Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Middle-Aged Arrogance


Title Photo Credit: Bill Branson,National Cancer Institute
(Yeah... I'm still picking on this poor stock-photo family.)

How’s it going?  Sorry for being less active here lately. It’s been a crazy several weeks.  I feel like my schedule was pretty much ad-libbed, and I had little time for writing.  Despite my month-long lack of posting, the blog still got views.  I want to thank everyone very much for that.  You’re awesome.

Anyway, it’s time to write about something:

Have you ever met someone who’s convinced that they know everything?  I imagine so.  Have you ever met a middle-aged person who’s convinced that they know everything?  That’s probably also a “yes” for most people reading this.  (Note that while I’m sure the definition varies, I’m going to say that middle-aged people are at least 45 years old.)  Know-it-alls can be annoying in general.  To people, like me, who are younger than 45, middle-aged know-it-alls can be extra annoying, since they always have the option of trying to browbeat you with their “years of experience.” 

These years of experience sometimes lead a middle-aged person to think that they always know what they’re talking about, a condition which I’ve termed “middle-aged arrogance.”  The name is somewhat misleading, as in many cases, it’s more of an overgeneralization error than straight-up arrogance. 

Yes, by the time someone is 45, or perhaps into their 50s or even early 60s, they’re probably experienced in certain areas.  They’re probably well-practiced in some kind of field, have kids, have a mortgage, have a stock portfolio, have watched their health decline as they stressed themselves half to death in the name of normal life, and so on.  They’ve seen a lot of things, overcome challenges, and feel like they know what they’re doing. The overgeneralization error comes when their experience and achievements in certain areas cause them to think that they’re well-prepared for any situation and always know what’s best. 

Sorry, but such a belief simply isn’t true.  Experience in a given area does not broadly apply to all aspects of life. To use a generic example: A businessman with 20 years of experience at business will be helpless if he were to suddenly be thrown onto a remote, tropical island.  He might as well be a child.  In fact, suppose that this island has a tribe of people who’ve lived untouched by the rest of the world:  Most of the tribe’s kids will probably be better able to function in their environment than Mr. 401(k). 

While I do believe that most cases of middle-aged arrogance come from overgeneralization of qualifications, there are definitely Faded Glories out there who really are arrogant and overconfident.  In such cases, they were probably like that their whole lives, and being middle-aged simply gave them a new pissing-contest method.  These would be the ones most likely to be the know-it-alls whom I described earlier as “browbeating you with their experience.” 

Alternatively, such people might be exhibiting such assholery to hide their own age-related insecurities.  Maybe they placed a lot of value on attributes that strongly correlate with youth.  Now that they’ve lost those features, they’re looking for anything they can to still feel some sense of superiority.  (I imagine such people would be incensed if I were to call them “Faded Glory.”)  Of course, some of them might just be assholes…

On a final note, I call it “middle-aged arrogance” since I really don’t see it much in senior citizens.  Even though they’ve got even more years of experience than their middle-aged inferiors, those whom I’ve met over the years don’t generally seem to exhibit overgeneralized arrogance.  Perhaps that observation fits with my speculation about insecurity breeding middle-aged arrogance.  A middle-aged person is still adjusting to being not exactly young, whereas an older person is quite used to that already.

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