Old people are cranky, slow and boring. Kids are noisy, restless and irritating. For most of us, life is about making sure we stay as awesome as we are right now -- we'll always love our video games, and music, and eating burritos at two in the morning after the bars closed. Isn't that what all the commercials tell us, that you're only as old as you feel?
Well, science has some bad news for you. The behaviors of the elderly that you write off as old-person lameness, and your behavior that the elderly credit to dickish rebellion, are all based in biology. And no, you can't stop it.
As you age ...
#7. Your Brain Will Stop Getting Pleasure from New Music
When you're a kid, the absolute worst music in the world is whatever your parents are listening to. Your dad is out in the garage listening to goddamned Foghat, and you wonder why he doesn't want to cram that power drill right into his ear.
Get your uncool hands off our inheritance, you selfish old man.
Then when you grow up, the absolute worst music in the world is whatever the teenagers are listening to. You're still listening to real rock or rap, the hardcore stuff from back when music was genuine, while they're listening to some derivative manufactured Justin Bieber bullshit. Dammit, why won't they listen when you try to show then what real music sounds like?
"It was the greatest rivalry of all time, son."
If you're reading this and are somewhere in between the "kid" and "grownup" stages, you're probably thinking that you'd never just let your musical tastes freeze in time. You'll keep finding new bands as they emerge, staying on the cutting edge until the day you die.
But Over Time ...
As you get older, your brain becomes more and more unable to handle dopamine, which, as we've pointed out before, is a big factor in making us feel "the chills" when a new exciting piece of music comes on.
"Na na na getting jiggy wit it ... yeah, this is my sonnng!"
Because nothing you hear will have that same effect on you as the fresh exciting sounds of your youth, it will become harder and harder to get fired up about new music. Your musical taste will therefore stagnate, regardless of how on top of the trends you were at 17. If you want to know what new music will sound like when you're 50, go spend an hour watching TV shows intended for toddlers. See how long you can tolerate it.
So, you'll get older and settle down and, inevitably, the ubiquitous Rumours album by Fleetwood Mac will mysteriously appear in your collection, like a Gideon Bible in a hotel. Just accept it.
And get off our lawn.
#6. The Physical Urge to Rebel Will Fade Away
You teenagers out there should be ashamed of yourselves. Flip on the news and check out the chilling stories of teen school shootings and teen pregnancy and teen cyberbullying and teen vandalism and all of your other teen crimes. Any senior citizen can tell you: Society is on the verge of collapse, and if you want proof, you only need to look at the state of the world's out-of-control teenagers.
The bloody battle for a midnight bedtime rages on.
It's obvious why: Clearly, our godless immoral society has ruined our young people, filling their heads with the violent video games and the Jersey Shores and the dubstep. Just imagine what's going to happen when these little monsters grow up.
But Over Time ...
Don't worry, dad -- these little monsters will turn into the same boring insurance salesman you did. It's all in how the brain develops.
So give up on the dream of your son being a respected artist now, champ.
From the moment you tumble out of the womb until you turn 13 or so, you have a pretty solid contract with these tall people whose house you're living in. Your parents are the embodiment of structure and order -- you sleep when they tell you to sleep, eat what they tell you to eat and shit where they tell you to shit. Then, when your hormones start kicking in, suddenly you start rebelling against their tyrannical rule, staying out until 3 a.m., dedicating your homework time to video games and shitting in potted plants around the house.
Old people have one simple theory to explain this: Teenagers are assholes. But if they are, it's not necessarily their fault -- studies suggest that although the brain develops pretty rapidly through childhood, the parts that enable you to feel empathy and guilt take longer to kick in. During those teenage years, what you get is someone who is capable of driving a motor vehicle but incapable of fully empathizing with fellow human beings. So, really, not a great combination there.
"So I'm not old enough to vote, but I am old enough to pilot a 3,000-pound metal bullet through crowded neighborhoods?"
Somebody could object that this isn't true, because their kid was sweet and kind at age 10, but a jerkass at age 15. Well, that's because it looks like puberty actually messes with your brain's ability to read emotions, so for a while, you're actually less empathetic than a 6-year-old. The combination of an underdeveloped sense of remorse and an inability to tell when you're upsetting someone means that you're much more likely to scream "I hate you, Mom!" when she tells you to pick the layer of underpants up off the floor.
Eventually, though, the hormonal assault does wear off, and you begin to feel bad for all those times you called your mother a whore. It's about the same time that you start to whine about teenagers being assholes.
"Police? Yes, I've just turned 20 and all these 19-year-olds have turned up for the 'partay.' Please hurry."
#5. Your Brain Will Start Getting Pleasure from Boring Shit
Aside from occasional exceptions, it's rare to see senior citizens ramping things on a dirt bike. They, for the most part, don't drive fast cars, or play pranks, or play violent video games, or do, well, anything exciting. This is one of the greatest dreads that teenagers have about growing older -- life as a grownup seems so incredibly boring and lame. Each of us, at some point, has promised that this will never happen to us.
No taxes, free meals and 50 percent fewer beatings: prison, better than Mom's basement.
But Over Time ...
The good news is, it's not that bad. It turns out that this gradual switch over to preferring to redecorate the garage over electronic slaughter via Xbox actually has its roots in developing brain chemistry. In adolescence, the brain is less active in the motivation and planning areas, but highly active in the reward-based areas, and so you are drawn to activities with high-satisfaction payoffs but minimal effort expended to achieve them. In other words, you want big thrills, and you want them right now.
I'm planting motherfucking azaleas!
Something like being pushed screaming down a busy street in a shopping cart requires no forethought (beyond how many YouTube views you hope to achieve), but your friends yelling "Dude!" and praising your "bravery" makes your brain pump out sweet sweet reward chemicals like dopamine. Fast-paced video games play to the same instant-reward, zero-investment part of the brain.
But later in life, the thrill-seeking part of your brain starts to settle down and you start getting more satisfaction from modest highs, like having a nice flower garden, and you're more willing to put in the effort to achieve these goals in the long term. Spending a whole day in front of a video game starts to feel like a wasted day.
Modern Florafare: The Gardening.
But that's not the only guilty pleasure you'll lose your taste for. You'll also find that ...
#4. It Will Become Physically Impossible to Sleep In
When you are young, you think nothing of sleeping until midday, and your parents chide you for being a lazy, shiftless layabout. Your parents also may chide (if they dare) your grandparents for being seemingly unable to stop themselves from leaping out of bed at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m. and tidying the house.
"I sleep two hours a night so that Death will pay less attention to me."
The oversleeping teenager and crack-of-dawn-awakening retiree are two images that seem indelibly inked into the canvas of life. In both cases, we tie a moral judgment to it -- teens are too lazy, old people are too nervous and fussy.
But Over Time ...
Sleep is dictated by a chemical in your brain called melatonin. Scientists have tested how melatonin is produced by teenagers over the course of a day, and found that teenagers' bodies work on a kind of "permanent state of jet lag," wherein they are most alert in the afternoon and evening, but it takes much longer to rouse them in the morning. Yep, Mom, it's not because the boys are shiftless and lazy and rebellious -- their own body clocks are working against them.
It's 2 a.m. -- do you know what your teenager is eating?
We expect things to be haywire as a teenager, but the brain chemistry keeps changing well into adulthood, meaning the older you get, the harder it actually is to stay in bed, even if you try. So, one day, you too will feel an overwhelming urge to vacuum at sunrise on a Saturday and be in bed by 8. It's not because you suddenly learned responsibility -- it's because your body set the clock back.
Until your inner child snaps and tries to kill you.