Acting Your Age


Guess which celebrity is older:

Jennifer Lopez or Zach Galfianakis?

George Clooney or Eddie Murphy?

Helena Bonham Carter or Salma Hayek?

Chris Rock or Charlie Sheen?

Selena Gomez or Miley Cyrus?

Taylor Swift or Adele?

I have to confess that this is a bit of a trick. While none of the people I paired together has the same birthdate, each of them was born in the same year as their counterpart.

That’s right, all of them are less than a year apart in age.

This is hard to imagine, especially in the case of Chris Rock and Charlie Sheen, but we simply assume an age gap because of how each of these celebrities presents themselves to us.

Hollywood has a knack for presenting us with age defying specimens, mostly because experienced actors are better actors. If you can find a 26 year old who looks 20, then you are going to get a higher quality product on your show.

CBS’s “Big Bang Theory” is a prime example of this. I don’t know what age Sheldon is supposed to be but I know he isn’t supposed to be as old as the actor portraying him. Side note: Jim Parsons is 40.

When we behave irresponsibly, extravagantly, or with immaturity, people will assume that we are younger than we are. When we make attempts to demonstrate personal autonomy through responsibility, people assume that we are older than we are.

This isn’t to say that a youthful face doesn’t help in deceiving camera lenses, but it is to say that what we offer people is what they eventually come to expect of us.

When we present ourselves as vibrant, people expect us to be vibrant… even when it means suspending belief momentarily.

Imagine Jennifer Anniston playing the mother of a teen? Would you buy it?

Because she’s 44.

Would you believe it if Tina Fey was the mother on Modern Family?

She’s the same age as Julie Bowen.

What about Tom Hanks or Tom Cruise playing a Grandfather?

Because they’re both older than 50.

People tend to assume that we are the age we act, regardless of the age we actually are.

This isn’t just how Hollywood casting works, it’s how life works.

Our problem comes when the level of maturity we desire and the level that we possess are actually represented by two different numbers: 16 going on 26 creates massive problems for a family in the same way that 46 going on 26 presents massive problems for humanity.

While age is largely what we let it be, maturity is largely what we make of it.

When we live responsibly we make life better for everyone and people come to expect maturity from us. When we offer immaturity to others they also begin to expect it from us, even after we’ve reached middle-age.

That’s ugly no matter how good-looking and tan we are.

As we offer maturity to others they come to expect it from us, this is when people begin respecting us regardless of how old we actually are.

The bad news is that we can fake youth through cosmetics and irresponsibility.

The good news is that responsible maturity shines through no matter what age you appear.

As you get older you begin to realize that adulthood’s unspoken secret is that very few people “feel” as old as they are, and an even smaller number desire to behave that way.

I don’t feel like I’m leaving my thirties, in fact I still try to ski and eat like a 20 year-old (both of which will kill you) but the people around me are counting on me to do the right thing, in the right way, at the right time regardless of my feelings.

Each of us may struggle to achieve meaningful levels of maturity, but in the real world age has never really excused irresponsibility.

I guess I’m figuring out that maturity just means being willing to act your age while you grow into it

1 Corinthians 13:11
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”

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