Age is a funny thing; it is a concept that seems to have us wrapped around its finger. We are always worrying about how our age changes us, not how we change our age.
I have always seen age stages that are split but the invisible, yet decisive, Age Line.
The first stage is childhood:
When girls and boys are 3 they are free to run and play, they are cradled and watched over, taught about their right and wrong. The can laugh together and play in parks, climbing trees, unimpeded by worries or obligations.
By the time they are 10 they have learned by watching and listening who society expects them to be. The epoch begins where the teachings about life and living begin to diverge, girls and boys are giving different consejos (advise) about what their roles should be. Yet the commonality is that they are still both treated like kids and viewed aspreciosos, angelitos y amores.
The next stage is the Pre-teen years.
They used to be able to run and play together without their parents small jokes about them being novios (boyfriend & girlfriend) and starting to discover love. Their cheeks turn red with embarrassment and it is clear to see that these innocent jokes embed themselves deeper then we think. The seed has been planted and that it will continue to grow, rapidly like wild-fire, in the next few years.
They are now 12 their bodies are altering and that seed has become a plant just big enough to take up enough space in their minds that it is hard to ignore. They work through new experience and hardships they don’t understand, trying desperately to hide how uncomfortable they feel, but society is changing towards them as well.
The are reaching the end of the first sector of Age. This step is to cross the line from kid to young adult.
Stage one: Early Teens
They are both expected to carry responsibilities on their shoulders and grab a chunk of the families burdens. They are loaded with school work, chores and social problems, trying to find out who they are. Boys help their fathers, uncles and grandfathers with the chores that require physical strength and girls help their mothers, aunts and grandmothers with the three C’s: cooking, cleaning & caring for the kids. Their mentors are those of the same sex through actions and words. They pick up new mannerisms and each day are seen less and less like children.
They now find themselves included in conversations where chismes (gossip) and cuentos (stories) about that women or that man fly through the air with an undertone of something new in the air. Their only introduction into the subject of Sexuality has begun.
But the line comes more quickly, it no longer waits for you to readjust, to take little steps and work through the growing pains. It flies underneath you and before you even know it you have crossed into a whole new world once again. Now you are expected to play the real game.
Stage Two: Late teens
The little girls that used to be cooed at in the loving and protective arms and now called to with winking eyes and curled fingers. The little boys are pressured to do the same to their once playmates. Boys are persuaded by peer-pressure and societal norms to drink, dance with women and stay out late. Girls are taught to create that dangerous balance of appearing totally pure and completely desirable all at the same time. The game of cat and mouse begins between the once playmates, just like it did with everyone before them. And once again the line approaches.
Stage Three: Adulthood
They have jobs and are with the boy or girl the are thinking of marring. Somehow everything passed by so quickly and free nights have been exchanged for long office hours and paying bills. Bells ring and babies are born and diapers and toys appear in every corner of the house.
They work to provide, begin to teach right from wrong and become what we all fear most: our parents. The kids grow older and the cycle begins again.
The boy and girl have worked for years, their experiences, good and bad, show of their skin and the next line approaches.
Sector Three: Old age
Somehow the cycle begins again, they no longer have work or many responsibilities. They are free to enjoy their days and time together with their families. They are taken care of by their children and live untill the last line approaches.
Now, we are taught to believe that is how our lives will proceed. Following one age line to another a pre-set easy path to follow. But what happens when the 15 year olds change the order and do things they have no yet reached on their path? All of a sudden you have kids who have to play adults. Who must now carry burdens like piles of sand that they desperately try to grab hold of but watch it slip through the cracks of their small hand.
You find the small kids in the park being recollected by moms and dads in school uniforms and teenagers who work jobs during the day to pay for the baby they never thought they would have.
I watch as my once so constant Age Lines blur and disappear. Teen parents become the norm to see on the streets and mother of 10 are still common. I am asked how many kids I have or how long I have been married only to be told I’m lying when I say I don’t even have a boyfriend.
I watch as my lines reappear years earlier than I could ever have imagined. I watch a society transform to these new lines instead of fighting to bring them back to where they once were. I see kids who have kids and watch a lot of people trip as the Age Line appears before them like a ghost. I am told in whispers that she is just too young to be a mother but no one is shouting about how to stop it. And as I see all of this I wonder how much earlier the Age Lines will move if we never stop them.