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Age Appropriate

In a recent New Yorker commentary, Louis Menand notes that increasingly, and in large part due to the stepped up merchandising of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, "People worry about being old before they get old." This struck a chord because I've noticed it too – there seems to be an obsession in some parts of society about age and keeping up the appearance, if not the fact, of youth. And yet age is so subjective. 

Having recently turned, well, let's just say I'm not 29 anymore, there are days when this seems if not old exactly, a little more advanced in age than I might want to see myself. But perhaps I just hang out with people who are too young. Because my relative youth was brought home to me quite suddenly one recent day at work.

One day two weeks ago, as The New Yorker might put it, one of my co-workers stopped by my desk and asked if I would help him with an experiment. I was a bit apprehensive (who likes to be the subject of an experiment after all) but my status as the most junior person there left me little choice, so I gamely followed him to his desk.

His computer displayed a story in the New York Times about a high-pitched tone called the Mosquito (also what sparked the Menand commentary in the New Yorker) that was initially used to deter teenagers and other assorted young hooligans from loitering in front of 7-11s and so on. Naturally, the young have re-purposed this tone as a ring tone for their cellphones so that teachers won't be able to hear them receive message alerts. 

The Times article came with a sample of the tone, and now of course you can see what's coming. I was asked to sit and listen to the sample, while my co-worker, and a quickly gathering crowd of everyone else in the office, hovered around me anxiously.

There was silence while I listened and when I turned and announced that, yes, there was an annoying tone to be heard, there was a great exhalation of breath from the group. No one else could hear the sound. Suddenly I felt very young. 


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