Aging is a curious thing. You don’t feel any older until one day someone tells you you’re too old for something and you think “What?! I’m not any older than I was last time I did that!” And of course you’re wrong, because you’re always older than you were at any other time you bothered to wonder about how old you were.
We choose to confront our aging in one lump sum every year because the threat of a birthday is easier to cope with than the reality that we are slowly advancing towards death every day.
But excuse me while I refuse to act my age, because the idea is a sham. It’s a glut of frustrating assumptions built on the master assumption that one is going to squander their life in the conventional way. If I’m not convinced that I should go to school at 18, get married at 25, produce offspring at 30, and retire at 55, then what good does asking my age do for you?
Of course most of the things we learn about someone early on only contribute to a roughly-hewn model of personality we’ll refine and define over time, but occasionally an initial reckoning will be so incorrect that we’ll be forced to toss the entire misguided likeness on the woodpile and start anew. Age can easily be so misguiding.
So I’m beginning understand why some people lie about their age: because perhaps they feel more kinship with the age group they claim to belong to than the one they actually do. It’s the same reason one might not wish to wear their race or gender on their sleeve (or their face, as the case may be)—because they aren’t well-represented by the prevailing stereotype.
It is unfortunate, though, how often stereotypes of age do fit. When’s the last time you saw an old man singing along to radio pop? And what does that say about plasticity? About growth and intellectual honesty? I want to be that old man.
This post, written 2011-03-27, is part of a series of older writings I’m trying to polish and publish before they collect even more dust.