Monday, November 16, 2009

What's in an age?

A few days ago, I referenced this article about muppeteer Caroll Spinney, and the longevity of Sesame Street. In that piece, he posed a question that I've been thinking about ever since:

"If you didn't know when you were born, how old would you think you are?"

Everyone has heard that "age ain't nothin' but a number" but is that true? What happens if you remove the numerical label that defines you? Then who are you? Does it change your characteristics? Your possibilities? Your limitations?

If I didn't know my real age- I think I'd have a hard time determining it. Sometimes, after a grueling of day of work when all I want to do is soak my aching muscles and then curl up with a movie on the couch, I would swear I was mid-forties. But then there are nights when I have seemingly endless energy and want go out 'til the sun comes up. Does that make me seventeen? Twenty-one?

It's not all tied to physical traits though, or my waxing and waning penchant for sleep. How do the rest of the things in my life stack up....are there enough clues to pin point my true age?

I'm married, which most likely puts me in my twenties or thirties. We own a house, which creeps my age up a bit. Full time career....getting up there. But wait- no kids. Back down we go. I've traveled the country but never been to Europe. Does that affect it? How about the sensible sedan I drive? Does that choice age me? My pantry is primarily stocked with cake mix and mac and that older or younger than Ramen noodles and kool-aid? My bedroom floor is covered with clothes, and the number of lipglosses I own seems to multiply daily, making it appear quite likely I haven't yet passed through high school. But then there are the bank statements, insurance cards, and to-do lists that suggest I might be older than expected after all.

When you start to think about it, it becomes clear that any particular age doesn't have a set list of attributes or rules tied to it. There are eighty year old skydivers and thirteen year olds who knit. It seems that the adage "You're only as old as you feel" stands firm. But if that's true, then why is the comment, "Oh to be young again" so common as well?

Personally, I don't feel the knowledge of me being twenty-five means much. I do have the occasional moment where I question myself....."Am I too old to do this/wear that?" or conversely "Wow, I'm so lame- I should be out doing this not worried about this" But overall I try not to let my age dictate the way I live. I wonder though, if that will that always be the case. As I inch towards thirty, will the pressures of what I "should do" or "should have" become more apparent? What about when I'm in my sixties? Will that cause me to edit how I talk, what I buy, or how I spend my time? It's a hard thing to wrap your brain around.....and I certainly don't have the answers. But then again- I'm only twenty five...what do you expect?

So what about you all? How old do you think you are? Do you think it's possible to live independent of your age? I'm interested to hear.....


  1. Philosophy 101 with Dr. Bowden ... It's an interesting query you pose. I think about it all the time and I struggle with it in an internal/external conflict.

    I definitely think of myself as younger than I actually am (I'm sure you might even attest to this) but feel limited in my choices at times due to social constraint.

    I haven't been in an American Eagle (shhh ... don't tell corporate) or those other such clothing stores with their elitist shuttered up windows, hip music, AXE smelling clones offering 'assistance.' (To be clear .. I'm separating AE from those other places) ... but inwardly I want to go in and shop there, see latest trends, etc., but feel if I do then Chris Hansen and his camera crew will be sidling up next to me.

    It's just clothes, but I refuse to even enter those stores for fear of social judgment. I feel that's what keeps me from acting my true age. Like your earlier post about the balloon bike lady. She obviously isn't as affected by that stigma as I am, and its admirable. I wish I could be like her, but I know that isn't going to happen. I'm too tied into the acceptance of others to fully do something of my own volition. I end up analyzing the social costs of my decisions rather than just doing it. So what do I accept and what do I try to change?

    Last year, Dave mentioned going skydiving. I would LOVE to do that. But then I started thinking about the risks and if something happened how would I feel about not being around for my wife and daughter. Those are responsibilites that definitively aged me. And I'm not a 'club' type of person which skews me older.

    In the end, I think you're right, we all DO have the ability to pursue on our own wants/interests without being tied down to age. As my daughter gets older, I'm excited that she will help keep me younger and I'll have an excuse to ride roller coasters, act like a fool in public ... and yes, maybe even enter a Hollister or Abercrombie store or two.

  2. I'm about 7 months away from 30 and it scares the crap out of me. I definitely don't feel 30. If I had to put a number on it (let's be honest, I want to put a number on it) then I would say I'm 25.

    I don't really have the inner struggle of things I should be doing. I was never really a partier, but I can get down from time to time, but I'm certainly way more responsible and sensible that some 21 year old who doesn't know what a Roth IRA is from a hole in the ground.

    I don't know... I just know that I don't feel 29...or 30 for that matter. I'm actually going to go look at my birth certificate to make sure it's accurate. It was made in the 80's...they didn't even have the internet back then. It could totally be wrong.

  3. I am usually 7 years old. Yep. My real age "inside" is definately 7. I do not like to HAVE to tell the truth (but I do), junk food is my passion, the "unfairs" in life bother me every day, I'd rather color than grade papers, FUN is always my thought BEFORE I pay a bill or do something grown up, I love "hats" with anything, (and they are alway too big), sparkles make anything "more pretty", I want to own a tutu (still) and WEAR it, I get "lots of frustration in me when doing BIG people chores", I HATE long sleeves,I like to whisper to friends when I am supposed to be listening, changing activities ever 7-10 minutes works for me, my "feelers" are always hurt by someone or something, and I love to use phrases like "speedy quick, cheater pants, runned, bestest, nubs, sneaky peeky, and it's name is ____,you guys, I have excitement in me," and "my bestest friend"! Yes, I am 7 and will die a ripe young age of 7. You are who you hang with?!

  4. First of all Courtney...can I say how much I love your mom! Seriously! I'll take that 7 year old for a mom any day!

    I agree with everything you, Dustin and Brian have said....

    Most times when someone asks my age, I have to stop and think. And not just because I lie about it all the time and instantly say 29. More because I don't feel 33 (ouch!) The answer that pops instantly into my head is 20 and that is clearly an untruth...

    I think how old you feel is dependent on how much love and fun and all that good fluffy stuff is in your heart. Imagine that there are some people in the world who would look at the girl on the balloon bike and scoff at her foolishness. They would think things like, "I can't believe she spent that money! She's a total distraction to the drivers! She should be doing something with her life, not riding around like a child." I think those people might be a bit older than their age.