Critical Thinking as Purposeful Questions

Act Your Age.jpg

1. What motivates someone to want someone else to act a particular age?

2. Is there some lurking danger that awaits those who act differently from the norms for their age?

3. Is this expectation simply another bow toward worshiping "what is natural"??

On an absurd level, it is probably best for a 50 year old not to go to a beach clothed only in a diaper even though it is perfectly acceptable for a baby. Similarly, we should look askance at a 6 year old who practices foot surgery on his sleeping mom. Those people should act their age.

But it is a mystery to me why this advice is given regularly to those who disrupt the expectation that a 30 year old should act and dress as do typical 30 year olds, or that an 80 year old should just look old, dingy and tired.

I can understand if the advice were linked to impending dangers that threaten the well-being of the person acting contrary to her or his age. I can understand if the advice were linked to resultant social decay or reckless endangerment of others. But when I hear the advice being dispensed, no such link is made. Rather there is a sneering, dismissive quality to the advice. And maybe I have just been around aberrant people, but I have not heard any reasoning offered to sustain the advice.

What is the person who delivers this unrequested advice thinking and why? Is the advice stemming from a focus on order such that the disorder of being different creates fear and anger?  Being very charitable, I could imagine someone's giving the advice because as a developmental stage theorist, the advice giver presumes that each stage has an important function and should not be skipped nor repeated. Is the advice part of our financial fetish such that we translate every behavior into a factor that affects the ability of the actor to make money?

Could those who give this advice be frightened by the implied freedom of each of us to question norms and consequently to obey them if and when they make sense, but rarely otherwise? Is the advice based on envy? In other words, if an 80 year old giggles often or a 10 year old insists on talking to adults about the historical struggle among those who claim Jerusalem as their property, are some angry that they will probably not have nor did they have such experiences?

1. Are there positive motivations for the advice to which I seem to be blind?

2. Does the existence of the norms for particular chronological ages suggest some positive basis for their prescriptive worth?

AuthorM Neil Browne