I say “we” as though I am one of you. Muahahahaha!
Or am I…?
Anyway, that was a long title, but I didn’t know any other way to accurately portray what this discussion will be about. Actually I’m still not sure that’s accurate, but close enough.
You see, I read LOTS of paranormal and urban fantasy, so I end reading about creatures with immortality or extended lifespans quite often. And sometimes, well, certain things seem odd or their behaviors or voices just don’t seem fitting considering they’re hundreds or thousands of years old. But then, maybe if we were immortal and still in young bodies no matter how old we got, we would act differently.
I’ve been thinking about this more and more lately, and I know it’s not a strictly bookish topic, but I needed to talk it out and get all your thoughts on it. Plus it seems like an especially fun topic to speculate on. So let’s discuss!
Ok, I’m going to split this up into the two main things I’ve noticed/been pondering. So here we go.
Old Immortals Dating Young Humans
Boy is this ever a common trope. Especially with vampires, but also with other creatures. And you know what? It always kind of weirds me out a little bit. It’s become such an accepted thing for a 2000-year-old immortal vampire to date an 18-year-old girl that no one really bats an eyelash at it. And it’s almost like ages in the hundreds or thousands are so beyond our realm of understanding that we can’t even fathom it and therefore just accept it. But what about when the immortal is actually just 75 years old (in the body of a 20-year-old, of course) and dating an 18-year-old? It suddenly seems weird now, doesn’t it?
Or maybe we just have too difficult of a time separating looks from age. When a character looks 30, it’s like I just kind of think of him as being 30. I know that he’s actually 500, but my brain just can’t mesh the two pieces of information together properly.
And there’s also the question of, why would an immortal that old and mature even want to date someone so young? I mean, no matter how mature some people are at 18, they’re still not as mature as they will be at 25, and 30, and so on. I get it that the paranormal dude doesn’t want to date an 80-year-old whose going to die, and even dating a 40-year-old could have its problems if he looked super young, but, as I said, even 25 or 30 is more mature than 18, more life experience, at a different point in life, etc.
So this whole dating thing is just weird all around, yeah?
But then I started looking at it from a different angle. (Sorry, I know we’re all word people, but I’m about to do math.) For the sake of simplicity, let’s say 100 years is the average human lifespan. If a 20-year-old dates a 30-year-old, that’s a 10 year age difference which is 10% in relation to the lifespan. But if our average lifespan were 1000 years, 10 years would only be 1%. And 50 years would only be 5%. Which would be the equivalent of a 5-year age difference to our actual lifespan, and 5 years really isn’t that much. So if we actually did live for thousands of years, having 50-100 years in age difference probably wouldn’t be all that big of a deal. And you know how age differences become less of a big deal as we get older? Well maybe it’s the same for immortals, just in a way bigger scope. And really, what are they gonna do, make a cut-off age? “I refuse to date anyone over 500 years in age difference, so I can’t date her because that’s a 507 year age difference”? What’s even the point? So I can kind of see why age might not really matter to immortals.
Immortals Acting and Sounding Young
Another thing I’ve noticed is that the immortal creatures in books often sound like they are mentally the same age as their body. Even if they’re 2000 but in the body of a 30-year-old, they often act/sound/seem like they’re actually 30, for example. I don’t mean they go out and party and act like college kids, simply that their thoughts, their voice, doesn’t seem like it’s coming from someone who’s lived 2000 years.
Maybe this is again just my brain being unable to reconcile the difference between the looks and the age, so it pegs him at 30 and thus can’t see him any differently. Or maybe it’s just bad writing. Or maybe, again, the idea of living that long is so impossible for us to fathom that no one could possibly know how to write it.
Or maybe, if we all had bodies that looked young and were healthy no matter how old we got, we really would stay “young,” for lack of a better word, in our minds. Yes, we would mature and learn and grow, but we’d be better able to adapt than we could if our bodies and brains were struggling with age. And maybe our appearances and our health affect us on a subconscious level, like we feel that we’re supposed to start acting different at a certain age. But inside our heads, do we ever actual stop feeling young? And if we kept our young bodies forever, then wouldn’t it make sense that in some ways we’d still think and act young?
My General Thoughts
Whew! *wipes sweat off brow* *that was a lie, I’m actually freezing right now* That post ended up being rather long and philosophical, but now you all have a small taste of what it’s like inside my head ;-) Anyway, I actually do think we might act and live very differently if we had longer lifespans, so maybe the paranormal creature stuff makes more sense than I originally thought it did. It sure is interesting and a little mind-bending to think about though. And I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!