How old are you? How old do you feel?
Your answers to those two questions might vary wildly, and that is something that fascinates me… to the point that I ask a lot people these two questions. Sometimes I get the sardonic, “I must be close to 90 based on my aches and pains,” (this by a forty-something with a bad knee). Usually people “feel” younger than they are, but the answers range from 17 – 70. This got me thinking: What factors into a person’s “mental age,” or “emotional age,” as compared to their physical age?
In a recent article in More magazine, the fabulous Anna Quindlen said, “Old is wherever haven’t gotten yet.” I agree with this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve related a story to my husband (who is 12.5 years older than I am) about an old man, or an old woman. Inevitably, he’ll ask, “How old was the ‘old’ man?” and I’ll have to stammer my way through, “Uh, he’s about… your age.” As a writer, I should know better, but as a writer, I get to go back over my gaffs and edit out the lines that would bury me.
But most people I know don’t act their age. You know, an old soul, or someone who’s young at heart. So what gives?
On the recommendation of a friend, I listened to Rob Lowe’s Stories I Only Tell My Friends via audible.com. (I LOVE audible; I get to “read” books and workout at the same time.) His story is fun and fascinating, but the line that jumped out at me was, “There’s a school of thought that believes your emotional maturity is frozen at the exact age you become famous.” I grabbed onto that line because until then, I thought it was the other way around. (Mr. Lowe blames a lot on the fact that he became famous as a teenager.)
For example, I am 49, but I “feel” 35. My husband is 61, but I swear he doesn’t act a day over 17. What’s interesting is that we both had major life changes in those years. I think (or used to think; now I’m not sure) that our “fates” had a predetermined emotional age for each of us, and when we each hit our predetermined age, well, as the saying goes, the shit hit the fan.
Adding to this conundrum, I have a son who’s 23, but he feels 40. He relates better to older people, he acts much older than he is, he even dresses more like Don Draper than his contemporaries. So what will happen to him when he hits his emotional age? Anything? Nothing? Should he fear it or look forward to it? Looking back under this theory, I think I always felt 35. Through high school and college, I never really fit in with my classmates. I dressed like a “mom” even when I was 20. I hated the bar scene! Of course, I had no way of knowing that it wasn’t until I was 35 that I would have the “strength” to make the changes my life desperately needed (yeah, we’re talking divorce). But which came first? The age or the event?
I have a saying: If timing is everything, and everything is relative, then timing is relative.
(Ok, not sure what that has to do with anything, but I thought I’d throw it in.) (The same goes for age, I suppose.)
So what about you? How old are you? How old do you feel? Did anything major happen in your life at your “emotional age”? Or do you anticipate anything happen when you reach it? Would you try to control it if you could? Which do you think comes first?
I love your comments, so please chime in!