The generation that brought you Friends, who embody extended adolescence in every way, are now seeking to eliminate the label of of middle age.
Patricia Cohen, New York Times reporter and author of another new study of ageing, In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age, might not be overly sympathetic to Berkmann’s plight. The mid-life crisis, she suggests, is a marketing trick designed to sell cosmetics, cars and expensive foreign holidays; people in their 20s and 30s are far more vulnerable to such a crisis than their parents. Cohen finds little evidence for so-called “empty nest syndrome”, or for the widespread stereotype of the rich man with the young “trophy wife”.
These are my people. I get it. We are fast-approaching our 40s or now ungracefully fighting our 40s by voluntarily putting ourselves through bootcamp-worthy physical pain with names like Insanity and Crossfit. We are middle-age but desire to see ourselves as young, hip, and virile.
Last year, I reconnected with a high school friend via Facebook. As we caught up on life she was shocked that I married at 21 years old and had kids at 25. She said, “I’m 35 and I have a hard time keeping a gold fish alive, I’m not ready for marriage or children yet.” As we got to know one another I couldn’t help thinking… What went wrong here? Why did some of us take on adult responsibilities in our late teens and early 20s and others didn’t? Was I more mature than my peers? (Um, maybe in some ways?!?)
It’s normal that each generation would morph and change things a bit. But I find it interesting that my peers reshaped adolescence, extending it through our 20s and into our 30s to the point that we now call it emerging adulthood and these same people are now denying the existence of middle age, as if this stage of life were not the middle of our lives. Those ahead of us, our Baby Boomer parents, have lead the way. With their tummy tucks, cougars, and second careers, they could be named Generation Denial.
Here’s what I know. If my generational peers don’t step up to the plate and embrace who they are… our kids will rename us into what we really are, Generation Regret.