WELL, HOW OLD ARE YOU???

That's the first thing they all wanna know, how old I am. So they can know how to treat me. So they know what category to throw me into. So they can find out if I'm in the under thirty crowd and therefore knowledgeable about very little besides drinking and sleeping around.

That probably sounds very jaded and fairly stupid. I assure you I don't really think like that about everyone who asks me how old I am. It's just that in my experience talking to folks ten or so years older than I, it's amazing how rarely I get taken seriously. I've actually had a chat encounter in which my conversation partner called me "stubborn" and "hard-headed" before he knew my age, but then later called me "an impudent child" for the same offenses when he found out I was thirteen years his junior. So basically, a person is a whiny little baby if he or she is under a certain age, while if the same arguments come from someone closer to a person's own age, they somehow carry more weight . . . Right . . .

And on the other side of the fence, people my age and younger have their hang-ups too. Because I talk somewhat intelligently in normal conversation, people who can't see my face often assume I'm years older than I am. I had one guy change his tune when he found out my age. I was lecturing him for rude behavior (he'd called some girl a bitch in a chat room and was making fun of her), and he said he only acts like a jerk online, but that "in real life" he is charming and suave. He said, "You'd let your daughter date me." I assumed at that point that he figured I was a mother or teacher type since I was annoyed at his childish behavior, and when I told him my age he immediately began asking, "do u have a pic?"

People base too much on age! Age says something about your development, sometimes, but you can't assume a whole lot, especially after a certain point. My sister Lindsay and my friend Mark are within a year of each other. I can have a sustained conversation with Mark about my books, quantum physics (sort of), music theory, life, God . . . but with my sister Lindsay, I ask her how her day went and she says, "It was gay." Not that she *couldn't* talk about quantum physics if she wanted to, but as you can see the two people have very different levels of interest in communication. Also, I've seen my peers and those in the twenty-something crowd act like complete fools at times, spending most of their time, money, and energy on getting drunk, partying, and finding a mate. I would be seriously pissed if someone assumed that is what I am like simply because I am a twenty-something (as of this writing, I am twenty-three).

But again, I'm probably just whining about how the world SHOULD be again, so maybe I'll go bang my head against the wall in order to stop thinking about it.


I'm also adding, after reading Jennifer's addition, that I'm mainly talking about meeting people online. I have seriously been told "Aww, you're just a baby!" by people who have taken me perfectly seriously until my age is revealed. This does not happen in face-to-face communication because the types of people that wouldn't think me worthy of a conversation because of my age wouldn't even think to start one with someone who looks as young as I do. As an added bonus, I look about seventeen as I slowly approach twenty-five . . .

Much of our relationships (be it romantic or platonic) online revolve around how much we can relate to another person. Similarities are a foundation of relationships. Similarities take the form of culture, upbringing, family situations... and age.

Off of the top of my head, take a look at the song The Babysitter's Here by Dar Williams (who is in her early 30s).

Tonight was just great, she taught us the sign for peace
...
She sits on her hair and she's tall as my dad
And she tie-dyed my shirt, and she pierced her own ear
And it's peace man, cool yah, the babysitter's here
...
He wears an American flag on the butt of his ripped up pants
The images in that song will be instantly recognizable by anyone who was born in the 60s, and especially if you can remember the Summer of Love, even as a young child. There are some ideas there that I just can't relate to - my babysitter never said 'peace man'. While my parents were married under a peace flag, it just doesn't hold the same symbolism for me as it did for people who were born earlier - I can't relate to them as much.

Another song that pops into my head is Leningrad by Billy Joel.

I was born in '49,a Cold War kid in McCarthy time
Stop 'em at the 38th Parallel, blast those yellow reds to hell
Cold War kids were hard to kill under their desks in an air raid drill
These are images from a time well before mine, and I only have glimpses into the emotions and thoughts of that time through the media - I have no actual recollections of that time myself.

Likewise, there are people who can't relate to the images of my youth. Cosmos on PBS - the music still makes me think of it. Meanwhile, my little sister finds the music 'cool' but it doesn't stir up any memories of her youth. And I am certain that there are memories hiding in people many years my senior that don't touch me as strongly as they do to others.

Billy Joel is an excellent source of historical images - just look at We Didn't Start the Fire, and ask yourself at what line of the song do you start recognizing images from your own life? No, don't answer that here - just think about it.

While it is certainly possible for relationships to span the decades, it is far easier to have a relationship with someone who you can relate to - who has lived through similar things... who is a similar age.

For the record, I'm 27 (28 29 30 now (ack - have to keep updating this node)).

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