Sunday, March 13, 2016

Age Switch

Through all my school years I was always the youngest in my group. There were six of us at the core of a group of hard-thinking, drawling high school dudes you could find smoking cigarettes in the balcony of one of the local movie houses any Friday night.
It was only a matter of four months from the next-youngest’s birthday, his July to my November, but in that gap I could claim to be nominally a whole year younger than my peers. Later, at work. I was often younger than many of  my co-workers.   It created a particular mindset.
I don’t remember it happening, but somewhere along the line the poles reversed and I became the oldest in almost any group. (I have to say “almost” because when you live in a senior community as I do now there’s always someone older. Almost always.)
The fascinating thing is that the mindset persists. I don’t feel older than people younger than I am. True, some of their vocabulary and all of their digital-speak is a foreign language, but get beyond that and we can communicate just fine. A single case is anecdotal, though; some scientist ought to do a study on it. Follow the junior members of groups from high school onward to see if that early experience colors their outlook in later life. Maybe do the same thing for the oldest; see if it works in reverse.  
There may be something there akin to the relationships of siblings. I’ve read where there’s a “middle child syndrome.” The middle child often feels ignored; the firstborn’s place is secure and the youngest in the family gets the attention. You can’t pick your spot in that case, but is there an opportunity here to do some social engineering? Make sure your child, especially if a middle child, joins a group in which everyone is older than he or she is? Not disproportionately older; a few months is all it takes.
If it’s still working for me after this many years, maybe there’s something to it.       It doesn’t change things at home -- you’re still in the middle -- but out in the world, you’re the youngest. Even when  you’re old.