Age Matters

As people age, I hear many recite the old adage, “Age is just a number.”

Is age just a number? Are you sure?

Our society is FILLED with age restrictions and functions that are centered on age. From the time we start kindergarten at 5, go to certain movies at age 13 (PG 13) or 17 (NC 17), obtain our driver’s license at 16, vote at 18, drink at 21, run for president at 35, retire at 65, and the list could go on and on, I would argue that culture does not treat age as just a number, rather a critically important demarcation of what we should be doing, or have permission to do, in life at any given time.

It is with this understanding that I approach the issue of the youth generated movement, “National School Walkout,” which was inspired by the Parkland, Florida high school shooting, as a protest of contemporary gun laws in the United States. Many high school students took to both the streets and microphones to communicate their support of more gun control laws in the country.

I must confess to being in tension.

On the one hand, it is so awesome to see student engagement and learning from an early age that a democracy has to have active voices and engagement to work optimally –this aspect of the movement is exciting and shows promise. However, on the other hand, since we are an “age-centric” culture, at what age is one mature, educated, and experienced enough to have earned a voice in the public square? There are reasons we have age restrictions and permissions on nearly everything, whether you agree with the precise age or not.

So when I hear gun guy and rocker Ted Nugent say the Florida students calling for gun control have “no soul” and are “mushy brained children,” I am not altogether dismissive of it in the sense, well, they are, by definition, children. And I have never known Mr. Nugent to be a fan of anything remotely politically correct.

Nugent, a longtime member of the NRA’s board of directors, said survivors of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are wrong to blame the NRA and its members for mass shootings.

“These poor children, I’m afraid to say, it hurts me to say, but the evidence is irrefutable: They have no soul,” Nugent said. He added that the gun control measures the students support amount to “spiritual suicide” and “will cause more death and mayhem.”

It is not surprising the Parkland, Florida students demanded an apology from Nugent.

Good luck with that kiddos. You have a better chance of catching cat scratch fever (google it).

Now, please make no mistake: This blog is NOT about gun control or protest or school shootings or even the crazy motor city madman Ted Nugent. I have no opinions on any of these things at present. What I do find intriguing and opinion worthy is the issue of age appropriateness and its role in society.

I have taken notice that on social media that many are very critical of those, like crazy Ted, who are, in turn, critical of these kids. This criticism is often accompanied by a very positive evaluation of these teens speaking out for an important cause.

One of my social media friends and former student, Adam, now having earned his Phd from Michigan State and in whom I have a great deal of respect, wrote: “If you are one of these adults mocking children who are simply speaking their truth and experience you should be ashamed of yourselves. You may not agree with their opinions but you have not walked in their shoes and they deserve to have their voices heard. They don’t deserve petty attacks from adults. These are victims of a horrific crime not your enemies.”

I totally get that…and I do not believe any public discourse should include as part of its strategy, mocking. Yet the key word in this post is “children.” So I agree with Adam’s general sentiment, yet when children take it upon themselves to enter the very adult arena of the NRA, you are now playing in the adult big leagues –and it likely will not be pretty.

As I age, and I just turned 55 last month, I am confounded by the social admonition to “act your age.” What does that mean exactly? If one wants to posit that older folk such as myself should not engage in certain behaviors or activities because it would be inappropriate for a 55 year-old, should not the reverse be true as well? I mean, there is a reason we want our president to be at least 35 years old.

Neuroscientists now tell us our brains prefrontal cortex is not fully functioning until around the age of 25, and I prefer we enact social policy that reflects science. So is it too much to ask that our doctors, lawyers, educators, law enforcement and others, have, at the very least, a fully developed brain?

So, ironically and perhaps paradoxically, I want to develop the voice and passion of our young people while teaching the power of civic engagement, YET, I would prefer our children not have a say in creating social policy.

There will be a day when the children graduate from the kids table and earn a spot at the adult one.

Until then, let’s teach our children well.

Age is not just a number. Age matters.

 

 

Beware The Cougar! Love, Dating, And How Old Is Too Old And How Young Is Too Young?

 

I will frequently mention the source and/or inspiration for the subject matters that I write. Often times it is some personal experience, special occasion, film or documentary I have viewed that serves as my impetus for writing on a particular matter.

Not this time.

Yesterday, one of my very faithful readers and blog followers from the beginning, Nikki, asked me if I take requests for blog subject matters.  So today’s topic comes courtesy of her request.

No likey? Blame darling Nikki.

She asked if I would blog my thoughts concerning age and dating; namely, how far apart or close together in age should two people be when considering a relationship?

And, imagine this, I actually have an opinion on this matter. It is quite a common topic that comes up frequently in my courses, particularly interpersonal communication.

I must confess that I have been influenced and quite intrigued with the message of the movie Benjamin Button, a story of man who ages in reverse, born an old man and as he ages, keeps getting younger and younger; eventually only to die an infant.  What fascinated me was both his love interest in the film, a woman who aged like the rest of us, and their crossing lives like an X intersection, as he continually grew younger, she continually grew older, only for a time to be at the center intersect of the X and enjoy a socially acceptable -age wise- relationship for a few years. Eventually, she was too old to date a child…yet the love was still present. The message? Love knows no age and true love finds each other regardless of demographics.

Hollywood romantic bullshit? Probably. Yet an intriguing notion to be sure, with a few drops of truth. It is also, quite disturbingly, a strong pedophile defense strategy.

Another film (one I would HIGHLY recommend) is Harold and Maude, a film about an older teen boy who falls in love with Maude, a seventy-something or so woman. It is a delightful story of two souls connecting, and, in the spirit of Benjamin Button (though filmed forty years before it) she was the young at heart while he was the old soul.

Harold-And-Maude_2

These are basically the fairy tales of those who say age is irrelevant, but a number. Perhaps these films are the inspiration for 53 year-old George Clooney never dating anyone over 25, or the 55 year-old Alec Baldwin marrying his 30 year-old Yoga instructor.

The general rule of thumb would be this -for both men and women: If you date someone older you are likely banking on much more stability, less drama, financial security and, probably, a bit more intellect. True you may have to put up with more sag in some bodily regions and may have to change their diaper one day, yet, still, the upside ain’t bad.

If you date younger you probably trade in much of that stable, drama free, secure existence for a far more adventurous and frenetic journey, filled with far more mystery, intrigue, and an openness for great change. And….no sag. Not bad.

The bottom line is this: What are you looking for? My advice is that if you are looking for a stable life partner, it is probably better to go with someone around your own age –and by “around” this changes for each decade of life. In your 20’s “around” would be about 0 to, say 3 1/2, 4 years in difference; in your 30’s it could mean 4-7 years; in your 40’s 7-10 years; in your 50’s all bets are off as “around” means anyone still breathing as fair game and a viable partner.

“But, Jimmy, age is just a number. Why does this even matter?”

So glad you asked curious, omniscient blog ghost.

The success of most relationships rest in one major principle –communication- which can be a very difficult and elusive skill to master, to say the least. How do we communicate effectively? Since that is another blog series for another day, I will say two people sharing the same basic demographics such as religious affiliation, zip code, income, ethnicity, and AGE, just to name a few, are vital in the ability to communicate effectively, hence relational success. Does a couple HAVE to share all these things? Of course not, yet the more similarities, the more effectively the two can share thoughts, ideas, and words in ways that are understood and comprehended by the other person. There is a strong comfort in shared familiarity.

Shared demographics is not a certainty for happiness, it is just hedging your relational gamble bet a bit more in your favor.

Jimmy’s basic axiom: Opposites definitely do attract, yet opposites generally do not last. Birds of a feather flock together, and have a far better chance of enjoying forever. Dating that exotic guy or gal can be super fun and intriguing for a time, yet “exotic and fun” usually eventually evolves into “neurotic and done.”

If you are just looking for some fun and intrigue?  Just want to live and enjoy in the moment? Every age and experience can bring something unique and different to the table. Go for it. Whether you are 20, 30, 40, 50, or 80, each season of life brings something special and unique. In spite of the fact I joke about turning 50 and being an old fart, I would not trade in my 5 decades for anything.  I love my season in life. To think of being that insecure 20 year-old again is frightening, yet at the time I was fine, as I still could ball with the best of them, dunk a tennis ball and never suffered a sore anything. Maybe every age group can benefit from all the other age groups in some way, shape or form.

Are there exceptions to every rule? Can the younger woman find true love with the older man or the cougar find happiness with the younger man? Of course. Problem is with employing the “exception theory” is that we usually think we are it, and, truth be told, we probably are not.

I think I answered the question, in 1,030 words no less. I hope Nikki likes the answer. Or at least puts her in tension. Or not. Cause everyone just does what they want to do anyway.

I know, right?