such a great age

At lunches or other encounters with people I only know a little or only see occasionally, the conversation often turns to family. “How old are your kids now?” someone asks, and I have to think hard — not because I don’t know my own kids, but because the ages seem to change so quickly. Once I respond, there’s always a statement along the lines of:

Oh, those are such great ages.

I agree, completely, and I always have. But it’s still curious to me that this response is so inevitable. I can’t imagine that in all contexts, all ages are so great. I could imagine saying that my kid is a two-year-old and someone saying in response, “Oh, she must be a real asshole these days.” But no one ever says this, in part to be polite, but also because there’s something great about all ages. At least I think so. My oldest is sneaking up on 12 years old, so we’ll see.

It’s also funny that we so seldom ask about the ages of adults, although it does come up for me more often than I’d expect. A group of teachers asked this of me a few days ago when I was hosting a workshop; and a group of teenagers asked the same just yesterday when I was hosting them for some science demonstrations. The teenagers told me that I was “lookin’ good” for 39. The teachers say less, but seem to be just trying to size me up. None of them say “that’s such a great age,” but nor do they tell me what an asshole I must be. They’re still figuring that out.

As my dear friend’s own odometer has just flipped through its fifth decade, I’m wondering what it’s like on the other side of that hill. Such a great age, I’d think. And lookin’ good.*


*I’ll end there, but I was tempted to show a comparison of “lookin’ good” status by revealing pictures taken with fellow members of a jazz band in 1976, scoured from Facebook. But, then the question of who the asshole is would be answered all too clearly.


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