Wednesday, August 22, 2018

It shouldn't be a curse to grow old in America.

Psychology Today's online blog had an interesting article they posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2018. It was called, "Challenging Youth Culture: The Problem of the Puer Aeternus (eternal youth)," and you can read the whole thing HERE. It's part of a continuing series of articles that are examining "Failure to Launch," which is a phenomenon that is seeing people ages 21-34 (mostly male) still living at home well into adulthood. The article does acknowledge that there are economic factors at play that have impacted an entire generation's ability to move into full adulthood. However, it argues that this is a small part of a bigger movement that started in the 1960's counter-culture that's had a lasting effect on American society.

One such factor has been the emphasis on youth, with the ages between 18 and 25 being viewed favorably as the peak of a person's life and then the rest is just one long decline.

Another, is the unwillingness to commit in order to keep all options open. People are avoiding committed relationships, career preparation, and schooling all because they want to have as many possibilities in life as they can. Only these things I mentioned are ones that teach the value of day-to-day effort and perseverance...skills a lot of people nowadays do not seem to have. The biggest travesty that I have witnessed with my own eyes comes from people who are hitting 40 and their mid-40's and suddenly experience anxiety and depression because they spent their entire youth partying, doing drugs, having multiple partners/falling in love, and engaging in thousands of sexcapades. In order to make time for all of this, what suffered was working on their education or their careers--what I call "the boring stuff."  They realize in less than a decade that they can qualify for AARP membership, and yet they still work at McDonald's or Pizza Hut. However, some of their friends who didn't make these choices are now in successful careers, and the jealousy and fear start to set in.

A third factor has been adults eschewing the role of mentor and authority figure for one where they are friends and buddies with their children, with their students, and with their employees. Mentoring has been pushed to the back-burner and is rarely celebrated if ever, while friendships, and activities with friends are posted all over Facebook and Instagram. It's one way someone can become "internet famous."

The article finally concludes with a simple sentence: "The cult of youth has become toxic and is impacting on our society as a whole." Would you agree with this statement, given all the things written above? I know that I agree with it, I'm just not sure there's a ready fix for all the "Peter Pans" that I'm surrounded by on a continuous basis.

And regarding "Peter Pan's"'s also weird.

It's a strange thing to be told by a 42-year-old man that he cannot watch Deadpool because he's not supposed to watch R-rated movies. It's another strange thing to watch a 38-year-old man seize his steering wheel in the Chuck-A-Rama parking lot like a child driving a bumper car, and move slowly around behind a group of friends making like he's going to run them down (all because it seems funny). It's a funny thing to see middle-aged (35) year-old men wearing skin tight jeans with holes ripped in them, and shirts covered in words and pictures of skeletons in cool poses that are tight enough you can see their nipples and belly buttons. Or if I'm going to turn the table and pick on women, middle-aged women wearing tube tops and/or tank tops. It's weird and strange and seems odd. So yeah...I think there's a problem. Especially when people literally bankrupt themselves for plastic surgery bills in order to stay young-looking (and this doesn't always work out very well). Surgery is traumatic people. It's okay to have wrinkles and gray hair. The only caveat is that Americans don't like to have sex with old people (so yes, there is that). But they'll "friend" you, which (I admit) is not enough for most people. So yeah, unfortunately embracing your natural aging process is (for most of us) also learning to accept that sexual options are drying up. It's a sad sad thing I guess. Not for me, per se, but I've always been a bit different.

Honestly, I can say with great clarity that I've never been happier in my life. Each new year is consistently better than the last. But I also never found a partner to journey through life with, so maybe there's a lesson to be had here: Mike didn't "play the game of youth" and decided to grow up so Mike must be okay with being alone. Maybe that's true, but even knowing the truth doesn't make me regret the fact that I'm headed for old age someday and looking forward to it, whether or not there's someone there to talk to. But it does make me feel sorry for others out there who made the same choice and aren't quite as adapt at being an adult who lives alone. It shouldn't be a curse to be a grown adult in our society. It shouldn't be a curse to grow old in America. 


  1. The idea of leaving the nest is really a recent development. It was mostly a post war development.

  2. Interesting lessons of our and previous generations.

  3. I'm very glad you're at such a happy point in your life, Mike. Your stories of grown men acting like kids really struck me. From my female standpoint, I can say I know a lot of mature women who act mature, but what any woman faces in our society is to look young forever, and that's impossible. And women who don't look young can be invisible.

    1. Helena, when you say that many women who don't look young can be invisible, I'm kind of wondering what you mean. It's been my observation that people who are not sexually desirable anymore use the word "invisible" to describe themselves. Just to be clear, I'm not making a judgment here, but I am wondering if our society values "sexual desirability" too much. Why do men or women "need" to feel sexually desirable. Is it possible to live a fulfilling life when your body disgusts people or causes them to be indifferent or ignore that body? Whatever body a person inhabits doesn't change their personality or their brain or the words coming out of their mouths. This is something that seems incredibly powerful to me, yet no one ever wants to teach it in school or to admit it (as if there's a secret shame). Why aren't children raised with the knowledge and fact that society will treat you like garbage or ignore you if you aren't sexually desirable? Anyway...these are just thoughts I have. But if a truth IS a truth, I think we should all speak it and be either condemned or celebrated for pointing out that truth. For example, maybe if it was known that if a person didn't get the lucky straw and was born in a sexually undesirable body, they could qualify for lifetime disability benefits and get monetary compensation for having drawn a shitty lot in life. "I'm sorry this happened to you, here's $1,000 a month for the rest of your life. Maybe you can buy something to make you happy because you're never going to have sex or be desired." That kind of thing.

  4. I have thought about this too. Our society seems to find young people more interesting because they're about the future. They can still have children and/or careers. Old people tend to be about the past. They lived their lives and not much is going to change. I only recently started to feel middle-aged because my kids are young adults now. They are out and about. I don't see them nearly as much. That has been the hard part for me.