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The word adolescent can serve as either a noun or an adjective. According to the New Penguin English Dictionary (1996), as a noun it refers to somebody between the time of puberty and maturity. OK, but what the hell does that mean?

I get puberty. Or rather, I got puberty, but that was a long, long time ago. There are changes that people go through at puberty that demarcate that change of life. Some visible to everyone, others are not, but we can reasonably accurately label the point of puberty.

But when should one be considered to be mature?

I’ve met some pre-pubescent kids that are emotionally very mature even though their voice may not yet have changed and their sex organs might not yet have become fully functioning. Because the definition of adolescent sets its lower boundary at puberty, these kids can’t be considered to be adolescent despite having achieved the maturity entry requirement.

On the other hand, I’ve met some fairly old adults who are very immature. Does that make mean that they are still adolescents? They are, after all, past puberty, but not yet mature. This is an important question.

As I write this, I’m only a little more than four years away from being able to get seniors’ discounts at theaters and some stores here in Canada. When I visit the States, most theaters have lower seniors’ age thresholds and I already qualify in some of them. I worry about being disqualified for those privileges if I’m classified as adolescent because of my immaturity.

As an adjective, adolescent means acting like or exhibiting a behavior typical of a stereotypical adolescent. It is usually meant as an insult. If I were still an adolescent, I’d be out on the streets protesting against that. I didn’t at the time because I was a very quiet kid and I agreed with most adults’ opinion of my fellow adolescents.

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