Side by side photos: At left a fair-skinned young woman wearing a zip front black tank top. At right a young Black man standing at a stove with a pan of food on. He is wearing an apron and medical mask pulled below his chin and smiling at the camera.

We’re Gen Zers, and We Don’t Think We’re ‘Aging Like Milk’

Side by side photos: At left a fair-skinned young woman wearing a zip front black tank top. At right a young Black man standing at a stove with a pan of food on. He is wearing an apron and medical mask pulled below his chin and smiling at the camera.

Pulse contributors Natasha Kaye and Ronvel Sharper are Gen Zers, and they’re not worried about how members of their generation are aging. (Collage created with photos provided by the authors)

Editor’s note: The members of Gen Z, who turn 12 to 27 this year, apparently think they’re aging poorly — not like a fine wine but like milk. Or so says TikTok, and if something has gone viral on social media, there must be a good reason for it, right? Well, we asked two of our own Gen Z contributors what they think. Spoiler alert: They’re not following the trend.

Commentary, Natasha Kaye

The phrase “aging like milk” has gained popularity recently as Gen Z TikTokers have taken to the platform to discuss their gripes when people mistake them for being older they actually are. Last month, the New York Times published an article claiming our generation believes we ”age like milk.”

Well, I’m just not sure I buy into the generation wars.

Sure, Gen Z is under a lot of stress and pressure. When faced with the reality of a dying planet, lousy housing market, the never-ending pressures of social media and an economy that’s always being described as “in shambles,” it’s no wonder we’re stressed.

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However we are also a generation that prioritizes mental health, self-care and social justice.

Although we seem to struggle greatly with mental health, we are also the generation most likely to normalize mental health care.

Social media has also helped many of us feel less alone and more connected, so to speak. The mobilizing forces of that technology have helped us exchange information faster and connect with people we otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

At the crux of this aging milk debate is the claim that our entire generation agrees with these handful of TikTokers. I think instead, the popularity of the term has more to do with the attractive virality of those videos. That is the essence of the algorithm after all. Something that one person’s algorithm promotes can give the false impression that everyone is consuming the same.

Well, I can say with certainty that my 65-year-old neighbor who just downloaded TikTok to share her knitting videos has no idea my generation thinks we’re aging poorly. She doesn’t care, and to be honest, neither do I.

Between anti-aging serums, face morphing filters, plastic surgery, and whatever god-forsaken thing A.I. can come up with next, there is no use worrying about how we’re going to look. Who knows if we’ll even live to see how we look when we’re retired? Who knows if we’ll even retire?

The reality is every generation has people who look older, younger, and right in the middle and we’re fooling ourselves if we think it matters.


Commentary, Ronvel Sharper

It has come to my attention that a significant number of folks in my generation are under the impression that they are “aging like milk.”

According to the New York Times, a multitude of TikToks and other social media posts have been making the rounds, feeding into the idea that, well, we are aging horribly. But is that really the case? As a humble 24-year-old, I feel entitled to share my perspective.

I disagree. Wholeheartedly.

Go outside, and take a look around. You will notice that of many of the young adults hanging around either still have babyfaces or are short enough to be mistaken for teenagers — sometimes both. Now, why is this? Well, there are a multitude of factors at play here.

Alcohol/drug use: According to the Cleveland Clinic, Gen Z generally drinks less alcohol. Now, I can’t answer for everyone as to why fewer people my age choose to drink less. But personally, I have seen families ripped apart via alcoholism and have seen people in my own circle use it as a coping mechanism. Because of these experiences, I have seen alcoholism as inherently a “bad” thing. I conflate it with abuse, depressing moments in one’s life, and overall sadness. Plus, call me what you want, but alcohol tastes like poison. I do not see why anyone would like it aside from the occasional celebratory drink. Unfortunately, with the lower amounts of folks drinking, more folks have been indulging in cannabis. So there is that. But the biggest thing is this: Alcohol ages you.

Life stressors: I won’t beat around the bush. There are many life stressors we (and every adult, for that matter) are dealing with. But Gen Z doesn’t live in a time of war, we do not have to worry about being drafted to fight and die for a politician’s pockets or reelection chances. Knowing you won’t have to be shipped off to a far land does wonders for the skin, no? While the adults of Gen Z still have many stressors to worry about tied to adulthood — our economy being in shambles, social issues potentially getting worse during this election, etc.— the younger children of our group can actually enjoy their teenage years in stride.

Hygienic Grooming: This one is primarily for the guys reading. Do any of you guys remember when it was seen as “gay” to show any kind of care for your skin or fingernails during school? Heck, remember when doing anything even remotely “feminine” was seen as the biggest insult ever? Now, that we live in a much more accepting society, being clean as a man no longer has a stigma attached that could get you shoved inside a locker.

There is a point to all of this. Essentially, Gen Z has lived all of our lives through the lens of a screen. And that has warped our sense of what people are supposed to look like. We see all these idealized versions of ourselves, and yet we have yet to love ourselves. We love what we could be. While I am perfectly OK with indulging in one’s fantasies, it is also imperative to accept reality — one’s true self as they are.

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