Age may often be referred to as a state of mind, but age does play a role in what we do, and maybe what we shouldn’t do, or at least what others think is age appropriate.
I wear my hair a little longer than someone my age. I like that fact that I still have a full head of hair and wearing it longer has always been my preference. More than once someone has remarked that if I worked in a different kind of job, I might have to wear it shorter. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why that kind of job doesn’t interest me. Sometimes it is our dress, our persona, our attitude or our lifestyle that some may think is inconsistent with whatever age we are. Age seems to come with boundaries.
When you purchase gifts for children, the package often provides a recommended age. Movies are rated by content suitability for certain audiences. Purchasing guns, alcohol and cigarettes are limited by age. Voting and military enlistment are set by age. So is drawing certain retirement benefits. Senior discounts are also set by age, although that varies. Maturity is more likely to be assessed by age, rather than by a person’s state of emotional development. I’m not saying that is right, but age seems to the be the default guide.
Wherever you go, or whatever you do, people want to know our age. Visiting the doctor, a job application, requesting a credit card, any survey, the census – everyone wants your age, and that becomes part of your identification and your categorization by society. Age is more than how you feels, it’s how our economy and social order views you.
In life, there are a number of age landmarks. When you start school, become a teenager, reach driving age, legally become an adult, turn 30 and your youth is gone, 40 and you are middle age, 50 when the gray hair usually starts and your metabolism slows, 60 when you are definitely a senior citizen, 65 so you can draw Medicare, and every year there after.
Life throws you some curveballs. Men and women in their 40’s, or even earlier, begin to fear losing their youth and fight to hang onto it. Divorces, younger lovers, sports cars, body surgery, new wardrobes, etc., etc. It’s all sad. But our economy thrives when vanity rears it’s head.
As we age, we get a lot of help in feeling like life has passed us by. This is a society based on youth. Advertisers and television networks court young audiences.
While folks over 50 may have a lot of disposable income, that’s not the demographic that seems to matter. True, we’re busy preparing for retirement, but we’re still buying cars, traveling and buying houses (downsizing). We’re also spending money on health and medicines (not just blue pills), buying gym memberships, attending concerts (the Woodstock generation) and taking cruises (hence all those Viking cruise line commercials).
Sometimes we’re sitting on the front porch yelling at kids, but mostly we’re helping raise grandkids, improving our houses and taking an interest in our communities.
When someone says you should act your age, what does that mean? Behavior and conduct is organized into age groups. As I said earlier, sometimes it is by law, other times it is by maturity, and often by social norms.
The other side of appropriate is inappropriate. When age serves as an advantage or a disadvantage in exerting control or exploiting something or someone – that’s inappropriate. That’s subject matter for an entirely different blog, but conduct that puts children or elders at risk is totally inappropriate.
So what about someone who feels comfortable acting or embracing behavior or characteristics more common to a different age group, where no harm is done or other motive, is that appropriate? We might smirk or comment, because we wouldn’t do it, but is that inappropriate for someone else?
Telling someone to act their age is usually something said to make the person saying it more comfortable.
Social norms are formed as guides, patterns of behavior that in some ways serve as rules, but in other ways adapt with time and changing customs.
Age appropriate is something to think about, especially as we all age and pass from one age group to another. What might have been appropriate before, might now get you a smirk or lecture.
Whatever age you are, let your freak flag fly.