I bet you know just what I mean when I ask if you’re a “tweenager.” It’s those times in life when we leave one life stage and begin to move on to another. Remember when you were 12? The marketers called you a tween—no longer a child but not quite a teenager either. For most of us, those were our awkward years, with a desperate need to discover ourselves.

As we grow older, we learn that tweenism exists at any age.

A quiz from Reductress, the satiric news site for women, asks 20-somethings, “Are you in a quarter-life crisis?” These women are tweens, caught between being a respectable 30 and a whimsical 20.

We can all take heart from the Reductress wisdom, in-your-face editorial style notwithstanding.

They state, “We’re not going to sugarcoat this. You’re going through some sh…t. What am I doing with my life, type of sh…t. …This looks like a 100% quarter-life crisis to us. Don’t worry it will get better. We promise.”

Folks in their 60s are also tweenagers, and it will get better, “we promise.”

Recently, a 68-year-old friend told me, “I’m still working and have two kids in college. I don’t feel any different than I did in my 50s, but I am soon to be 70. Sometimes I feel out of place.”

I understand. I, too, had a daughter in college and was working in my 60s. I know what it means to be the “wrong age” for your life stage or the way you feel about yourself.

As 10,000 boomers turn 65 every day and still feel like they are in their 50s, tweenism is a common denominator. More of us at all ages are increasingly uncomfortable with dictated life stages. So why do we cling to them?

My 94-year-old philosopher friend has a theory. She says humans are all born into four constructs, which we desperately try to control.

  • Time
  • Space
  • Gravity
  • Change

As humans, we struggle most with the fourth—change.

We create a filing cabinet in which we organize stages of our life and then impose expectations to fill each slot. Childhood means school…graduation means work…young adulthood means marriage or relationship…then comes children, home ownership…job and career progression…retirement…aging…and gone.

That makes tweenism a human-made construct, not an immutable law of nature.

History proves this. In the Middle Ages, there was virtually no childhood. You were born…were dependent on your family for food and safety…and then by age 12, most people worked. In 1900, when one could not expect to live much past 47 on average, life stages were compressed. You left school younger…got married younger…had babies younger…and, of course, died younger. There hardly was old age.

Because of longevity, we recognize a new life stage called Gerotrancendance.

Until sociologist Erik Erickson gave it a name, this was simply being “very old.” Now there are expectations for the very old, as well. They must be philosophers, mentors, poets and artists. Gerotrancendance says we will eventually transcend the material and focus on our legacy. Heaven forbid if we just want to shop or go dancing.

Compare what’s expected of us to how we are living. Individuals are choosing to work for different periods, retire or be semi-retired at different ages and play different roles in the lives of their children and grandchildren. Society’s conformities are being defied, with a residue of confusion as we try to “benchmark” ourselves against its “shoulds.”

Consider this. If age doesn’t matter, you will never be a tween!  You will be who you are where you are. Since we can’t control change, we may as well be grateful for where we are at this moment while looking forward to where we are going.

My radio show Generation Bold begins with an excerpt from, a three-minute musical by a Broadway lyricist. Take time to enjoy it at I’m Inappropriate for My Age. The message is that every day, there are fewer and fewer things that are inappropriate because of age…even a rapping Granny.

Once you have change under control, you can tackle time, space and gravity.

Related Articles