Is 28 the New 18?

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birthday candles
Coming into the age of change.

After ending a relationship with an under-25-er last year, I vowed to not date a man younger than 28. While this seemed like an arbitrary age to target, I was surprised to find out that I'm not the only one to place a certain weight on this number. Specifically for males, leaving 27 behind seems to serves as a benchmark birthday of something—be it maturity, adulthood, decision, you name it.

My friend Diana, for example, married her now-30-year-old husband two years ago, at an age when he had replaced touring the country in a Volkswagen van and rocking dreadlocks with running his family’s business and buying his first home in Chicago.

Whether it's getting married, ending a long-withering relationship or finally leaving law behind to start a band, 28 seems to be an age of embracing adulthood on your own terms in a way that turning 18 no longer fosters.

People have theorized on the coincidences of Kurt Cobain, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Jim Morrison all dying just before reaching this magical age. The more recent death of Heath Ledger at 28, adds to the suspected significance.

While 28 has a different meaning in the 21st century United States, where the average age of first marriage is 26 versus, say, Pakistan, where the average age to marry is 21, a quick Google search resulted in a plethora of blog entries dedicated to the topic.

Blackrimglasses.com, for example, made a list of "The Top 10 Things a Geek Thinks About When He Turns 28" that includes

2. Amy [wife] just turned 29, and now that we're edging toward 30, we are seriously discussing when the time is "right" to have kids. I don’t think any time is "right" per se, but I think we are ready, whenever that time is.

3. High school seems like a long, long time ago. The scary thing is: my undergraduate and graduate years are starting to feel the same.

5. Having a mortgage, two pugs, a cat and a wife makes you feel more "adult" than age ever will.

So, call it what you will—exaggerated phenomenon, Saturn returning, the expiration age for sowing wild oats—there seems to be a je ne sais quoi effect of turning 28.

Please share your thoughts.

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  • According to online dating research, a woman is "past her prime" at 31, while a man isn't until 36.