“Except for the error of measuring and limiting all that is good and beautiful, man would enjoy more than threescore years and ten and still maintain his vigor, freshness, and promise.”
— Mary Baker Eddy

I don’t pay attention to birthdays or discuss my age much, because I’m generally inclined to take Mrs. Eddy’s advice and maintain my “vigor, freshness, and promise” without regard to dates on a calendar.

Last night, I ran across one of those Facebook memes where you click “Like” on somebody’s post, and they give you a number, and you have to answer a series of questions about where you were at that age, then answer the same questions as they apply to you at your current age. I don’t usually click on age-based memes, but this one appealed to me as an opportunity to reflect on growth and experience.

I have always understood age in strictly experiential terms. I’m only interested in people’s age to the extent that it helps me extrapolate whether they were around for a particular historical event. If you’re a Baby Boomer, I want to know your thoughts on Vietnam, Watergate, and Dylan’s decision to go electric. If you’re older than the Boomers, I want you to tell me what it was like to watch Jackie Robinson on the basepaths. I need to know these things.

Left to my own devices, I’d establish a new system for expressing age. Instead of basing it on the amount of time that has elapsed since someone’s birth — which has a tendency to “measure and limit” — I’d base it on cultural experience, which prompts conversations about shared experiences.

How old am I?

I have a near-Pavlovian response to the Cheers theme song.
I conjure up images of British ice skaters when I hear Ravel’s “Bolero.”
I watched the Sandberg Game.
I think Sesame Street was better before Elmo moved in.
I feel warm and fuzzy inside when I hear the sound of an Apple IIe computer firing up.

Try measuring your age in terms of pop culture rather than years. How does your pop-culture age influence who you are today?


2 thoughts on “Measuring”

  1. I remember being terrified of the end of the world when Russia put nuclear warheads on missiles in Cuba. I remember the end of my childhood that happened abruptly one afternoon in November in 1963. I remember a very brave woman who refused to move to the back of the bus she was riding on. I remember the pitiful image of naked child running down a road in Southeast Asia, trying to escape the napalm that was burning her. I remember hippies placing flowers in the barrels of guns held by soldiers. I remember the total package of pride, wonder, and awe that I felt while watching a man in a spacesuit descending on a ladder to set his foot on the surface of the moon. I remember watching a black woman who had 21 brothers and sisters and had lived through a bout with polio take 3 gold olympic medals and be declared the fastest woman in the world.

  2. A popular show when I was a kid featured a vigilant teen with a brick cell phone, bright colour shirts and tapered jeans causing chaos at his high school. That and of course another show where the girl everyone loved was named “Topanga” lol.

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