It's a Friday night, and your squad is diligently making your phone ping its screen off with wild Whatsapp group-sired plans. "Let's go to that new rooftap bar in The Village? It's ladies night!" "Sounds good. And then we can after at that place with the super-hot D'n'B DJ?" "Ooh, yeah! I hear that goes on till 5am—and then you can all come chill at mine?"
While the night on the docket should seem indubitably appealing to a twenty-something like yourself, the words being flung around with casual abandon like 'pre-game' and 'after-party' are only filling you with impending dread. You're far too afraid to suggest a quiet dinner at a place you like, because they'll slam with the same citation they did the last time you ventured to speak forth. "Oh my God, could you stop acting like you're 70?!"
You are not alone, sister-friend.
It's not the first (or last) time someone's been called out for not 'acting their age'. We're familiar with the flipside of this circumstance good and proper—women have been told they're too old to go out to a certain kind of place or wear certain kinds of clothes after a point in the lifetime graph.
A survey in Britain on retiresavvy.co.uk even put numbers on it—no skinny jeans and bikinis past 46, no selfies after 34, no crossing the Cinderella midnight timer past 52...We were all appropriately outraged, and quick to defy the ludicrous palisades this put forth—but it raised the interesting question of whether 'acting your age' has an equally claustrophobic effect on the folks on the 'happier' side of the age-line.
Shibani, 23, feels the same degree of pressure when she responds to questions about after-work plans with 'stay home, watch TV and hang out with my dog.' "I have colleagues constantly volunteering suggestions, like 'I'm meeting some friends for drinks, why don't you come along?' or reprimanding me, saying 'You're single! Go out! You can watch a show any old time.' People don't realise I'm not lonely, or in need of company. I'm just not fond of going out every night—I'm tired after work most days, but I feel guilty—like I shouldn't be—because my co-workers do the same kind of work I do, and they're always inclined to," she says.
The issue, however, doesn't only extend to wild nights out. 'Feeling too old for your body' is in the top 20 trending subjects on reddit.com, and one of the most frequented groups on theexperienceproject.com is called 'Am Young But I Feel Old'. Both websites have a gazillion posts by people who claim they can't live up to the expectations their age brings, because they "prefer music from the '70's to the 'current stuff'" or "would much rather drink a whiskey and water over a jaegerbomb."
It was exactly this idea of 'young' and 'old' preferences and activities that was explored in a study by May, Hasher, & Stoltzfus. The study stated that a majority of older people worked and thought better in the morning, whereas younger people had a higher tendency to have intellectually productive evenings. This automatically syncs up to the idea that 'night-time is for the young', and the people in the age bracket that fit it ought to operate best when the sun goes down.
The study also found that younger people had a higher degree of flexible intelligence (learning and adapting to new things), over older people, who scored far better on crystallised intelligence (better vocabulary, more specialised knowledge, et al). This fact often finds it's way into youth being synonymous with technology and social media.
"I'm not on any form of social media—a decision I constantly have to defend to my social circle, simply because 'everyone my age is'." says Vinita, 26. "They all use it to communicate, share work and photos, and stay in contact with each other, and my lack of desire to be on it has earned me a group nickname of 'Granny V'. It's as if not being on social media means I'm a traitor to my generation, and it automatically makes me the community leper."
The shaming is terribly depressing—but it does make one ponder why exactly a young person tends to feel, well, not. A collective of British psychologists think they have the answer, that it's a strong offshoot of the 'quarterlife crisis'. While the phrase has been toyed with for years, it was only recently proven with empirical data by Dr Oliver Robinson of the University of Greenwich, London, and a team of Birkbeck College researchers.
"Quarterlife crises are most likely to happen a quarter of your way into adulthood, somewhere in between 25 and 35," Robinson tells us, and Damian Barr, author of Get it Together: A Guide to Surviving Your Quarterlife Crisis, agrees. "Being twenty-something now is scary—fighting millions of other graduates for your first job, struggling to buy a house and juggling all your relationships. It's the twenty-somethings that feel the brunt of it that tend to feel much older, because they feel a greater sense of responsibility," Barr says.
But chin up, quarterlife club! The silver lining is worth the brewing-storm feeling. "The feeling of being trapped leads to being a catalyst for change—it's the fourth phase of the quarterlife process. It leads to a reassessment and fresh cementing of commitments that helps a person build the kind of life they aspire to." So, the next time you're shamed for not drinking, dancing or Instagramming enough, remember the good scientists that said you were probably going to win at life instead.