MANKATO — There’s a new store in a local mall called rue21, a clothing shop for teens and thereabouts.
According to the chain’s marketing puffery, the store is so-named because 21 is “the age that everyone wants to be!”
Not that 21 is a bad age. Far from it. It’s just that every valid study and survey that’s asked the question “What’s the best age to be?” has found otherwise.
Oh, sure, if you poll a bunch of 16-year-olds, they’ll go for 21 the way a Rottweiler goes for raw chuck. At that age, age is relative, and 21 is a teen’s holy grail of numerology, for reasons that give parents great pause.
But here’s the deal: In asking these “best age” questions it does no good to ask it of anyone much under 60, because if ever a question required a rear-view perspective, this is it.
That said, people of all ages love to weigh in on this topic because it gives them a chance to link certain ages to personal ideals.
A lot of people say infancy is the best age because you’re expected to do nothing more than eat, sleep and lay still for grandpa’s Nikon.
People who say this have likely found maturity to be either disappointing or elusive. Either way, they have issues.
Other people say 18 is the best age, man, because that’s when you get, like, rights and stuff and you’re away from the ’rents at college and you can stay up until 5 a.m. and eat all the pizza you want and get all wasted if you can keep that dude down the hall from bogarting all your stash.
These people demonstrate why this question should never be asked of anyone who’s, like, 18.
Still others say the best age is the “golden years,” when retirement, grandkids and a spouse who’s still breathing combine to form a warm little robin’s nest of bliss.
Oops, these people are confusing “best age” with late-night TV infomercials for supplemental health insurance.
Actually, surveys of all-ages of adults uniformly settle on a “best age” of around 35, give or take, which sounds dead-on.
In that 35-40 period you’re most likely to have bought a house, found a partner, discovered the joys of no more diapers and car seats, settled into your career, still possess youthful vitality, re-examined your “need” to keep up with the Joneses, and are still able, if you squint hard enough into the mirror, to see the kid in you.
And you’re also able to take pleasure in the thought that yelling, “Hey, get off my lawn!” is still about 25 years down the road.
Brian Ojanpa is a Free Press staff writer. Call him at 344-6316 or email email@example.com.