Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Presbyopia and Other Milestones

When I was 13, I had a bar mitzvah. It was supposed to celebrate my moving from childhood to adulthood, but at 13 I hadn't even figured out how to be a teenager much less a man. But the idea is right. There are times and events that are universally human -- or at least culturally nearly universal -- which mark different phases of life.

Yesterday, I had THAT optometrist visit. My glasses will now become as progressive as I am (although that might mean I only have a lens on the left). I asked my optometrist whether presbyopia, age-related far-sightedness, was seen cross-culturally. He explained that it is truly universal. Environmental factors play some role in time of onset -- his academic and accountant patients would get it a few years earlier on average in his experience -- but it crossed all demographic categories and always started in the early 40s and subsided in the late 50s. The human eye is just built that way. So, reaching that point is something that everyone has or will experience. It was my blur mitzvah.

What other events would be that sort of shared milestone that virtually all others would be able to identify with that mark a change in life phase?

Losing your first tooth
Riding without training wheels for the first time
Having your first crush
Getting your driver's license (a car mitzvah)
The first funeral of someone in your age cohort