Santa Maria Sun / Humor
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 15, Issue 14
The perfect ageToo old or too young, why aren't we ever happy?
BY SHELLY CONE
Do you remember the exact age you were when you went from wanting to be older to wanting to be younger?
Right now my three youngest kids want to be older. My 12- and 13-year-old sons, for good reason, want to be more like 20. They struggle with the desire for freedom, without realizing the bills, the stress, and the worry that come with being an adult.
Perhaps the most affected by this desire to be older is my 6-year-old, Sebastian. For a better part of his kindergartner year, a cute little girl dubbed him her boyfriend. He’s not hip on being tied down yet, (there are after all, a number of girls who want him to chase them on the playground) or maybe he just doesn’t want the hefty responsibility of being a boyfriend. (“You’re supposed to tell me I look beautiful,” she told him at Halloween as she took off her coat to reveal a pretty princess costume. She’s right, Sebastian.)
What was significant, however, was that he accepted the title, while simultaneously complaining about it. “I have a girlfriend and I am her boyfriend and she won’t break up with me,” he would tell family members in frustration, but tinged with a bit of bragging, I suspect.
Once, he asked his older brother for advice.
“Chase, I need to ask you something,” he said as he led his brother to the dinner table for a talk. Once seated, Sebastian asked, “How do you break up with a girl?”
Big kid problems.
Recently Sebastian’s girlfriend broke up with him. “We’re not boyfriend and girlfriend anymore, but at least we are still friends,” Sebastian told me.
Yesterday as I drove him to kindergarten, he brought with him a small tape recorder—one given to me in the early 1990s when I got my first reporting job. He sat in the back seat of the car talking into it as if to an audience, just like his older brothers, who both have YouTube shows.
“Hey, guys, it’s me, Sebastian. You’ll never believe how I’m ’cording this. I’m ’cording this on tape, but not on a tape like you tape things with, but like a real tape that you ’cord things on. Anyway, my mom is driving me to school. I’ll check in with you later,” he said to his fake audience, then added, “Oh, now I’m humilidated. Why did I say that?”
I think he was “humilidated” because he said to his imaginary audience that he was being driven to school by his mom. This humiliation is something I’m way too familiar with from my older kids.
I don’t remember when exactly I stopped wanting to be older, but I remember in my 20s wanting to stay at 25. I thought that would be the perfect age: a culmination of wisdom and experience wrapped in a slim, 125-pound frame. Then in my 30s I thought I was crazy to ever think that. Me at 25 meant impulsiveness, a short fuse, and a degree of naiveté, though the statuesque figure was nice. Now at 40, I think 32 was the best age.
For my husband, who turned, well, older than me this year—according to the AARP invite that arrived two days before his birthday, as everyone warned him it would—40 is the best age. Maybe if you’re a man, I say. Of course, maybe when I’m 50, or 60 or 70, I’ll think differently.
While all of my friends celebrated 40 this year with boisterous celebrations or trips, my birthday passed quietly and mostly ignored. I got a tattoo and went back to school.
I told myself, “I belong here, too. These people are thinkers, goal-oriented and talented.”
They are also much younger.
When I asked a couple of groups of students I was working with about finishing up the project at a bar, they looked at me with blank faces. Later, I discovered many of them weren’t even old enough to drink.
On one occasion in my women’s literature class, we discussed how intimated some students were about the number of fit students on campus. I shared my thoughts from the perspective of someone 20 years older. So I started out by qualifying my comment by stating my age. A loud gasp followed.
A gasp rolled with “You don’t look it,” along with “Whoa, you’re old,” into one audible sentiment. I was, in fact, older than the instructor even by a few years. Anything I said after I said my age was clouded by the collective gasp that hung in the air.
After one particularly chilly and foggy day at school, I slowly climbed down the three flights of stairs after a two-hour class, trying to walk as if my knees weren’t painfully stiff and slightly arthritic. I watched as the much-younger students, with their springy steps full of cartilage and optimism, passed me by and I wondered if they wished to be older—to be me.
Is that far-fetched? I get to go to the bar whenever I want—even in between classes—because I have a car. A late-model comfortable car with heated seats. I can buy whatever I want. I can eat ice cream for breakfast or play video games all night long.
My kids are sort of right in their thinking; being an adult is kind of fun.
This is the point at which I’m supposed to say that it shouldn’t matter when we stop wanting to be older and start wanting to be younger; that we should concentrate on living who we are at whatever moment in life we happen to be in. That’s what I should say. Instead, I say anyone who thinks that probably hasn’t had the AARP make a save-the-date card for them.
After writing this column, Shelly Cone went out and bought something fun—just because she could. Send her comments via the executive editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.