Check. Age 21 was a nice time to graduate from college, which I accomplished by putting myself through school. Perhaps using my own money was motivational. At 22 I got married, not because I had to, but because I WANTED to marry this guy. He was [and is] smart, funny and handsome. Self sufficient me was able to figure out I loved him without living with him first. That may sound archaic, but 28 years later, he’s still my one and only. I plan to continue that trend. We understood the concept of adult as explained by our parents, including the part where life won‘t always be fair or kind. Sadly, we have no children to share this tradition with. However, I will explain to my 8 year old nephew that there will come a time when he is expected to fly from the nest and face the world on his own. Using his own brain and his own money. Preferably before he’s 40.

25 is too young? Tell that to Charles Lindbergh who made his fist non-stop solo flight across the Atlantic at that age. How about Scientist Lawrence Bragg, who at the same age became the youngest winner of the Nobel Prize. Or Geneticist James Watson, who helped break the genetic code which lead to the discovery of that double helix known as DNA. 25 year old Norman Mailer wrote “The Naked and the Dead”, which was declared the best novel to come out of WWII while George Gershwin was on Broadway with his work “Lady Be Good.” Even 25 year old Fay Wray managed to fend off King Kong without the help of her parents. What were you doing at 25?

Actually, it amazes me that today’s kid can navigate the conflicting messages telegraphed. Ah, 25 is “so young” some parents are willing to financially support children still living at home, overlooking “mistakes” until said child decides to grow up. And if they decide they never want to grow up? Can you still support them on Social Security? How is it 18 is old enough to die for your country but in order to legally celebrate living to tell about it, you must be 21? Blame it on that sliding scale of age where no one tells the truth and if your body tries to, well just cream it or Botox it into submission.

You know, Laugh Lines have their purpose. They’re physical proof you’ve lived…and lived to tell about it. And you laughed. Any time you can laugh, that’s a good thing. It means you’re old enough to view reality and still see the funny side.

Laugh on people, laugh on.

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