Acting Your Age? If Only They Would . . .

Alas, I am not referring to those under age 21, although there are days when I wish some would act older than their current time-stamp. No, I’m thinking about how many people refuse to serve as stable, calm, sensible role models, and instead insist on acting as if they are in their teens or twenties when they are, oh over fifty.

What brought it to mind was a commercial where a woman has a much younger lover because of her fast internet. It used to be, in certain places, if a widowed woman either married “too soon” after her husband’s death, or married a man too young, the community would make its displeasure known. Often, if private words didn’t dissuade her, a “shivaree” or “charivari” would be held at her residence. Torches, rude songs, loud hand-bells, and banging of metal would go on for hours each night until the woman apologized or in some cases, left town forever. It was less common when a man remarried, but it still happened, especially if the age difference was, ahem, notable even for the place and time.

People tried to act older. They wanted responsibilities, or at least accepted responsibilities at what we today consider scandalous ages. Boys were proud to get factory jobs at age 12, because now they were men, men who contributed to the family. Which makes me wonder about the idea that “the brain does not mature until age 25.” Until very recently, by age 25, many if not most people were married with multiple children, running businesses and farms and working. Now, granted, bad judgement was dealt with swiftly and firmly, by nature if not by the people around the offender. (There’s nothing like going hungry because you goofed off to inculcate proper work habits.) Ageing was not optional, to put it mildly.

Today ageing is sometimes seen as a sign that you messed up somewhere. You didn’t take the right nostrum, or you should exercise more, or eat the superfood-of-the-week, or something. Adults who are well past their teens talk about leading the revolution and not trusting older people. And do it with a straight face, even though they ARE the older people. Gents in the 60s try to dress and act as if they are in their 20s. A few can carry it off. Others . . . Are best passed over in silence. This applies for women as well. In my opinion, leggings and a crop top are not garments for those over age 40, unless you are an aerobics instructor.* Ditto cycling shorts and a tank-top for men.

Physically, many of us in the First World are younger than our ages, and are likely to stay healthier than our ages for quite a while, barring bad rolls of the genetic/vehicular/cancer dice. I know that plays a role in people behaving like young idiots well into their 50s and 60s and beyond. And some people are just that way. Any society with enough resources is probably going to have one of “those guys” or gals, the individual who stays inappropriately juvenile well past the age of adulthood. Not playful, or energetic and curious, but juvenile. There’s a place for play, and I’m all for being physically active as long as you can. I strongly encourage curiosity. I intensely dislike people older than I am trying to hold onto being a teen with tooth, claw, and super glue. It’s embarrassing at the very least, dangerous at worst.

I suspect part of it is that we have lost the ceremonies that clearly separate childhood from adulthood. Not religious ceremonies, like Confirmation and the Bar Mitzvah, but rituals where the community says, “We recognize you as an adult. You have the following rights and privileges, these duties, and we expect you to stop acting like a child.” High School graduation used to serve that function to an extent, until college became a requirement, and so many employers stopped hiring teens. Then came the idea that “well, brains don’t develop until 25, so you can’t expect young people to be responsible, so let them enjoy themselves.” Military service remains a clear dividing line, at least in some places, but I think we need a return to some sort of public acknowledgement and understanding of adulthood and how grown-ups behave.

Dignified maturity seems to be dying away, and I’m not sure what will revive it.

*Actually, leggings and a crop top do not flatter anyone, even the svelte and confident. The less said about large prints on leggings, the better. In my opinion. If you are teaching or doing aerobics or the like in a gym, then wear what works.

18 thoughts on “Acting Your Age? If Only They Would . . .

  1. This can be a bit of a sore spot.
    There are individuals who weaponize the “act your age“ and “grow up” invocations in an attempt to control others.
    In my experience, they specially try to stamp down on fun, humor, frivolity, friendships, play, and curiosity.

    (But spot on about not wearing leggings and a crop top in public!)

  2. Moderator edit: Please avoid politics. Thank you. End edit.

    But yes, there are too many “Adults by age” that aren’t “Adults in behavior”. 😦

  3. Oh yes… The most egregious group, IMHO, are the ‘cheerleader’ moms, who still dress like they are 18 year old cheerleaders. And the mean girl attitudes are just over the top! At least not many men over here wear Speedos at the beach. You see that a lot in Italy, Spain, and Monaco. Yech…

    • I couldn’t stand those girls when I *was* that age, and don’t get me started on the dudebro types that ape the behavior….

  4. Having encountered the point that those most likely to volunteer for studies are those in college or with a high trust in college research being a good thing, I note that age twenty-five coincides very nicely with has graduated and now must handle adult stresses.
    I would be interested to see the brain maturation research duplicated, if it can be, in people living in other cultures where school of any sort is a nice option if one can afford it, and see if the brain maturation aligns with age or with the stresses caused by existantial responsibility, such as ‘what shall I eat and how can I obtain it?’ While essay due dates are stressful, it’s a different sort of stress, as far as I remember.

  5. I have to admit I still wear bike shorts as I approach 70, the padding is more important than ever on any ride over 10 miles. They are the baggy variety though so just look like normal shorts. The rest of my physique is best seen from a distance and obscured by baggy shirts.

    It is disconcerting to say the least to see what people are dressed (or not dressed) in when I walk into a store. It would feel wrong if I went out in public in dirty work clothes or clothes with rips in them even to get a part for my truck but I see that and worse anytime I am out and about.

    As far as brain maturity goes isn’t that driven by society and your environment? If the society demands you have to be an “adult” (whatever that may be) by 14, 16 or whatever age age then the individual will try to conform to that particular set of expectations. This is especially true if there are negative repercussions if the individual does not conform. Today there are no negative repercussions so people are kind of adrift. That is not good for the individual and certainly not good for the society at large.

  6. Beyond a certain age and weight combination, leggings or yoga pants should not be worn in public. Inside the combination… uh, sorry, distracted. 🙂

    “Brain matures at 25” is increasingly thin cover for the learned helplessness and puerile behavior inculcated in teens by those very same experts. Time was when many fewer went to college, and upon graduation were expected to act like and take on duties like adults. Spent a good chunk of the last 20 years, trying to help youngsters undo 12-14 years of damage in 3-4 years.

    • Well, some of the judges and lawyers buy some of the ‘brain matures’ argumetns.

      I’m not sure their resulting actions are a lot more responsible than those of the teachers and so forth.

  7. Which makes me wonder about the idea that “the brain does not mature until age 25.”

    Did you read the thing where they defined “mature”?

    I only found one.

    Basicaly, wasn’t changing as much… which, not so long ago, would’ve been framed as *stopped growing*. Dead in place….

  8. I suspect part of it is that we have lost the ceremonies that clearly separate childhood from adulthood.

    Been chewing on this all day….

    It’s true, but it’s not *far enough*.

    Yeah, we need the ceremony, but we also need the type-change.

    Right now?

    you can get the responsibility…but not the power. You can be blamed for stuff, but you can’t actually *do anything* to fix it.

  9. I generally agree with you… except I also, today, chased down an ice cream truck and got an ice cream sandwich, just because I could.

  10. “shivaree” or “charivari” would be held at her residence. Torches, rude songs, loud hand-bells, and banging of metal would go on for hours each night until

    Not what is intended and likely not a good thing, but I *so* see the participanties of such harassment as DESERVING SELF-SELECTED TARGETS.

    • Different times, different places, different standards. Today it might not end well for the noise-makers, depending on the society.

  11. I have heard (without doing any more investigation into the matter) that the brain reaches it’s maturity level about 2-5 years after the person is being treated and expected to act like an adult.

  12. My mind refuses to “act my.age” (I’m 76), but my body overrules it.

    I can look back and see that I reached maturity at about 21. That’s also the age where I became a father and began supervising others, which probably had more to do with it.

  13. On the topic of adulthood. Adulting is a skill, or rather a set of skills as much as anything. And yes, I include judgement as a skill. If you don’t practice skills, you don’t have them. A ceremony won’t give you those skills, nor will letting kids be kids. High school is/was a time when kids were given the opportunity (required) to practice at least some of those skills under parental supervision and veto. The college experience (not the class content, the living away from from home but still in a somewhat controlled environment among your peers) can/should offer the opportunity to hone them further with less of a safety net.

    When I was in sixth grade I tried to learn linear equations. It didn’t work, I just couldn’t see how they functioned. The next year, they made perfect sense. It could have been a different teacher, it could have been the way my mind works- let something sit long enough and I’ll eventually figure out at least part of it, or it could be that my brain had made the necessary physical connections as it matured.

    The brain matures at twenty-five, to me, means that you have until then (roughly) to learn the skills of adulthood and shouldn’t be written off as incapable of adulting until after that point. You may have tried and failed to understand them at sixteen, but succeed at eighteen, or twenty, or twenty-four. If you still can’t grasp them at twenty-six, you aren’t going to. And after you grasp them, you still need to practice them. Otherwise you’ll never get good at them, and will eventually lose them.

    • It’s a skill set, and an attitude. Combining the two seems to be where a lot of difficulty arises. The ramp from “childhood” to “fully responsible and self-actuating adult” sometimes appears to have become a vertical cliff because of a lot of factors.

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