I have always considered age to be like a set of conversational scales, allow me to explain. In one pan you have all of the people who, when you talk to them, understand the subject and on the other those that don’t. When we are young the scales weigh heavily in the favour of the ‘don’ts’ that language of youth differentiates you from the population at large because, quite simply, they don’t understand you. This is when the arrogance of youth tells you that your generation is unique and far superior to all those that passed before and will pass after.
As we mature so the scale starts to balance, when we have conversations we sit neatly bridging older and younger generations. This is actually more ‘our time’ than our youth, the subjects of our conversation are understood by the majority and there is the merest hint of weight in the other pan from the younger generation. I don’t know when this swing in your favour is maximised but I would suggest around the thirties/forties. As with so many things in life this is a fluid situation though and so the weight of youth gains and the scales swing again. The shift in balance is aided by a reduction on your side as you transition further along your path, the older you get the less people there are that are older than you and the more that are younger after all.
Before you know it you are more confused by items in a conversation and your own subjects are heard less often. Eventually you are looking at the majority of the population and wondering what the hell they are talking about, welcome to old age. I don’t claim to be there yet, I still have a few years in me, but how will I know the slide has gone that far? Well I have a suggestion for you, a measure by which you can gauge your travel along this path as it where. Select an item that was common place in all of your youthful conversations, it should be one that your parents paid some attention but never fully grasped and your grandparents never wanted to know. Occasionally review the item you have selected against a day or a weeks conversations, how many times does it come up?
I think that when you have to measure the time between uses of the word in years rather than minutes you will have reached the further end of the scale. My item is the cassette tape, beloved of my youth as a medium for that classic generation marker, music. When I was young there would rarely be a sentence that didn’t involve the word “tape” I notice now that more and more people humour me when I describe the item. I am not that old so there are still lots of people that remember exactly what I am talking about, of course then there are the youth who know nothing but MP3 but the later is growing in numbers. As the youth mature so they slip into my conversational environment, today they humour me and discuss “tapes” in order to fit in. Tomorrow there will be more of them and soon they wont need to humour me. Watch out for your technology it ages us all.