IF YOU TELL A WOMAN that Scientists at Newcastle University in the UK have discovered that girls tend to optimize brain connections earlier than boys; that the researchers concluded that this may explain why females generally mature faster in certain cognitive and emotional areas than males during childhood and adolescence*, the woman will likely say something like: "I could have told you that."
IF YOU TELL A MAN about that same research, he's likely to say something like: "Hey do you know why Helen Keller played the piano with only one hand?”
I’m not going to lie; sometimes the close personal scrutiny I put myself through as I reflect on my second-coming-of-age can be a bit painful. For example, it has dawned on me that in a lot of ways I have remained, well; immature. While it’s been years since I lit a fart on fire, to this day I would much rather sit in a public place making fun of other people than I would engage in deep talk about socio-political B.S over “senior” coffee with a bunch of old geezers at McDonalds.
Is that narcissistic of me? No. Not in the classical sense anyway—where poor old Narcissus became stuck in time when entranced by his own beauty upon seeing his reflection in a pool of water.
I’m not saying that I’ve grown past adolescent self-absorption. Nor, am I saying that I’ve grown up much at all. I’ve just grown older. Wiser too? The jury’s still out.
So, about my chronic immaturity: Part of it I attribute to being a dude. Part of it comes from the fact that I’ve spent most of my working years with teenagers and young adults (and I treasure those years). Part of it comes from fear—the fear that once I step over the threshold and start having adult conversations about stuff like social security, medicare, obamacare, and who-gives-a-care; once I start feigning indignation over hilarious, slightly inappropriate jokes, and wearing socks with sandals… there will be no turning back.
I imagine that for most normal people, maturing is a process. But, somehow it seems to me to be like an Exit on a freeway. Like at some point I have to realize, I’m sixty-something and there are these big signs that are saying, “Last Chance! Take this Exit! Food, Gas, Restrooms, Moccasins, Cracker Barrel and Maturity.”
So what was Robert Frost really feeling when he wrote his defining poem:
THE ROAD NOT TAKEN
By Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
If I could, I would sit down with Robert Frost over a Cafe Au Lait, or a pint of ale, and I would say something like, “So, Mr. Frost, it was like a fork-in-the-road experience for you too?” And then we would talk deeply about life and stuff.
And then I would say something like: “Talk about your life-defining stories, have you seen “Tommy Boy”?!
P.S.: Helen Keller played the piano with only one hand because she sang with the other one. (I know; I'm hopeless, but I think Helen herself would find that funny.)