zits, emoji, and toaster strudels: reasons my brain is too young for my body

I recently took a test online that was supposed to tell me my mental age. One of my coworkers sent it to our staff, and we were having the time of our lives comparing our results (it’s winter in northern Michigan, what else is there for us to do?). Seeing as I’m turning 25 in a month and I regularly oscillate between having the energy and maturity level of my 17 year-old students and wanting to call it an “early night” whenever I go out with my friends, I was quite intrigued to get the results of this quiz.

Personality tests are one of my biggest guilty pleasures. I love them in all forms: the extremely accurate and enlightening Myers-Briggs, the slightly simpler True Colors, the Love Language survey, the Gallup StrengthsQuest I was recently assigned to take for work, all of them. I devour any test that will give me a self-definition, because lord knows defining myself without an equation-based set of probing questions is just too difficult for me at this stage in my life. Throw in a pop culture phenomenon that I’m obsessed with, and I’ll lose my shit even more. Which Lord of the Rings race do I belong in? What would be my Hunger Games combat style? What’s my Hogwarts house? I NEED TO KNOW ALL OF THIS IN ORDER TO KNOW MYSELF.

It turns out my mental age is 20. Twenty. Two-zero. As in, nearly five years younger than I actually am, and only two years older than most of the kids who live in my building. My brain was apparently held back in school several times while the rest of my body continued to age. My brain would probably attend a midnight showing of any of the movies in the Twilight saga. My brain would willingly engage in a friends-with-benefits relationship because it doesn’t know any better. My brain still thinks UV Blue vodka mixed with lemonade is an appropriate drink of choice. Actually, my brain isn’t even old enough to legally drink alcohol!

Of course, I take the results of most tests like this one with a grain of salt. (Some of the questions were pretty weird anyway.) It’s not like I was expecting my mental age to be 35, because I don’t feel 35. Hell, sometimes I barely feel like a college graduate, because I live in a dorm and eat all my meals in a cafeteria. So you know what, I guess 20 is pretty accurate. I’m still young, I’m still figuring out what I want to do with my life. When I actually was 20, a sophomore in college, I thought I had figured out what I wanted to do. I had the bare bones of a plan for the rest of my life and career. But now, five years later, I’m back to the drawing board and wishing and dreaming and hoping I can make it in the world doing something I love. That sounds pretty 20ish to me, so I’ll take it.

But just for good measure, I compiled a list of additional things that may be contributing to my barely-a-twentysomething mental age. Maybe this will help me redirect the anger I feel for all the people throughout my past three years as a school employee who have asked me what grade I’m in.

1. My frequent use of emoji. I also use exclamation points a lot. If you’ve ever had a text conversation with me, you’ll understand. If you haven’t . . . well, I just like to make my enthusiasm known, okay? It is extremely hard to convey tone in a text message, so I try to make it very clear. My personal favorites are the kissy-face and hearts-for-eyes emoji. On the flip side, I also use the poop emoji, though its negative connotation is somewhat convoluted since the poop appears to be smiling. I don’t know why that poop emoji is the only one to choose from, I can’t imagine I’m the only person who would like to have a full range of emotions available within my poop emoji, but whatever.

2. My affinity for young adult fiction. I’ll take a John Green novel over Jane Austen any day. Sorry I’m not sorry.

3. My addiction to Toaster Strudels. I used to eat these any time I stayed at my grandma’s house as a kid because my parents wouldn’t buy them. It wasn’t until I reached adulthood that I rediscovered their flaky, toasted, fruit-filled, icing-drenched goodness. I was also reminded that it is damn near impossible to cook them perfectly without some kind of fancy ass toaster. You just end up with dark, burnt pastry outside and still-partially-frozen (lukewarm if you’re lucky) fruit filling inside. But I eat them anyway, burnt pastry flakes and all, because the little icing that comes in the plastic packet is so damn fun to squeeze out.

4. My tendency to use abbreviations in spoken conversation. Actually, they are “abbrevs,” and it took all of my strength to type out the full word in the previous sentence. Also, I am fully aware of the irony that I am an aspiring writer perpetuating a trend that it is slowly destroying the English language as we know it, so you don’t have to point it out every time I use the word “totes.”

5. My complexion. As a young, starry-eyed teenager, I took my blemish-free, porcelain skin for granted, and now that has come back around to bite me in the ass. I thought I had survived the zit-mageddon stage of my life and emerged unscathed, but it was apparently just delayed. Well, kudos skin, for trying to spread out the sources of my emotional turmoil between different decades of my life, but I don’t think you realize that I’m still as lost and confused now as I was at 16, just for different reasons. So, in short, your little acne-explosion is still ill-timed and unappreciated. Thanks for nothing.

6. My Netflix recommendations. My to-watch list contains an impressive lineup of indie dramas, dark comedies, and cutting edge TV shows. My recommendations tell the real truth, with categories like “because you watched Pretty Little Liars” or “reality TV shows.” I’m sorry I don’t live up to my film critic facade, Netflix, but calling me out like this is kind of passive-aggressive, don’t you think?

7. My Suave Kids green-apple-scented detangler. I realize this list is getting downright embarrassing, but what do you want from me? I don’t care if the bottle has a picture of a cartoon octopus on it, it costs less than three dollars at the drug store, and I’m too lazy to get my hair cut more than twice a year. This stuff helps me comb out the rat’s nest on my head each morning. It’s crucial. And it smells like a Jolly Rancher. What’s not to love?

8. My complete and utter incompetence when it comes to relationships. I’m not sure this one will ever change, even if my brain ages 15 years overnight.

9. My love of glittery nail polish. My nail polish collection is embarrassingly large and includes many shades usually not worn by anyone over the age of fourteen. One time, I painted my fingernails a pretty shade of sparkly bright blue, and the next day I saw a middle schooler at the mall wearing the exact same shade.

10. My teddy bear. Yes, I still have my teddy bear. His name is Norman. I got him as a newborn, and I have no wise-cracks to make about him because he is the best.


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