Why Don’t They Tell You Any Of This Stuff Before It Happens?

or (alternative title) We’re All Aging, We’re Just Doing It Wrong

Despite what The Disney Channel, “The National Enquirer” and your mother told you, aging isn’t everything. Reporters seem intent on mentioning their subjects’ ages, even when the article has nothing to do with age. We have these pre-set notions about what we’re supposed to do at certain ages in our lives. We’re obsessed with age. Aging isn’t everything, but it does give us some weird little gifts. Nobody ever warned me about back hair. No one ever told me that unless you want to give one of those “Uuunnngh” sounds every time you get up out of a chair, you can’t eat a whole pizza after age 35. Who knew how much more ear wax would factor into your daily life post-40?

band of seniors

I’m not writing to complain. Aging has its benefits. Unless they’re in a chamber orchestra, no one expects you to go see their band play after you turn 40. You’ve got a litany of great excuses to get out of doing all kinds of crap you never wanted to do in the first place when you were younger, but didn’t think that mentioning the word “arthritis” would help you avoid.

My point is no one talks about this stuff. No one warns you when you’re twenty-five about how much harder it’s going to be to for you to find random sex in a decade. No one talks about how much stronger the female marriage pull becomes in your thirties. Nobody talks about how much more important learning time management skills is than mastering the art of crafting the perfect tweet.

No one told me any of this stuff.

Or maybe they did and I just didn’t listen.

Adolescence is a new idea. Three-hundred years ago there were no teenagers. There were children and there were adults. If you were fourteen, you were an adult. Now you’re a freshman in high school, definitely, decidedly, undeniably NOT an adult. We invented adolescence because, well, because we’d crafted a society where we COULD. Most places couldn’t have pulled this off…and, of course, we never should’ve tried. But we did. Now we’re stuck with it. So, since we have this bizarre pad-time pre-adulthood period now baked into our society, let’s use it for something good. Israel has the right idea. Make everyone do something for the benefit of the country for a couple of years. We could do this, too. Most parents would applaud it.

We’ve essentially extended adolescence a little more each decade. You’re not an adult at 25. Not in 21st Century America. Sure, the car insurance discount is nice, but it’s not a particularly rigorous rite of passage. Moving to a new checked box on a demographic form doesn’t pack the same punch as killing a lion with a few spears. Getting a new car at age 16 is not only an immense waste of money, but also less of a mark of adulthood than a debutante ball, especially compared to back when they were semi-auctionistic. “Wanna wife, here are your options, now watch them twirl and play the harpsichord.” I don’t know why we once equated chamber music skills with the odds of future marital bliss, but we did. And even that was better than what we’re stuck with now.

Rite of passage that, thankfully, we no longer practice in Athens, GA

45-year-olds wearing cargo shorts to work?

Parents wanting to be their kids’ friends instead of spanking them? Trust me, your kids deserve a spanking.

Mothers of three small children needing to go hit the town? I’m not saying motherhood means the end of all fun, but it used to be pressing a lengthy fun pause button.

Fathers thinking a child-support check is how they should support their child? Take them fishing at least, for God’s sake. Maybe teach them some empathy, some manners, or fucking spank them. Again, they deserve it.

And, if you think adolescence is weird, take a closer look at old age these days. You know a society doesn’t actually value the elderly when they ship them off to octogenarian sorority houses, where the dances need respirators and the party stops when “Nightline” comes on.

We’re living longer, which, theoretically, is a good thing. But instead of extending the obvious part of the life equation, the middle part, we’re padding the beginning and the end. If we’re going to have a “retirement age” (and we shouldn’t, by the way), let’s make it dependent on the type of work. Brick layers maybe should retire at 65, but do you really want an inexperienced, 25-year-old accountant?

Old people in most societies around the world used to migrate home and hang out with the family for a few years before they kicked the bucket. This was a good idea. If we could keep the in-home nursing and feeding aspects of the old folks homes, but move their apartments to a first-floor expanded garage apartment and reinvent medical house calls, wouldn’t this be better for everyone other than the doctors (and screw them, they’re already flush with worship)?

Unless all those vampire TV shows are documentaries, aging is probably inevitable. There’s no magic number of blueberries you can eat to stop the aging process. I only humbly suggest that we’re doing aging wrong. We can do better. Isn’t assisted living just one short step away from shipping the entire over-60 crowd to Wyoming, where there’s a lot of extra space and complaining about teenagers is already the state motto?

Just pad the middle. That’s all I’m saying. It’s not hard and we’ll all win a little.