We’re in our 30’s. We’re not girls and boys. That’s okay.

A busy morning café. A group of women in their 30s are laughing over lattes. One of them exclaims, "We girls need to do this more often!" Across town, a group of men clink their glasses in a pub, one of them chuckling, "It's always a good time with the boys." Adults referring to themselves and their peers as "the girls" or "the boys" is an everyday oddity. But why? Why do we cling to these youthful identifiers?

The connection to youth and vitality is a yearning for the energy and boundless possibilities that youth symbolises. There's nostalgia, certainly - the bittersweet longing for a past perceived as simpler and perhaps happier. But it's as much about grounding ourselves in a terrifying, shifting world as reliving glory days. The need for belonging and group identity is a powerful force that social psychology helps decode. Being "the boys" and being "the girls" offers adults a sense of belonging, a connection to a group identity that remains constant while everything else changes.

Our need to associate with youthfulness is our counterbalance to the inevitable realities of ageing. It's as if, by invoking the spirit of youth, we can momentarily don the cloak of invincibility that once seemed so inherent in our younger selves. From the high-pressure environments of corporate boardrooms to the casual intimacy of friendly gatherings, youthful identifiers are a linguistic link to a time of perceived limitless potential. By calling ourselves and our peers "the boys" or "the girls," adults can momentarily recapture the essence of youth.

Seen in a positive light, this might be called resilience, a declaration that the passage of time does not equate to the dimming of vitality or the narrowing of possibilities, reminding us that, regardless of age, the essence of who we are – energetic, hopeful, ever-curious – remains a constant, undimmed by the years.

But it also begs an uncomfortable question: does clutching at youth's identity signal a reluctance to embrace the present reality of adult responsibilities?

When we clothe ourselves in youth's carefree and unburdened identity, we step back from the depth of engagement and responsibility required by reality. The world demands a maturity and wisdom that is only forged through the experiences and trials of adult life. By fixating on a youthful persona, we remain in a state of prolonged adolescence, where the gravity of our lives is met with a naivete or a reluctance to grapple with complexity.

In today's world, being wise and a "grown-up" seems to take a back seat to staying young. In many ways, we face a subtle, pervasive push for adults to infantilise themselves, a trend that goes beyond mere language. Cultural and commercial forces encourage us to embrace teen-like qualities and behaviours, often at the expense of adult maturity and responsibility. Advertisements, media, and social norms glorify youthfulness, nudging us towards prolonged adolescence.

We are obsessed with battling any hint of ageing. We spend billions of dollars pursuing the technological fountain of eternal youth. Our 30 under 30 lists, our adoration of college-student savant billionaires. And on it goes. In a world where being young is linked with being beautiful, successful, and relevant, who wouldn't feel the urge to hold on to their younger self?

And it might all seem harmless, a way to inject a dash of lightness into our interactions. But this language can trivialise life. It paints adulthood as a phase to be resisted rather than embraced, where gravitas is replaced with a veneer, an approximation of youth, where we ignore the beauty of simply getting older — and the wealth of experience and knowledge that comes with it.

I passionately believe in the power of joy, the freedom to let loose and play, to laugh with abandon, and not get bogged down by life's seriousness. There's something magical about those moments when we can be free from the heavy cloak of adult worries.

But here's the thing - getting older doesn't mean we have to leave all that behind. At 34, I don't need "girl time" with my friends. I need quality time. I don't need to pretend I'm not seeing more candles on my (generally ice cream) birthday cake each year to keep that spark of joy alive. Growing older is a beautiful adventure filled with stories.

We can still dance in the rain, sing at the top of our lungs, and find wonder in the little things while carrying our years with pride. We aren't choosing between youthful joy or mature dignity; we can live by embracing both fiercely and fully in a vibrant dance. We don't need to shrink ourselves by denying our age. We don't need to be the boys and the girls. We can be human.

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