The term “tween,” according to the Urban Dictionary (one of my favorite websites) is: “a girl ages about 9-14…too old for toys, but too young for boys; prefers titillation by proxy; trying desperately to be a teenager but still a child; spend around 1.4 to 1.6 billion dollars in a year.” So, we’ve got a fickle, unsure human who is a marketers wet-dream. Hmm. Only 9-14 you say? I think not.
Obviously, “tween” means in between, even a Disney kid could work that out… But implied in this in between status is that there is a limbo-like place (purgatory?) where those in between are relegated; can’t go up and can’t go down… stuck. Because of this I do not actually think that the 9-14’s are the real tweens. The thing is (for better or for worse) these kids actually have a choice. They are mobile and have the choice to be kids or teenagers on any given day. That removes the purgatorial-limboesque aspect of the in between status. I certainly don’t advocate for young girls to be out there acting like they are, umm…. pro’s (exhibit A: Miley Cyrus). Nor do I condone the Lolita syndrome (exhibit B: school girl clothes and Hello Kitty on post-pubescent people). But the thing is, the 9-14 year old set have the choice.
The real tweens… the people really stuck in limbo? Let me describe them for you: They are between 36-40. They are, again, predominantly female. They are single. They are financially stable and generally working at fairly intense jobs/careers. The majority of their peers are married with children. They are too old for boys and too creative to be satiated by toys.
Sound familiar? I bet you know a few.
I realized that I am a tween on my last holiday, (not that I hadn’t been aware of something along these lines for a while… but it sort of hit me as I was people watching in Vietnam.) The thing is this. I like to go out and have a good time, preferably with like-minded friends, and I have the ways and means to do basically whatever I want in this regard. However, most of my like minded friends don’t have the ways to do this – they have kids and families and commitments. And the people I know who have the time, well, either they haven’t got the biyuyu, or they are just too young and have an entirely different world view (I really appreciate this world view, by the way, I just don’t want to hang out with it and have the discussions I did as a university student again. And again. And again.) I felt like my choice was to go down the chronological slide… where I feel like, as I have mentioned before, sort of a creeper (I believe the word is “cougar” – GROSS) or go up where, I have to be honest, I get a little depressed. And truth be told, us tweens are not really welcome in either setting. The group below us may be briefly tolerant, but you know when you were in your twenties you thought that people in their thirties and forties were pretty sad if they were hanging in your scene… and you were right. And the group above us, (even if we are actually the same age, they are still a different group) often seems a little irritated by us, or worse, they feel sorry for us. It is quite a pickle. [As a side note, it appears that men can avoid this tween status to some degree, but status aside, I still think they are creepers when they play outside their league. Why does a 30-something dude want to date an 18 year-old? I can’t think of an example the other way, maybe guys don’t play up.]
There are some similarities between my tween set and the more commonly accepted tween set. We are both extremely viable market areas. For just about anything. We are both overly concerned with appearance, though I think (hope) for different reasons. We are both bummed about leaving one group behind and probably a little freaked out about moving into the other group (or never getting there.)
Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but I wonder if the tween set I am in is going to get it’s own TV network. (Say Lifetime and you get kicked in the head.) It remains to be seen what comes of this more mature tween, we all know what will happen to those other ones… we’ve seen/done it already and it is perfectly predictable.
As with everything it seems like the trick is finding the right place at the right time.
Ah, if only it were so easy.