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Healthy Aging

Oh, to be 22 Again (or not…)

By Sheryl Kraft

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I recently spent a week away at Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Miami Florida. In addition to all the fabulous cutting-edge education I got in all things health (more on that to come in later posts), I had the pleasure of meeting a lot of really fun, smart, motivated people. This visit was filled with a very varied group – many of them under 50. A 40-year old woman was there not because of any particular health issues, but because she did not WANT any future health issues (there was a history of heart disease in her family). A 30-something year old woman came to learn what it takes to to eat better and maintain a healthy weight. Others came to arm themselves with the latest information on maintaining optimal health and wellness so they could live their lives going forward as disease-free as possible.

Anyhow, at dinner one night, a big group of us, men and women ranging from 40 to 65, sat around a large round table, discussing age and all its implications. “Would you be 22 again if you could?” asked one woman.

“Yes, of course I would!” I quickly answered. “But only if I could do it with the mind I have today.”

“No! Not that way!” everyone yelled, good-naturedly. “You have to be 22, exactly as you were when you were 22, mentally AND physically.”

As you can imagine, an interesting discussion ensued.

Without knowing us, would you be able to guess what everyone said? What if I told you that the ratio of men to women at the table was equally divided – would you think the answers were also equally divided between the sexes, or instead that our answers depended more upon our ages – in other words, the older we were, the more we wanted to go back to being young again?  

As the last person gave their answer, the verdict was in: the men all wanted to be 22 again and the women resoundingly did not. And then, of course, the “whys” and “why nots” were fervently discussed.

As I sit here now reflecting upon that night, I’ve come upon some illuminating truths. The men relate being 22 with vigor and strength and undeniable virility. That’s what they miss; that’s what they want back.

The women? They all, including myself, feel that 22 was wrought with uncertainty, vulnerability, a certain degree of helplessness and lack of direction. We all - despite the possible health-related issues that invariably come up with age and the extra weight and wrinkles we may carry - feel were are in an improved place now, with so much more knowledge and certainty. We all feel we are justly evolved – and through (and perhaps despite) the rigors of youth, we have become who we are today. And we like it here. 

Interestingly enough, in a survey last year by American Laser Centers of 62 percent of baby boomers, it was found that almost a third believed they look ten years younger than they actually are – and more women than men thought they looked younger than their years. (Okay, no jokes about us being near-sighted, please).

That study leads me to question another angle: maybe, just maybe, women don’t feel their age as much as men do. What do you think?

And now, let’s throw this open for discussion. If you could go back to being 22 again, would you?

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Comments

I would not want to be 22 again. I think men are more distressed by physical limitations and that's why they feel their age more.

I agree - the mean seem to relate being 22 only to the physical, while women equate it with both the physical and the mental and emotional - and the latter two win out.

Oh, definitely not. It has taken me these years to grow into who I am and there were plenty of growing pains.

I was fascinated by this. I would not go back, for all of the reasons you list. I would choose wisdom over youth.

I do NOT want to be 22 again. Not even to have that nice body. I am sooo much happier at 41 than I ever was in my twenties. And I'm even happy with my 41-year-old body, lumps and all!!

The gender divide is fascinating. I wouldn't want to be 22 again either, (though, admittedly, sometimes I sigh when I see photos of my cute younger self). For one thing--I just came in from a 4 mile run, and running is something I took up at 42, after 20 + years of thinking I couldn't run.

Congratulations for taking up running in your 40s - fabulous! WHo needs to be 22, anyway??

This is a really interesting post. No way would I return to 22. I'm a woman. So, I asked my husband, to see if he responded differently to this question. "I would dare much more, I would take more chances than I did." So, there you go. He confirmed the results in your group. His answer was 22? Bring it on! He added that he would not want to be 16. Fascinating!

I've got to poll more men, since so far, every man - including my DH, has answered "yes" to the question - and every woman has answered "no." What an interesting topic I've stumbled upon!

No...couldn't take the emotion of it all!

Agreed. High drama time. No thanks!!

Count me in the no way category. In general, I don't think men think about age as much as women do. But to add to your discussion on staying healthy and gender differences, I've noticed at the gym that women tend to work out in groups much more then men do.

Hmmm....that's an interesting observation about the gym. I wonder why that is the case? Maybe they get motivation from one another, and men are more self-driven (?)

If I were in the same state of being 22 as I was the first time, what's the point in going back? I'd probably just stay the way I am now if I couldn't take with me the life lessons I'd learned.

No point in going back, as far as I (and all the women who have commented) can see. But for the men, I think they want to go back to their physical selves and don't think as much about the emotional self at 22.

What a great and intriguing post, Sheryl. Like all the other women, I wouldn't go back to 22 for anything.

Hmm ... interesting question. I'd say I'd rather not repeat my early twenties because of how hard it was to find my place socially after graduating from college and surviving on my entry-level salary (less than $30k).

Yes, the low salary is a very valid point; one that has not come up yet. Thanks for the input!

FASCINATING division of opinion between the sexes! And I agree with all the other women - I have absolutely no desire to revisit my mentally unbalanced, overly emotional 22-year-old self.

I'm feel that these are the best years of my life!!! every time that somebody ask my age I proudly answers 59, and I'm so happy to be that age! in the other hand, my husband don't even wants to remember how old is he!!!!

On a good day I still feel 22 -- in my head! But I'm grateful for the wisdom a few more years bring.

On a good day I still feel 22 -- in my head! But I'm grateful for the wisdom a few more years bring.

a very interesting concept!

as a 23 year old, I'd go back to being 22 in a heartbeat (but only because that was when I was still in college and surrounded by my best friends). However, if you asked me to go back to being a high school student or something, I'd also say no way!

I can see all of your perspectives clearly, and am happy to know that this stage of confusion/uncertainty/low salary etc .. .is not a life long thing (well the low salary thing might be, considering my career choice). I look forward to aging and becoming wiser/more emotionally intellectual. :)

Michelle, Thanks for your comment. It's refreshing to hear your personal perspective! And I hope that you made the right career choice - what is it, if you'd like to share? YOu sound you are already wise...

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