A confession about my perception of age

I went shopping on Saturday and saw the usual sign at the cash register that told you how old you had to be to buy cigarettes and alcohol. I don’t normally pay attention to the date, mostly because I’m clearly old enough to be buying such things. (Though I would never buy cigarettes. Ew.) On Saturday I noticed the date. 1990. People born in 1990 are turning 21 this year. I don’t know why, but for some reason, people born in the 90s feel so much younger than me even if they’re only a few years younger. Take for example many of this year’s soon-to-be college seniors, among them one of my long-time neighbors. They were first-years when I was a senior, and some of them seemed so much younger than me, even though they were only three years younger. A lot of them are turning 21 this year or already have. They can legally buy and drink alcohol in the US. All these people I thought of as little kids aren’t so little anymore. What is this?

The strange part behind this is that my brother is only a year older than these people, but I don’t think of him as that little at all, nor do I think of people his age as little or young. But something happens in that transition from the 1989 birth to the 1990 birth. Something that makes people seem incredibly young. Maybe I still think I’m in third grade and these folks are still supposed to be in kindergarten, a time where a three-year age different was a huge deal. Really, this was a time when being in middle school made someone seem ancient. Or maybe it’s the fact that they were born during the decade that my brain has marked as being so great, and they missed out on the first half of it just because they were born too late. Not that I remember most of the first half, but knowing that these kids can’t remember the first half thanks to the limits of human memory is probably what makes my brain think the way it does.

Is this normal? Does this go away with time? Will I find myself in shock when people born in 2000 turn into adults? This will be more of a shock for me because my youngest cousin will be among them and because those kids will have grown up glued to technology. Nah, I think the first shock will be when they start hitting the Internet. Kids born in 2000 can legally sign up for most sites without parental permission in 2013 (holy crap), but surely some of them are lying about their ages now.

You know what? I don’t want to think about that.

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