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Is 27 the Perfect Age?

Posted by Josh Rothman  September 5, 2012 03:30 PM

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Writing for The Awl, Adriane Quinlan contemplates being twenty-seven. According to the culture at large, she argues, twenty-seven is the “perfect” age—a moment when you’re just mature enough to be interesting, but still young enough to be glamorous. Her list of idolized twenty-seven-year-olds is pretty striking:

[E]verything America mythicizes and celebrates and destroys is twenty-seven and has always been twenty-seven: Ingrid Bergman, in Casablanca; Heather Graham, in Boogie Nights; Marilyn Monroe in Gentleman Prefer Blondes; Jemima Kirke, in “Girls”; and every other actress expected to be a sexual prize for the first 89 minutes and believably settled down in the final frame…. The twenty-seven-year-old can accomplish anything: Yuri Gagarin orbited at age 27; Flannery O’Connor published Wise Blood and Hemingway The Sun Also Rises—their debuts. Think of Ryan Lochte v. Michael Phelps just last month when both were 27, or LeBron James, 27.

An entire article in Esquire, she points out, was devoted to the twenty-seven-year-old woman. Ben and Jerry founded their ice-cream company when they were twenty-seven; Christian Grey, of the Fifty Shades, is a smoldering twenty-seven; Lisa del Giocondo, the model in the Mona Lisa, was likely twenty-seven when she posed. Perhaps because twenty-seven is the height of perfection, Quinlan writes, it’s also been mythologized as a moment of self-destruction (Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, and Robert Johnson are just a few of the musicians who’ve died at 27).

As a proud thirty-three-year-old, I can say with great certainty that twenty-seven is not the prime of life—though there’s plenty of room for debate about what the perfect age might be. Read the rest of Quinlan’s excellent essay at The Awl.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.

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