End of youth?
November 20, 2007 5:24 AM   Subscribe

When was 'the end' of your youth?

A professor recently noted that a certain author's death marked 'the end of his youth,' and I found it perplexing. Is it just a turn of phrase? Can anyone think back to a moment that represented the end of your youth? I'd like to do some sociological research on this in the near future, but as a relatively young person I'm having difficulty with the concept. (Also, to avoid chatfilter, I'd appreciate any sociological resources, theories, or practices that are relevant).
posted by farishta to Grab Bag (72 answers total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
I've been waiting for youth to end my whole life. I've often looked at the people around me, trying to decide who had reached "maturity" and who was still basically the same as I am: responsible, but still in their youth. I still don't consider any of my peers "mature" (I'm 35), and I don't consider my 60 year old parents mature, either. It's only those folks two generations up that I consider to have reached some higher plane. And I don't know if they'd appreciate that characterization or not. :)

Youthfulness is a state of being not bound by years lived. It's a state of growth, development, vigor, freshness, vitality (all words taken from m-w.com).

On second thought, given those descriptors, I think my parents have reached maturity. But certainly none of my up-to-mid-40s peers.
posted by iguanapolitico at 5:47 AM on November 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

27: I took on a hitchhiker and he called me "sir". I realized then that I was on the other side. End of my youth.
posted by bru at 5:50 AM on November 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

I've had any number of youth-ending incidents - getting called "sir", various heroes (musical and otherwise) dying, having that "holy fuck" moment when you realize you're on your own, and if you want to waste a saturday eating Cheetos and masturbating you can.

But as iguanapolitico says above (incredibly well, by the way), it's a state of mind. And youthful vigor is something that can be regained.
posted by notsnot at 5:54 AM on November 20, 2007

I hope I die before I get old. (24)
posted by TheNewWazoo at 5:57 AM on November 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I was sort of the prototypical white kid...eagle scout, nice girlfriends, athlete, great grades, all that stuff. Then when I was a freshman in college (18 years old) I let a kid keep some stolen property in my dorm room. When he got busted he told them about the stuff in my room...and I went down. Nothing like finding out at 18 that all the stuff you never knew is now very, very important. That was definitely the end of my youth---HARD.
posted by TomMelee at 5:58 AM on November 20, 2007

I'd say that my childhood ended before it ever began according to Charles Horton Cooley's theory of the Looking-Glass Self. I never saw myself in my peers, and I consequently rarely took part in the behaviors of youth. I sped through college because I hated it and because I couldn't wait to be an "official" adult, because I had always felt like one. I was the type of serious child who once asked my parents if we should report a mouse in the elephant enclosure at the zoo. My parents fondly referred to me as their "Little Baptist Minister" because I so sternly adhered to a strict set of rules that I had somehow concocted in my infancy.
posted by greekphilosophy at 6:00 AM on November 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

When my dad died. I was 12, and in many ways had to grow up instantly during that time, and especially afterwords. Getting in trouble meant my mom took time off from work, which directly impacted her take home pay and thus what we ate and everything else. At the same time we didn't want to seem needy so there was a fair bit of keeping our chins up, and I remember deciding I needed a career decision very quickly to help bring money into the family. School became far more important too... enough that I made my way into Honors classes without the prereqs because I knew it'd effect my career choices.

Iguana has it right though. By the metrics above I grew up, but I'm still young in other aspects. I've won awards for "out of the box" thinking and my job depends on it. That box they're talking about is the preconceptions, mainly held by "adults", that limit people. I never got those... never paid much attention to them. So in that respect I'll always be young. The games are much harder though!
posted by jwells at 6:05 AM on November 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

IMO the end and beginning of life stages such as "youth" and "middle age" are all completely different for people. For instance, my Aunt acts like my great-great-great grandmother and my late great-uncle acted more like my brother. It's all about the life circumstances: namely your health.

My youth probably ended at age 10 with the passing of my father, but not in a "NOW I'm a Woman!" way, more in the "shit, life isn't all about riding my bike".
posted by janelikes at 6:05 AM on November 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I spent my post-adolescence trying to find people to look up to who had their shit together, who were 'mature,' and waiting for the day when I felt grown up. Then I saw the movie Matinee, which is entirely forgettable in many ways, except for a line John Goodman delivers, "You think grown-ups have it all figured out? That's just a hustle, kid. Grown-ups are making it up as they go along just like you. You remember that, and you'll do fine."

That helped a lot. But what really did the trick in terms of making me feel like a grown-up was the day I had health care benefits and started using them.
posted by kimota at 6:18 AM on November 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I can't think of a particular event in my own life. However, I think the phrase is closely related to the concept of "the end of innocence".

For more "end of youth" scenarios, you might want to look up the genre/concept of Bildungsroman.
posted by necessitas at 6:22 AM on November 20, 2007

I think I'm about halfway to the end.
posted by studentbaker at 6:26 AM on November 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

My youth ended at 31 with the birth of my first child. In the early 90's when pregnant with #2 I heard about raves that seemed just my kinda thing - but had to admit the dancing all night on drugs life was now closed to me.

Still one's tastes and outlook never have to change, but imho once you take on total responsibility for another person the blush of youth is behind you.

And Iguana, your sixtyish parents probably share with me the physicality of aging. I may look fairly young, engage the world in a youthful way, but oohhh the day after Lollapalooza when you have to put your feet up because ya just can't boogie all day anymore.
posted by readery at 6:30 AM on November 20, 2007

It was about a year ago. I was 36. My wife and I were in The Lego Store at our local mall looking for something for our four year old. I saw an amazing model of one of those two-legged walkers from Return of the Jedi. It was just so awesome. $80.00. Being an old Lego fan (and a recent one as well, now that my son plays with them) I thought this would look great on my desk. $80.00.

$80.00. I could afford it.

My wife saw the gleam in my eye and said “Why don’t you just get it for yourself?”

She rules, my wife.

$80.00. I could afford it. My wife was encouraging it. It was The Most Awesome Thing Ever. (at that particular moment.)

I walked away. It was neat. Had it existed I would have KILLED for it when I was about 13. But there was no way in hell I could justify spending $80.00 on a Lego set just because it was awesome.

As I walked out of the store I realized how responsible I’d become. I was both proud and kind of sad.

Last week I was in the same store and I saw the Millennium Falcon model. $500.00. Hmmmm.

Also, when I realized most of my doctors were younger than I was, that was sort of eye-opening.
posted by bondcliff at 6:33 AM on November 20, 2007 [9 favorites]

I was at Target, and a lady told her kid to come back and not bother "the nice man". That was it for me. Once you're called a man instead of a kid or guy.

Nthing being called "sir".
posted by reenum at 6:46 AM on November 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have a theory that adulthood comes if/when you stop feeling continuity between the present you and the child you. This has never happened for me, and I'm 42. To me, my childhood feels like it was yesterday, and when I think about stuff that happened back then -- when I was five, six, seven -- it feels like stuff that happened to me yesterday.

Like there was this kid who came into nursery school, carrying a big paper bag. He gave it to the teacher and she whisked it away and hid it somewhere. I asked him what was in the bag, but he refused to tell me. I still wonder what was in it, and part of me wants to track him down and ask him. And it doesn't feel like "what was in that bag back THEN?" It feels like "what was in that bag you I JUST saw you give to the teacher?"

I actually have a harder time connecting to my high school years. I remember everything that happened, of course, but the memories seem less charged.

Every so often, I meet someone who says, "I hate kids." And I'm baffled. I feel like saying, "How can you hate kids? You ARE a kid. I mean, you're 37, but you're still the same you that you were when you were a kid!" But I'm wrong. These people have lost all connection with their childhoods. They don't seem to even understand what motivates children or what interests them. I don't get how this happens.
posted by grumblebee at 6:46 AM on November 20, 2007 [12 favorites]

One of my fave quotes (origin unknown)...

"People don't quit playing because they grow old. They grow old because they quit playing."

My youth ended when the fog started clearing. Things started making sense or at least became comprehensible. It seems that the teens, twenties and thirties were hazy, and I felt in full youth! Forties... defintely not. By 50, any pretense to youth had vanished, and I feel like an old cabinet, upon which only patches of finish gloss remain, though the cabinet is just as useful as ever and holds much better stuff than last year!
posted by FauxScot at 6:53 AM on November 20, 2007

The day she told me the pregnancy test was positive.
posted by Hugh2d2 at 7:05 AM on November 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

Being called "sir" is definitely jarring. Especially because I'm a girl.

My mom has always said that grown-ups are just kids that got big. As a kid, or even a teenager, I absolutely couldn't understand what she meant. Now it makes sense.

But I do know the feeling that you're talking about. I started feeling like my youth was somehow passed when I stopped being able to understand kids. When I was little, I always swore that I wouldn't be one of those annoying grown-ups who had forgotten what it's like to be a kid and who couldn't relate to them. But somehow I've become one of them, and I don't know how. It makes me sad.
posted by bassjump at 7:14 AM on November 20, 2007 [3 favorites]

Fascinating to me how similar my response is to jwells' upthread.

By some of the markers here, I am still in my youth: "adulthood comes if/when you stop feeling continuity between the present you and the child you" (I haven't).... I haven't had a baby yet... "Youthfulness is a state of being not bound by years lived" (I feel I embody this). I still relate well to kids. And so on.

And yet, my childhood ended when my mother died. I was the oldest child at 11, and immediately had to put away childish things and become concerned with helping my dad manage our household, making sure the groceries got bought and the meals got made and the bills got paid. I invested my school time into becoming an extracurricular and academic whiz -- not for the mere joy and interest of those things but because it would get me a college ride which in turn would help my family. I was beholden to another entity, and no longer had the choice to revel in the luxury of playtime, goofing off, daydreaming, being a kid, being able to do what I wanted because other people were looking out for me.

Which you'd think would make me a very somber and staid adult -- and yet, people often remark that I have an anachronistic sense of wonder, and an unusually positive outlook. Do they mean, "unusual considering my childhood"? Maybe. Or maybe there's something about losing a parent that makes you hit pause on your youthfulness until such time as you can return to it and enjoy it properly.
posted by pineapple at 7:18 AM on November 20, 2007

December 8, 1980.
posted by thinkpiece at 7:21 AM on November 20, 2007 [6 favorites]

The end of my childhood was when my parents got divorced. I was 11.

I thought my youth would be over when I had kids, but that didn't happen.

The end of my youth was when my mom died. I was 33.
posted by hilby at 7:26 AM on November 20, 2007

I walked away. It was neat. Had it existed I would have KILLED for it when I was about 13. But there was no way in hell I could justify spending $80.00 on a Lego set just because it was awesome.

Oh, I wish you had bought it!

I still don't think of myself as a "grown up", but something for me ended a few months ago when my ex-boyfriend of seven years died as a result of cirrhosis of the liver. He was only 39, and just a couple of years ago we put our long, troubled relationship behind us and started a friendship.

It was like I was finally severed from my past. The last connection to my youth was gone.
posted by Evangeline at 7:30 AM on November 20, 2007

I was 16, both parents were in the hospital for different reasons, (they thought my mom may have had a massive heart attack, and my dad was being worked up for internal bleeding--which during such they would also find he had multiple myeloma.) A girl from school--a friend from drama class a year older, *told me* she was spending the night with me because she didn't want me to be alone.

I knew I was no longer a kid. And I'm still in awe of Kendra insisting to spend the night with me in case something happened.

The next night my mom was home, and then all focus shifted to dad. He would end up dying of it about 5 yrs. later.
posted by 6:1 at 7:30 AM on November 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have always been surprised and a little dissappointed at how childish all the 'adults' around me behave (myself included). I expected more from people than this. I think the realization that 'adults' are just children with joint troubles and more hair on their bodies has something to do with growing up. It's kind of deflating, really.

I think I'm kind of retarded in some way that keeps me young. I don't know when to quit my childhood, I guess, and most of my friends are younger than me. I still find adult topics of conversation boring, and would like nothing more than to avoid talking about mortages or finanical planning or internal medicine concerns or the state of the union until the universe collapses in on itself and crushes my tiny, benighted brain like the insignificant dollop of consciousness that it is.

However, I think my maturity took a great, unanticipated leap forward when I walked in on my ex in bed with a friend of ours, en flagrante dillecto, and then spent the next month extricating myself from what had become a warmed-over exercise in neoteny. This happened when I was 29, and it changed me utterly (a little for the better, a little for the worse).

I like FauxScot's quote, above;
"People don't quit playing because they grow old. They grow old because they quit playing."
posted by Pecinpah at 7:34 AM on November 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I am still struggling with this.

I have to go to a parent teacher conference this afternoon for a middle schooler (!!), and I still like I should be following instructions on how to glue thanksgiving colored construction paper together.
posted by milarepa at 7:37 AM on November 20, 2007

The other day. I was unloading some stuff from the car and some hipster walked by, just leaving some show at the Ottobar, which is a block away. He was talking on the phone and said "Yeah, fuck it, let's do it tonight. I mean, it's only midnight." And I thought to myself "But it's a Monday!"

Yeah, old.
posted by electroboy at 7:41 AM on November 20, 2007 [7 favorites]

January 2000. I get back from Christmas break to find the water heater in my house had busted and I was standing in 18 inches of water downstairs, I called my dad and he said: "Well, I guess you'd better figure out some way to get all that water out of your basement..." So I had to take care of it myself, because there wasn't a landlord or anyone else to call.

Of course, I've managed to revisit youth many times since, but I don't feel like I live there any more.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 7:50 AM on November 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

When I bought a myself a washer and dryer.

Before that, everything I owned could fit into my car if I decided to move. My laptop could go with me anywhere. Furniture was all "on loan" from thrift shops. If I wanted to move all I had to do was call the Salvation Army and donate it back to them. I could move wherever I pleased, whenever I pleased..

Once I owned the W/D, I felt rooted. I wasn't going to leave behind 2,000 dollars worth of appliances. A move required thought and planning. That made me feel like a grown-up.
posted by 26.2 at 7:50 AM on November 20, 2007

Both grumblebee and kimota (with the Matinee quote) get at what I think.

Being a grown-up isn't what the world tells you about yourself, or even what your body tells you about yourself, it's whether you find your self-image congruent with your preconception of adulthood. And this is where we run into trouble. When I was a kid, I looked at grown-ups almost as if they were a different species. I knew that eventually I would be like them, but that was an abstraction. I did not appreciate that the human failings of adults were much the same as those of children, and I somehow didn't see the adults around me as people who had ever been children—who had ever been part of my continuum of experience.

And television reinforced this. Watching re-runs of shows like Father Knows Best or My Three Sons or whatever created images of adulthood that were completely self-contained and idealized—those characters really never had been children (because they were fictional) and really were free of human failings. At some level, I think my notion of what it means to be a grown-up has always been influenced by this impossible yardstick.

Around the time I was in college, I stopped by my old high school one day after classes had ended, to say hi to some of my favorite teachers. And for the first time, I had a chance to see them saying snarky things about each other, or about the school, or otherwise being human. This was a revelation for me. It didn't make me feel like a grown-up: it redefined what grown-ups were for me.
posted by adamrice at 7:53 AM on November 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

Next year.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:05 AM on November 20, 2007

When I bought a myself a washer and dryer.

Hell yeah.

And the first time that my parents came to me for help.

And when young women started looking at me with that "what a nice old man!" look in their eyes. I don't get "sir" very often, but I think that is because kids these days have no manners. And get off my lawn!
posted by Forktine at 8:08 AM on November 20, 2007

It happened when I wasn't looking. When I turned forty I looked up and realized it was long gone.
posted by konolia at 8:10 AM on November 20, 2007

I still go to playgrounds and swing on the swings a lot.

One day after I was done swinging I passed a boy on the mini-basketball court who gave me a friendly "Hey, lady."

I wanted to deny it. But there I was, fishing around in my purse past my cell phone for the keys to my car. I couldn't.
posted by jinjo at 8:18 AM on November 20, 2007

On my 18th birthday, I got a letter from the Selective Service notifying me that I needed to register for the draft. Sobering.

The first time I had a student call me "Mr. Gardner" was jarring. I still can't believe I'm that person.
posted by HotPatatta at 8:19 AM on November 20, 2007

Strangely enough, it was when my kids were 11 and 7. My wife, particularly during the early years of the kids, spent lots of time at school and working (which was ok with me). I have a job that allows me to be home at 3:30, involves no overtime and zero travelling. So, I spent every evening/night/weekend home, with the kids, and enjoyed it tremendously, living my childhood vicariously through them.
Then suddenly, one Friday evening, my wife was out, my son went over to a friend's, my daughter also. I was alone, standing outside, pacing up and down the street. Didn't have to pick anyone up, didn't have anyone to play with...the kids were growing up, didn't rely on us as much, and I felt a strange (and prematurely at that) "the kids have grown, it's just us two, the job is done" and felt, not sad, just... "grown up" for the first time.
Happily, this feeling almost totally went away when I realized my kids weren't going off to university in some far off place quite yet...but...I could never quite shake the "grown up" feeling.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 8:21 AM on November 20, 2007

I was born old. Childish silliness annoyed me, I hated being a kid, and longed eagerly for the day that I would be an adult. Actually, what I wanted is for everyone else my age to finally be an adult, like I already was. I think in my late 20's I had amassed a large enough group of mature friends my age to start feeling more at home.

On the other hand, preschoolers have always loved me, I think because I take them seriously and listen to them--basically treating them the way I wish I had been treated.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:21 AM on November 20, 2007 [6 favorites]

At 20: I was at a buffet; after loading up on a huge slice of meatloaf and a pile of mashed potatoes, I stepped away only to pause briefly and return to add some broccoli.
posted by camcgee at 8:35 AM on November 20, 2007 [4 favorites]

The day I realized I had more black socks in my sock drawer than white ones.
posted by Smarson at 8:40 AM on November 20, 2007 [12 favorites]

At 27, driving a rental car while traveling on business in Cleveland, listening to the Pixies. I don't know what it was, but a switch had been thrown. Inexplicably, Cleveland had made me a man.
posted by eschatfische at 8:43 AM on November 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I had a "oh no I am getting old" moment when I realised that some artists I admired were actually younger than me. That was pretty sobering.

On the other hand, like many here, I still haven't accepted that I'm meant to be grown up now.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 8:54 AM on November 20, 2007

We live just south of a high school. One morning about two years ago, I was starting south down the access road, leaving for work. A big clutch of teenagers was walking north up the access road, eight abreast, taking up its entire width. As I slowly rolled closer to them, they made no move to give way.

Though I had the windows rolled up, I said, "C'mon, kids, give me a break here." As the car approached them, they finally parted, laughing at the situation. I thought to myself, "Why are they hassling me? I'm like them, I'm...uh, no, I'm not, I'm 31, I'm the uncool grownup leaving for work."

And that was when I realized I was not a teenager any longer.
posted by jocelmeow at 9:10 AM on November 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I feel like it's happening to me right now. I just turned 25 and came to a shocking realization that my 20's were about halfway over -- i.e. if someone says "I'm in my 20's", changes are 50% that they're younger than me. Age is just a number and I'm still growing, but that realization seems to have changed my outlook a fair bit.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:13 AM on November 20, 2007

I still feel like that wild and crazy 17-year-old, in my head, but the person I see in the mirror is somewhat older ;) . Things that have happened that have chipped away at that youthful feeling include the birth of my first child (age 21) , the last time I was asked for ID (age 27), the birth of my second child (age 28), and when I started noticing that authority figures (bosses, police officers, doctors) are now younger than I am.
posted by Lynsey at 9:43 AM on November 20, 2007

Still trying to dodge it like a bullet...


... and looking for someone to join me.
posted by JakeLL at 10:01 AM on November 20, 2007 [5 favorites]

I am also experiencing it now (30). There have been a number of small things over the past few years --married friends divorcing, greying hair, etc.-- but the decisive milestone just happened.

When I was in my teens, I knew I wanted to be an artist, and took a long view of what a career would be like--that I would spend years preparing and studying, and considered all the work that I was making as an early part of a progression, so that I would hopefully hit my stride around 40.

The other week, I realized that I was no longer preparing for that future, but living in it.
posted by Benjamin Nushmutt at 10:07 AM on November 20, 2007

I was eight and found out that mommie didn't know everything.
then again, why did I ask her when I knew the answer already?
posted by krautland at 10:35 AM on November 20, 2007

My youth ended when my best friend died at the scene of a car accident. We were 21.

My lifestyle didn't change, but my life did.
posted by samthemander at 10:56 AM on November 20, 2007

One day towards the end of my senior year of high school, I walked into the drama classroom (which was my hangout), found it filled with freshmen who were blasting N*Sync on the stereo and dancing around, and thought "there is nothing for me here anymore."

Doing my taxes and paying bills/rent for the first time also gave me that grown-up feeling.

But I've also always been a little like Pater Aletheias. (Maybe not quite as much, though--I didn't hate being a kid, I just hated being treated like a kid.)
posted by equalpants at 10:58 AM on November 20, 2007

The day I put on a jersey (as a fan) of a professional athlete who was significantly younger than I was.

And then there was the day I found out Flintstone chewables were not recommended for anyone over 12. Still haven't recovered from that one.
posted by pallak7 at 11:04 AM on November 20, 2007

I'm not sure whether I regret feeling like I still haven't quite become a "grown-up" as of yet, at age 29. Sometimes I think to myself, "I'd make a pretty good 18-year old."

But once I hit 30 in a couple of months I expect to feel quite different. Once I start getting asked how old I am, I imagine I'll always say "30" with an "I can't believe I'm 30" tone.

That said, the closest I've felt to my childhood being over was when I saw the last Star Wars film in 2005 (and for the record I liked the movie). It was definitely a bittersweet feeling, like the last open page from my youth had finally been closed.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 11:16 AM on November 20, 2007

The day I put on a jersey (as a fan) of a professional athlete who was significantly younger than I was.

That reminds me of a couple other sport-related responses... The retirement of athletes whom you remember as rookies, and seeing that the birth years of draft picks are several years after yours.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 11:20 AM on November 20, 2007

I dropped out of college and my best friend shot himself, I was 19 and it was "the end".
posted by prostyle at 11:33 AM on November 20, 2007

I'm not sure about mine, but Ray's would be whenever he stops playing with his truck.
posted by asuprenant at 11:37 AM on November 20, 2007

For me, the end of youth has to do with having to redefine who the caretakers are - parents or children. Right now, I'm starting to feel like my parents and I take care of each other (I'm 28), rather than them simply taking care of me. I feel a greater urgency to move closer to home so I can be there for them. I suspect that, in the future, the balance will shift from the caretaking being equal to me mostly taking care of them. There was a time when I didn't think about taking care of them, and there was a time when I didn't wonder how many years I'll have left with them.

My brothers don't seem to feel this way (I'm the only daughter). Sociologically, I would look into this issue of gender and (beliefs/feelings about) caretaking, and how that leads women and men to define "the end of youth" in different ways.
posted by splendid animal at 11:46 AM on November 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm surprised that youth/adult seems to be such an either/or situation for so many people. There are situations where I'm suddenly reminded of how old I am (two girls in my geology class ask if I'd like to study for the test with them. The next day in class we're discussing the '89 Loma Prieta Quake, and one of the girls turns to the other and says "You wasn't even born yet!" I had been at work that day), but I really don't feel like a different person. I have more memories and greater responsibilities. I hopefully have softened some of my less appealing personality traits, and become generally more self aware. I don't feel like there's a whole lot of difference between me as a kid and me now, other than me being smarter now, which is good. I think I might actually feel that my youth is over when I lose the capacity to do something, like run or jump or hear or see. Maybe. I hope not.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:55 AM on November 20, 2007

In my experience it's not being either 'young' or 'old' but that my mental self image regarding age/social postion/peer group doesn't gradually change but my real-life age does.
So every once in a while I suddenly realise that my self-image is lagging with respect to my real age and probably with respect to how other people see my age/social position/peer group.

There are several kind of events that can trigger such a realisation. But basically they're small attributes that I always associated with that other age group. F.i.:
- being called sir by working students but unconsciously seeing myself as an extended student with all that that entails wrt social position/responsibilities etc.
- a large single drop of water that fell on my head and made a 'pat' sound instead of being absorbed soundlessly by my hair. Am I balding on the back of my head?!
- friends who I identify with or siblings making life transitions like getting kids.
- noticing that I feel a bit paternal towards a younger colleague.
- my parents becoming less self sufficient
posted by jouke at 12:40 PM on November 20, 2007

When I stopped getting all tense at the sight of a police car, and realized that they're there for my protection. My wife still makes oinking sounds but I think she's jerking my chain.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:29 PM on November 20, 2007

just recently (27). I had already moved out of the family home but had to return to pack away the stuff that was still in my old room so it could be turned into the "spare room" instead of "my old room". This felt far more significant than when I had actually moved out for the first time. Home was now going to be wherever I made it, not where it was before.

but I do like this old expression about youth: growing old is mandatory. growing up is optional
posted by drugstorefrog at 1:53 PM on November 20, 2007

When I was the only relative present and my grandmother died and I had to call everyone in my family, I felt like I was no longer young.

When I signed the 17 pieces of paper to buy my house, I felt old... and SCARED that I was throwing my youthful ebullience away for responsibility.

But I don't know if I ever really felt young as an ongoing continuous state; I look young, though. (And to me, that's all that matters.) I feel happy and joyous over small things, like a child does. I make a sound only dogs can hear when I see baby frogs or an albino moth on my wall.

I think youth comes and goes in increments, and its wonder can be regained instantly if you have the right mindset.

So maybe youth is something that is never truly lost altogether, assuming you have the mind and heart for it.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 2:15 PM on November 20, 2007

Age 28, deep vein thrombosis that damn near killed me. It was as if the fates held before me an unignorable sign with three words on it, "YOU ARE MORTAL". My youth was stripped away at that point along with the comfortable illusion that my penis is a one-way, exit-only conduit.
posted by plinth at 5:33 PM on November 20, 2007

Age 12. I realized I was in love. With a girl.
posted by atayah at 6:45 PM on November 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Never ended, because it never begun. I think I was born old.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:04 PM on November 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I hate that this was my answer, but I think my youth ended on 9/11. I was 25. I didn't have any personal connection to the attacks, but the idea that something so horrible and significant could happen in my reality was a big eye-opener for me. I kept thinking "so this is what it feels like to experience history."
posted by lisaici at 7:55 PM on November 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

In university there were students around who had returned to school after a few years working. They were 25, 27. I thought they were an entirely different species: grownups. Now I look at 25 and I think that's a kid, every opportunity ahead of them. I can hardly imagine how I thought four or five years at that age made such a big difference.

But still I keep on regarding people who are 5 or 10 years older than me as aged, people living a stage of life that I'm somehow going to escape. Yet I don't seem to expect that people in their twenties, co-workers, would look upon me in the same way. I keep thinking I'm a part of that peer group of younger adults, the one that twenty years ago spanned ages 21 to 25 but has now extended, in my head anyway, from from ages 23 to 47.

I haven't had any of the milestones of adulthood. Never had a responsible job or a mortgage or a deeply committed relationship or children, haven't yet encountered any deaths close to me. I think I could move to China and still be emotionally trapped in my parents' basement. I don't know if I became an adult, but I know I became old when I started living in regret about the past, when I started focusing on all the small deaths of interests that have slid away, when I realized I can no longer pretend to have the promise that an entire generation of younger adults now hold.

And now I keep seeing men my age referred to as "old creeps". For a guy in bad need of a girlfriend, that one hurts.
posted by TimTypeZed at 11:22 PM on November 20, 2007

September 11th, 2001. I love this country, oh Lord, I do.
posted by markovich at 1:44 AM on November 21, 2007

I have learned that kids curse, and adults curse.

They just try not to do it in the same room.
posted by thebrokedown at 2:01 AM on November 21, 2007

I was 21, standing in my tiny one-room apartment and I'm just staring at then-husband, angry about going to junior-level French acid and angry that he used my blender to make hash. I wanted to scream, to yell, to run away, to go back home. Then I realized that I *was* home, this was my life and I had to deal with it.

I believe my ex would refer to it as the death of my sense of fun.
posted by Gucky at 8:08 AM on November 21, 2007

er, that should have been "angry about him going to French class on acid". Apparently I'm a grownup, but not when it comes to preview.
posted by Gucky at 8:09 AM on November 21, 2007

I graduated from college and took a white collar professional job. A week before I started my studded belt broke at a LTJ concert in the pit. I still have it- and still have it in me.

If you are looking for sources that end someones youth, look into American Indian Society and tribes in Africa. I want to say many of the boys / girls have to pass a test to be considered an adult.

Makes me wonder what that "test" would be here in America.
posted by thetenthstory at 9:05 AM on November 21, 2007

A wise, old, (dirty) man once told me that you know you're old when the girls in Playboy are younger than you.

I think my realization that I was an adult came in a series of waves leading up to one final moment; first time back home from college and you don't have a bedroom, writing the check for your first mortgage payment, seeing the first ultrasound of your child, and of course the birth of your child. My ending event left me with the feeling you get when you finish the last sentence of a good book series, close the cover, sit back and think "wow, what do I do now?"

My "wow, what do I do now?" moment came one night when my daughter was just a few months old. She was fast asleep in her crib. I was just standing there, middle of the night, watching her. Those that have experienced watching-a-sleeping-baby can vouch for its profoundness. As I stood there I thought "This person depends on me for everything. She can’t feed herself, change herself, and move around by herself. I have to provide everything that she needs." At this moment I knew that I couldn’t fail, I had no excuse. Everything I do for the rest of my life will have an impact on her; good, bad or otherwise.

Growing up doesn’t mean the end of fun, just another entry in the definition of fun. Fun once meant bar hopping and all-nighters, now fun is building a playhouse in the backyard on Saturday.
posted by enobeet at 1:29 PM on November 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Last Saturday I went to a party way uptown, left at 2 a.m., went way downtown to another big gathering, then, after closing time, I got into a car with some drunken people and went to an after hours joint. I got home at 6:30 a.m. and thought this was splendid way to spend a Saturday.

Then I had to spend the next two days in bed.

I am 40, not 19. I simply can't do this stuff anymore. I've been mourning this all week.

Getting called maam and sir is one thing, but I think the real end of youth usually comes with the first time you have to deal with severe pain or death. Coming face to face with the injustice of death hardens you. When my first friend died, back in the 1980s of AIDS, that was sobering. And when your first parent dies.

Of course, the tradeoff to losing youth is gaining is a measure of wisdom, which is pretty cool too.

(Though apparently not enough to know not to stay out all night getting paralyzed.)
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:02 AM on November 22, 2007

Heh. When my parents, who never ever made me feel like I was welcome to go to them for my problems and cultivated a sense of pride and need to be self-sufficient in me that can be unhealthy sometimes, started using me as a sounding board for work and life related things.

I'm also one of those born old people, I've been told.
posted by Phire at 12:23 AM on December 10, 2007

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