Age is a Funny Thing

Our culture is obsessed with the 15-25 age bracket. Any younger and we dismiss people as children (or “tweens”, if we’re feeling particularly patronizing). Any older and we put them on the shelf, because if they aren’t already “someone” (as defined by a socially accepted celebrity status actualized by a following of strangers who care more about personal lives than career achievements), they probably never will be.

And, of course, celebrity status is everyone’s goal, right? That certainly seems to be what reality television and tabloid magazines would have us believe.

Inside the Golden Age Bracket, things are rather strange.

Teenagers see themselves portrayed on television by twenty-somethings in glamourous caricatures of their own realities. In an odd reversal, art that once imitated life is then imitated by life, and the teen fans try to look and act like the twenty-somethings ostensibly portraying them. But when they finally arrive in that age group, suddenly it becomes a profound compliment to be carded.

I’m not here to wax philosophical about the idealization of youth, or how portraying mature lifestyles in entertainment directed at younger demographics may cause the audience to want to imitate the perceived behaviours, thus normalizing them to the point that they are packaged and marketed towards an even younger demographic, and progressively moving up the age at which children see it as socially necessary to engage in more adult lifestyles…

…though clearly there is a rant brewing in my brain on that very topic…

No, I don’t have time for that debate. You see, I’m old. I’m 28 years old (and may well be 29 by the time any of my friends realize I have a blog and bother to read this post).

But I don’t feel 28. Or at least I don’t seem to feel the way the 28 year olds around me make me think I should.

I haven’t achieved any of what seem to be the normal markers of my age group. I don’t have kids, a mortgage, or a fiance, and I don’t particularly want any of those things right now.

But it isn’t just my achievements, it’s my interests, too.

Sunday night I went to a concert. I seem to have the musical tastes of a person five to ten years younger than me. In fact, I’m pretty sure I was the oldest person there, and that makes me sad, not because I’m “getting old”, but because apparently someone sent out a memo that at a certain point we’re to stop “acting young”, and my peers seem to be going along with it.

When I was a teenager, 90% of my friends would have jumped at the chance to be shoved into a dingy venue with adrenaline-jacked strangers to spend three hours cathartically screaming out histrionic lyrics in time with a kick drum you could feel in your eyeballs. That’s still fun for me, but I’m now in the distinct 10%. Maybe less.

Of course, I’m paying for that bit of fun. My back and shoulders are still throbbing from being climbed over and jumped on by stage divers and crowd surfers. I have welts on my thighs where they were crushed against the low stage, and more on my arms where I braced myself against a monitor. I’m amazed I don’t have a black eye from any of the feet that caught me in the face on their way over my head.

But I screamed, jumped, and danced as the bass line shook my rib cage. I slid blissfully into the mob mentality as we chanted political creeds in unison. I shook off every social phobia and crippling anxiety as I was compressed on all sides by upwards of 400 strangers in a space smaller than my childhood playroom.

And I loved it. And I don’t want to stop loving it. If 28 is the age at which you only attend concerts with assigned seats, keep cheers to a controlled minimum in favour of clapping politely, and stay home entirely if you have to work in the morning, then I’m out.

Historically many cultures didn’t (and some non-Western cultures still don’t) celebrate birthdays, they celebrated rites of passage. A birthday is just a matter of survival, and in modern society that isn’t necessarily a difficult thing to achieve. Choosing your station in life, your social activities, and your goals (and then achieving them) is much more telling and significant.

For various, unrelated reasons I haven’t properly celebrated or even fully acknowledged my birthday in six or seven years.

So I guess I’m still 22.

So I guess I’m going to enjoy the hell out of getting kicked in the head in 4/4 time next month, too.

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