Monday, January 28, 2013

Age is Relative

I already knew our perception of age is relative. When you're five, a 16-year-old is practically as old as your parents. When you're thirty, that same 16-year-old may seem like barely more than a tiny child.

I also knew age differences are relative. An eight-year difference is huge between a 12-year-old and a 20-year-old. But between people who are 72 and 80? Not so much.

Here's a new one I just noticed, though. The context and timing of when I met a person affects how I think of their relative age from then on. A 24-year-old I met fairly recently will fall into my mental category of "around my age." (I know they're younger than I am. I said "around.") They're definitely adults.

Then there are the people I taught my first year. They're all around 24 now. But when I taught them—when I met them—they were 8th graders. (That means they were 13- to 14-year-olds.) Those are forever stuck in my category of "definitely younger than I am."

It doesn't mean I treat them like kids when I see them now. On the contrary, I've reconnected with a couple and definitely see them as adults I can treat as equals. But they are younger.

Similarly, people who were already adults when I met them as a little kid are solidly "older." But I could meet someone that same age—say, pushing 50—right now and they still might fall into the "around my age" category.

It's all about context.

Not like it's a big deal, but one of the weird things about perception.

Lynn Phillips should be happy. This means she's forever young. At least to me.

1 comment:

Robin Breyer said...

So true! Great post. The only thing I have to say is the the age you feel also has a bearing on it as well. I've rarely gotten along with people my own age. Usually they are younger or older. I guess because I have never felt the age my calendar age marks me at.