Ben's mom at the Slizz concert
Ben's mom at the Slizz concert

Ben Falik

You are not mature enough to tell it like is. Even that burden you leave to us children. But I don’t care about being popular. I care about climate justice and the living planet. Our civilization is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money.”

“But then 20 years or so ago, something happened — adults decided they didn’t have to give up kid stuff. And so they pretended comic books were actually sophisticated literature.”

“These pundits talk about America as if it’s a sports team and their readers and viewers are the team’s fans — celebrating highlights and big wins, downplaying the losses to rivals … It’s ultimately a disservice to the country we all share, and to the goal of actually improving that country, to talk to us like we’re its fans because we aren’t. We’re its citizens, and we should be able to handle the whole story.”

Those quotes are by (in order) 15-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg shaming leaders at the United Nations COP24 summit; gas bag Bill Maher creating undue CO2 following the death of Stan Lee; and Ben Mathis-Lilley wondering why his fellow journalists recast George H.W. Bush as “America’s Benign, Saintly Grandpa.”

They are just a few of countless data points that point to 2018 as a new age. Specifically, the Post-Age Age.

The current, chronological length of your life once dictated much of your lifestyle: to act your age. Like passing the salt and pepper together, if that’s even still a thing, your dress, diet, work, politics, hobbies and relationships were largely functions of how many years old (or young) you were.

Now, age isn’t even a number:
A) Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at getting engaged to someone he met on JDate.
B) Created and scaled a caffeinating consumer product, soon to be pitched to investors on national television.
C) Painted Chanukah cards as presents for family members.
Ages: A) 58; bachelor party at The Schvitz. B) 15; Watch Shark Tank Jan. 6. C) 97; Thanks, Grandma Marge!

Any disruption of social norms — gender identity, marriage equality, racial equity — is bound to make some people long for the past, typically, people who enjoyed privileges and power over others in those “simpler times.” Rather than wring our hands that people aren’t behaving socially based on their biological state or status, we need to wrestle with the opportunities and responsibilities of the Post-Age Age.

“Young” people deserve real-time agency for issues that affect them. Parkland students didn’t need to be old enough to vote to experience the devastating effects of gun violence or advocate for common-sense reforms.

Adults will change jobs 10-15 times over their careers, during which nearly half of all jobs will be vulnerable to automation. Judge not a colleague or competitor by her age, lest ye be judged (by robots).

And mutual respect — the wisdom and patience to know you can learn from anyone, irrespective of age or station in life — is a better way than gray to ensure respect for our elders.

How, then, to navigate the Post-Age Age without the historical indicators of music volume, shoe fasteners (Velcro, laces, unlaced, loafers, slippers, gripper socks) and s’more or less chocolate?

The method to my madness for an age without age: Kidulting.

Kidulting is a way to curate the unironic joys of (what we once called) childhood, the productive discomfort of engaging in (what will hopefully persist as) society and the calm of reflecting on cumulative experiences, with or without a rocking chair.

My kidulting involves:
• T-shirts with more characters but fewer stains.
• Maintaining a public policy interest in state governments while making peace with the fact that I never memorized the state capitals.
• Bringing my (of age) nephews to hear Slizz rock out at the Old Miami and being neither surprised nor embarrassed when my parents showed up.
• Liking college sports rivalries — and loving college sports mascots — without overlooking the cartel-style way in which the NCAA exploits athletes.
• Never turning down food, be it exotic fare that will challenge my palate or surplus Halloween candy.
• Talking to strangers’ dogs.
• Riding bikes with my kids and being serious when I instruct them to wear a helmet and eat my dust.

Ben's daughter, Phoebe, at Drag Queen Story Time
Ben’s daughter, Phoebe, at Drag Queen Story Time Ben Falik

Some of the finest kidulting I’ve ever seen played out over the last couple weeks in Huntington Woods. Drag Queen Story Time, a cherished public library program, already blended the ageless qualities of inclusion, positive self-image and storytelling.

When an outgoing city commissioner invited MassResistance, a violent out-of-state hate group, to fight Drag Queen Story Time, the community showed them what mass resistance really looks like.

Some 300 residents and allies filled the ad hoc city hall (rec center gym) to share on the record the personal, social, legal, ethical, local, universal, scientific and psychological bases for creating a space where everyone on the kidult continuum can safely say, to borrow from next month’s title, “I like me just the way I am!” ■