Come on now. Tell the truth. Are you aware of your age? Do you feel your age?
I know. I know. You could really nail me on that question. It’s far too vague.
I agree. But, after all, talking about age is always vague, and it’s sometimes downright uncomfortable if not painfully disquieting.
I’m guessing that you immediately thought about your chronological age.
That’s a solid and smart place to begin, but it’s only one type of age.
What about your appearance age?
Or your biological age?
Or your psychological age?
Do you have an awareness of those ages? Are they all in sync? How do you feel about those different ages when you think about yourself?
While you’re processing those thoughts–don’t think too hard or too long, though; spontaneity works as well with that question as it does with maneuvering life itself–let me toss out some other ways that we can look at or avoid our age.
Let’s start with life stages. I like a fast pace, so we’ll skip right over prebirth, birth, infancy, early childhood, middle childhood, and late childhood.
Let’s move right on to subsequent stages, the ones that matter most to me and this post.
You probably know them all already, but in case not, I’ll toss them out with a word associated with each stage.
Adolescence (12-20): passion. Early adulthood (20-35): enterprise. Midlife (35-50): contemplation. Mature adulthood (50-80): benevolence. Late adulthood (80+): wisdom. And death/dying: life.
In case you’re wondering–and I certainly hope that you are–I fall into the “mature adult” stage. It’s great being in a stage with 30 years to fool around with, whether I’m 50 looking toward 80 or 80 looking back at 50. And it’s great knowing that I am benevolent. (I knew that already. But reinforcement always works well.) More important, “mature adult” is far more melodious to my ears than the ageist “Sweetie” or “Dearie” that I and other mature adults suffer far too often by far too many people who should know far better.
With those life stages behind us, let’s have some linguistic fun. Let’s explore some single words for each decade of our lives.
Brace yourself. They’re dreadful words. Just dreadful, especially when they’re all hanging out in the same place together all at the same time. Any one of them makes me scratch my balding pate, trying to figure out who on earth would use such words in regular talking or in regular writing. (Don’t tell anyone, but I just checked. The terms that I just dissed–and am about to diss more fully–are used in the medical field. I might have known it. But, again, don’t tell.)
I’ll start with the one coined most recently. 1991. Supercentenarian–110 years or older.
Then Centenarian–100 or more. I like that one a lot, especially since I completed an Estimated Longevity Test a few days ago. It was free. So why not? I didn’t even have to give an email address. It calculated the results right on the spot. According to the test–which, btw, seemed medically well-grounded and super scientific–I should live to be 105. Imagine that! I’ll take it, especially if it comes with good health, a sharp mind, good spirits, and faithful family and friends lifting me up. (I had to pause here to correct a plethora of typos. Glasses go hand in hand with aging and I’ve had my multi-focal lenses since midlife. OMG. I wonder whether I made typos on the Estimated Longevity Trst and that’s why ut told me that I wuld live to be 501. I’m absolutly sur thet I did knot.)
I’ll combine the next two. Nonagenarian–90s–and Octogenarian–80s. I lump them together because when people ask me my age, I sometimes tell them that I’m 88. At other times, I tell them that I’m 98. It just depends on my mood and how much I need to be pumped up. I love looking at them as they look at me. They smile. They beam. Then they declare, “My goodness, Professor Kendrick! You sure don’t look that old. And to think that you still manage to teach. How on earth do you do it?”
What an ego trip those comments give me, all because of my playful exaggeration. Of course, I still teach. Of course, I don’t look 98 or 88–well, hopefully I don’t–because I’m a Septuagenarian–70s. I exaggerate my age for a very good and highly legitimate reason. When I tell folks that I’m 74, I get puzzled looks or no comments at all. What can I say? I’ve left folks looking puzzled and speechless more than once in my life. Trust me. It never had anything to do whatsoever with my age.
Then we have Sexagenarian–60s–and Quinquagenarian–50s.
Oddly enough, the terms Quadragenarian–40s–and Tricenarian–30s–are not in common usage. Somehow that strikes me as an affront to both groups.
The same can be said of Vicenarian–20s–and Denarians–10 to 19.
All that I can say is this. Perhaps it’s not an affront after all that those terms are not in common usage for those age groups. I should know. When I was someone in those age groups, I wouldn’t have wanted to be called those things either, any more than I would want to be called a Septuagenarian now. I mean, come on. Who wants to be called something that the person doing the calling can’t even pronounce, let alone spell.
I warned you nine paragraphs ago that these terms were dreadful. Candidly, they ended up being more dreadful than I ever dreaded that they would be dreadful.
Nonetheless, I suppose those terms might come in handy from time to time to add an aere distinctionis to what, in reality, are downright insults. And we might just get away with it. Let’s see.
“He’s an old geyser” might morph into “He’s a sexagenarian geyser.” That might even be mistaken for sexy.
“She’s just an old broad” might become “She’s just an octogenarian broad.”
Truthfully, though–and I am all about truth and transparency–I’m not sure that either insult works any better, all garbed and garbled in Latin as they are.
No doubt, you’re still pondering your varying awarenesses of your various ages.
In case you’re wondering what I’m pondering–Please tell me that you are wondering. You are, right?–let me tell you that it’s not my age.
Actually, I’ve never pondered my age because I’ve never had a clear awareness of my age at any age.
I guess you might call me an Age Chameleon. (Go ahead. I’ve been called far worse.) How old I “feel”–regardless of how I slice it and dice it–changes based on those who are around me.
When I was a kid, surrounded by older folks, I felt wise beyond my years.
Now that I’ve grown up to be one of those older folks who surrounded me when I was young, I feel like one of the younger kids who surround me now that I am older. (I know what you’re thinking, and you can just stop it right now. I have not become my own grandpa.)
Let me explain. When I’m teaching traditional, right-out-of-high-school students, I feel exactly like I felt in my late teens. Independent. Not averse to risks. Extraverted. Romantic. Confident that a full lifetime lies ahead. Confident that my full head of hair will always be full. I like feeling like that.
Sometimes–especially since I teach in a community college–I have some students who have been out of high school for a while. With them, I feel exactly like I felt in my twenties: strong bones, strong muscles, ready to run life’s marathons, and ready to make lots of moves– career or otherwise. I like feeling like that, too.
Sometimes, my students are in their thirties, and, around them, I feel just as I felt then: hitting some high notes in my career; thinking about settling down. Or maybe they’re in their forties, making me feel as I felt then: climbing toward career peaks; reaching financial security; discovering the power of progressive lenses.
Hopefully, you’re getting my point. I see myself pretty much the same age as those with whom I interact.
Dare I tell you the truth? Of course, I will. I always do. I interact with me more than I interact with anyone else in the entire world. And in those interactions, I feel just as I felt when I was 27. Unstoppable. I feel that way, that is, until I walk past a mirror. I hate mirrors because they shatter the unreality of my 27-year old self. I do not blush at all to tell you that I have considered removing all the mirrors in my home, but if I did, how on earth would I manage to comb the hair (that I have less and less of) or check to see that all the wispy strands (that I have more and more of) are in place?
But let me bring me and you back to my point before you and I both drift off to parts unknown.
I like the fact that I am an Age Chameleon. I think that it might be a blessing in disguise.
It gives me the best of all the ages. Potential. Hope. Vitality. Playfulness. Imagination. Ingenuity. Passion. Enterprise. Contemplation.
Toss in to that fantabulous mix two more things. Benevolence. Wisdom.
I don’t mind at all that I am not aware of my age and that it doesn’t matter to me.
Here’s the way I see it. As I work at wrapping my head around age, maybe–just maybe–I’ll end up wrapping my head around life.