Social Age: Should an Official Age be Adjusted for Development?

One of the biggest problems with regards to developmentally different people is that their stages of development are slower and longer than neurotypicals. Now to abate any anticipated fears, the idea of adjusting someone’s age to their level of development would not normalize, justify, or validate anything sexually perverted. The maximum difference that this would regard is around five years so even if this were extended to a legal context then it wouldn’t make a practical difference in those areas. Rather, this would allow, both socially and in terms of education, for people to develop at their natural rate with their natural peers. For me, it is quite embarrassing to be a super-senior in college and it would be easier if I could just be younger and be on time. My entire life, I’ve been late to the various stages of my life so the idea that I miss the glory days of my youth because I was still in the emerging states of puberty when my college peers were all passed that seems unfair.

                I lost my last tooth at thirteen and while my language acquisition began roughly on time, it slowed very quickly thereafter. I wrote like a six-year-old from age six to age thirteen. My spelling was still largely phonetic until I was in the eighth grade and I didn’t have a mature-ish level of eloquence until I was sixteen. While I may be obviously high-functioning, that eventual reality was unexpected until I just shy of seventeen.  Which means that people largely believed that I would effectively have an intellectual disability, that is that I would be mildly retarded for life, well into my teenage years. Without question, the horrid state of the SPED system was partly to blame for that and they could have made that metamorphosis happen earlier but it did happen. When it happened, I was at a major disadvantage. If I get to the strange and screwed-up story of how and what happened when I went from mid to high functioning, it will surprise and offend you. It’s a “Flowers for Algernon” story but weirder because the guy who wrote that story had no idea what going from mid-functioning to high-functioning would actually be like. Let’s just say, I got the bulk of the early socialization I did, after I became more receptive to it, from middle and high school bullies.

To use one example, the most common way I was bullied was people using my social blindness to have me entertain them by humiliating myself through dancing or singing or something like that. Eventually, I became cynical of anyone who was superficially nice to me and I couldn’t delineate someone being truly kind versus someone trying to bait me and, after I knew what they were trying to do, I assumed all of the normal kids were in on it and ruined a few potential friendships and alliances by assuming their overtures were malicious. Of course, even when I was successfully gaining eloquence and maturity, I was still lagging behind my peers and visibly so. I had enough language and social skills to communicate and interact with my peers but not enough to be their equal and therefore I was made the circus monkey of them. My being slightly behind my peers was a significant cause of some of the more egregious bullying I endured and it sorely impacted my social skills for years to come.

The adults were semi-aware of this but considered the affair to be nothing to worry about. Schools having pet retards, celebrity retards, was a cute thing that the movie Radio glorified. Yeah, being the celebrity retard of a school was not understood by the adults to have a potential dark side to it like said figure (me) becoming the plaything for sadists. The adults, generally, were incompetent and unscientific in their administration of the youth culture. It was a libertine wasteland of vice and oppression into which they echoed anachronistic PSAs for abstinence in metaphorically creamy vintage accents while they were ignored like the adults on Charlie Brown.

In any case, my slight developmental delay made me the perfect target, not too astute and not too dumb, for the affectionate sadism of my peers which having my social age be lower would have, partially, addressed. I shouldn’t imply that I didn’t get bullied by younger kids. I did. When I was a senior in high school, I was bullied viciously by eighth graders. On my eighteenth birthday, my head was urinated on by a thirteen-year-old. So, it wouldn’t have ended the oppression but it would have reduced the volume of it. Perhaps, more importantly, I would have been more prepared for college and adulthood my actual development had been accounted for. I graduated high school with a decent SAT score and GPA but in most other ways I was dearly lacking in the faculties to make it. Worse, I was seen as an adult or, at least, a late adolescent, when I wasn’t. Stuff like this is still a problem but back then it was significantly worse. I wasn’t terribly worldly in many ways.

When I arrived in college from a history of not having a social life with peers, lots of time in SPED classes, and the sexual knowledge of a twelve-year-old, college was not about to be animal house for me. I’ve never touched alcohol, recreational drugs, tobacco, I abstain from pornography and overly explicit media like Game of Thrones or Fifty Shades of Grey, and I’m saving my virginity for marriage. Through that, I’ve preserved much of my innocence but it’s nothing compared to how innocent I was arriving in college. I knew what sex was but I had never been told or learned the cultural nuances or lingo or anything like that about sex besides the most cliched and stereotyped stuff that was allowed in PG-13 media. For the record, I thought vaginas were circular holes which means I didn’t know vulvas existed. That’s the level of sexual ignorance I’m talking about. What happened was on the occasions I heard stuff, in an attempt to relate to my peers I would try to employ it to sound like them only to find that that wasn’t how that was supposed to used. It happened in high school, too, but in college I was seen as a man rather than a boy and also in high school, everyone knew I was from SPED.  From which they infer something creepy from something borne of ignorant innocence.

In my life, I needed more time to adjust to the culture and to develop and many easily preventable issues and sources of suffering failed to be prevented because I was in a developmental group that did not match my developmental stage. I would support changing official ages by margins in order to make growth and the transition to adulthood easier and better. I would have been far more successful in college and the money spent on failed and withdrawn from classes would not have been wasted. It would be hard to put into policy but not impossible and certainly worth the effort.

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