Laughter is good for the abs.

Lately, I’ve been spending an awkward amount of time around folks in their early to mid-twenties. As someone who’s just two years and two months from her thirties, it makes me feel ancient and amused.

There was literally a point in a conversation with my coworkers where I was talking about “us millennials” and got a rude awakening – they’re Gen Z. Shock and awe.

I should’ve known based on the number of concepts I’ve had to explain to them lately. Why Gucci Mane and Petey Pablo are important figures, how your day job loses significance after three years being a model employee, and how all post-college milestones are a grand myth engineered to train you to be overly critical of your own unique progress.

I feel old, but I hope these young folks appreciate me the way I appreciate them. The more I talk to them, the more I realize how much I’ve grown, especially since my quarter life crisis. (I try not to talk to them about it – preparing is futile.)

Anyways, things got much more interesting when I went to the mall with my “niece.” Biologically, she is my niece, but at the ripe age of 24, she’s more like a baby sister. But sassier.

You know those moms you see getting berated by their daughters for dressing like a grandma? Those moms who ultimately end making a few questionable decisions and misusing new colloquialisms in an effort to be “cool”? That was how my niece made me feel on this trip.

First, she took me to a bunch of stores I’d never entered before like Vans and Zumiez. What is this new skater, nerd culture that was spreading? And why is NASA, at its least effective, suddenly a clothing staple? Was it because of that one Ariana Grande song?

But could I buy a NASA shirt and join in? No! “One word: Amazon.” My niece took me from store to store picking out cute clothes and then telling me I should order them online. Why buy those hot pink biker shorts in store where you can confirm the quality when you can spend $10 on a three-pack of an off-brand’s version, have them shipped in two days, and pray they aren’t made of tissue paper?

Also, should I be buying Champion brand clothes now? I could’ve sworn that was one of the cheap sweatpant brands, not high fashion. Ultimately, I ended up just buying a few dresses. I thought it’d be safe, but I still fielded loads of critiques. My niece has the gift of being both good-natured and savage at the same time.

The mall trip was only half a bust. Our shopping lists were no shorter, but we still managed to leave a few dollars lighter. Yet somehow we had loads of fun. At least I did finding ways to pick her brain and annoy her – picture a long car ride listening to a new female rapper just because I thought she was provocative enough to hold my niece’s interest. (My niece was uninmpressed.)

There’s a fun challenge being friends with people several years younger than you. You know things they don’t, but they know a thing or two you don’t too. Half the things you think are important, aren’t important to them yet, or never will be, and reminiscing is wasted on them.

But that’s what’s so great about my young friends: the differences. The differences pop up so often they’re impossible to ignore, so being with a youngin’ is like a journey of discovery. I learn about their world, they learn about mine, I learn more about mine.

And then we end up having a lot of fun. Because eventually none of the things we thought were that important – even the Toonami lineup in 2001 – end up being all that important. We’re all just living.

P.S. The irony of me calling adults in their twenties “youngins” while also being an adult in my twenties is not lost on me.

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