For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. (1Cor 13:9-10)
I remember what it was like as a boy, starting right about the fifth or sixth grade. There were all the usual changes, to the body, to emotions, and so on. The metamorphosis known as puberty was underway. It was the height of the "Carnaby Street" look, the transition from mods and rockers of the "British invasion," to the Haight-Asbury look of "California Dreamin'" (a nefarious influence from which my family was safely insulated, but that's another story). But beyond the whims of fashion, our age group formed a subset of its own, one that was comfortable neither with children nor adults.
When did adulthood happen? When adolescence ended. In fact, by the time I was nineteen, my maternal cousins divided into two groups at family reunions. There were the ones my age who were already married or at least hooked up (and no, I wasn't), and the pre-teens who thought I was already over the hill and wanted nothing to do with me. That was when I heard a voice say, today you are a man, my son.
I responded, to hell with all this, and didn't return to family reunions for seven years.
But there was an upside. I discovered that, when it came to the company we keep, and the friends we make, age is irrelevant in real life. That has never changed. The generation that came after me is another story.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. (1Cor 13:11)
There have been plenty of magazine and newspaper articles, to say nothing of their equivalents online, about the prolonging of adolescence. It is more than college graduates moving back in with their parents because they can't find a job. There is also an alleged trend of men playing video games well into their twenties instead of trying to meet women, or some such thing.
If you review the Catholic book market this year, you will find books coming out written by single women, on trying to find a man, on being content with the single life while not admitting you're trying to find a man, on what to do with a man once you find him, and so on. There are no such books for men. Maybe we're too busy playing video games to read books. (Actually, it's something else, another subject for another day.) In my parish work, I meet many young men and women well into their twenties. It seems the traditional form of the Roman Mass is very popular with them. (Who knew?) Sometimes when I approach them for conversation, especially if it's a mixed crowd, they will, and only for a moment, give me that look, the same look they would give were they still in junior high. They could be married. One of them could have a babe in arms. It wouldn't matter. Their first instinct is hardwired into their DNA: I'm one of ... THEM.
We of the "baby boomer" generation grew up not wanting to be like our parents. We were going to be so open and honest about sex. We raised a generation of children who don't want to be like us, whose parents would have rather the schools talk to them about sex. They want to grow up. They want to stay where they are. They want to be in their mid-twenties forever, when life is all about new discoveries, new transitions, and no parents telling them what to do, unless they have to move back in with them.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. (1Cor 13:12)
There is so much I want to tell them when they give me that look. Then again, maybe I should just ask them ...
“What the hell are you looking at?”
... and they might have an answer.
IMAGE ABOVE: At a farmhouse in Brown County, Ohio, in the summer of 1973. The author is at the bottom row, second from the right. From the Rosselot Family Archives.