Monday, February 9, 2009

Too Young to be Ageist?

I recently went to my usual dental practice, but for an appointment with a new partner in the practice who I’d never met. So I’m sprawled in the chair, waiting, and this gorgeous, grinning guy walks in, who looks to me like a frat boy, one of my younger brother’s friends. My first thought was: This is the professional who’s going to drill my teeth? My second thought was: Can’t be. He’s too young to be a dentist.

My third thought was mortal embarrassment. His diploma was hanging on the wall in front of me. Clearly he’s qualified. So what’s my problem? Have I suddenly gotten old? I’m not one of those people who think young people are less accomplished. In fact, I often take umbrage when people qualify my own achievements with “for someone your age.”

I’ve always considered myself to be a young person. I moved ahead a grade in elementary school, so I was always at least a year younger than my classmates. Even today, most of my friends are older than I am – some quite significantly so – but we get along fine. I tend to pride myself on having accomplished relatively a lot in my “young” adulthood, but have I already crossed over into plain old adulthood? I’m still a couple years away from thirty, but I’m living a grown-up life that isn’t likely to change much for a while. Still, there are days when I feel like I’m playing house and sooner or later summer vacation will come along and I’ll get to go home to my mommy.

I wonder about the line between young and old. When do you cross it, and how do you know? Is it just in how you feel? How you act? How others see you? Or is it a combination of these things that give your age a certain meaning?

I have no idea how old my dentist is; I couldn’t bring myself to ask. It doesn’t even matter. It was simply shocking to me that I even began to wonder.

How old do you feel?

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