The New Fifty -- 10/07/03

There was an article on the "Lifebeat" section of this morning's Providence Journal (Lifebeat = arts & leisure, gossip & entertainment "news" and, of course, the best part, the funnies page) called "The Big 3-0." (Since it was a syndicated piece -- Knight-Ridder -- it may show up in your local paper.)

Unlike the 60's -- when the slogan "Never trust anyone over 30!" was being screamed on college campuses from coast to coast, turning thirty is now considered to be a good thing.

According to the article "Now 30 is the new 21 or 22. It's the threshold of becoming an adult."

Hmmph. My thirtieth birthday was marked by receiving the final paper work attesting that the New York State judicial system had approved the divorce ending my first marriage. It seemed to me that I had been functioning in the adult world for many years, working, paying taxes, being a husband and father, it almost seemed as if the threshold of adulthood had been so many years in the past I could scarcely recall when I had stepped across it.

It appears that it is now okay for life to still be in flux at age thirty. Thank you, experts and analysts. When I was twenty-nine I dropped out of a Ph.D. program and became an insurance salesman, got divorced the next year, then left insurance sales and, after a period in commercial and industrial security (i.e., as a rent-a-cop), I returned to high school teaching, before going back to grad school to get a master's degree in systems science, working as a computer operator and then as a programmer/analyst. Apparently, according to the experts cited in this article, this kind of life change is a normal and accepted thing now. I guess it never happened in the past; I must have been imagining things. I probably signed up for a corporate job upon graduating from college and have just been plowing the same furrough ever since, unlike the hip new younger generation. Thank you, experts, for enlightening me.

The author quotes another expert, a professor of "human development," as saying "This generation is different. This is a new phenomenon. Things have changed dramatically in the past 30 years." Naturally, the good prof has a name for this -- "emerging adulthood" -- and, surprise, surprise, has a book due out next year called Emerging Adulthood; The Winding Road From the Late Teens Through the Twenties.

This is all backed up by scientific statistics (yes, I know, three degrees of falsehood: white lies, damned lies, and statistics) that show that in 1970 men usually married at 23 and women at 21 but now its 27 and 25. (Hmmm, yes, I realize that is only a four year difference, but apparently to a social scientist four years is as good as a decade.)

Either that expert or a different one (described as an "author, relationship expert and psychology professor") -- the author of the article is not quite clear in his attribution for this statement -- "Age 30 is now when most Americans feel they've reached adulthood." (No, there is no survey cited to support this; in fact, the only genuine statistic cited -- other than the one about age at first marriage -- is that apparently sales of age 30 birthday cards have not dropped even though birthrates in the 1970-73 time frame were down 16% from the baby boom peak.)

Anyway, the point of this entry is that one of these experts is also quoted as saying "Thirty is the new 20, but also 50 is the new 40."

Okay, so thirty is the new twenty and fifty is the new forty....

Does that mean that sixty is the new fifty?

Yippeee! The calendar says I'm sixty, but sixty is really the new fifty!

(Uh, what do you mean, so what, fifty is still old... No it's not! Look, if you don't believe me just look at the Baby Boomers, they're coming along just a few years behind me and they've already established that fifty is merely middle-aged. So I'm just moving into the middle part of being middle-aged... and, yes, damnit, I intend to stay middle aged. Maybe seventy is just the new sixty?)

(Okay, who's the wiseass who called out "It all Depends?")

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