An adult topic.

September 15, 2008

However long ago, I hinted about writing an entry on “What Makes a Grown-up?,” and although I forgot about it for some time, the topic came up again over the weekend, while we were hosting a couple from out of town.  She grew up with RB, and her husband’s business brought them to the city, so we went out for dinner and drinks on Saturday.  We are all around the same age, but they chose more lucrative career fields (business and computers, respectively) and have followed a more traditional path: marriage, family planning (although, sadly, she had recently suffered a miscarriage), owning a house in the suburbs that they described as “looking like a Pottery Barn catalog,” etc.

"'Cause growing up is awfuller / Than all the awful things that ever were."

We had a nice visit, and at some point the topic of being a grown-up came up.  I was surprised to hear from these two polished, far more financially-comfortable-than-I professionals that neither one of them felt like a grown-up, and that while the idea of having children was very appealing to them, it was also kind of horrifying, because, as as she expressed it: “how am I supposed to be the adult?”

I guess the reason this was surprising to me is because I’ve always felt like a grown-up.  Well, not always, but certainly since I was 19 or 20.  Which is not to say I never doubted myself or worried about whether I would succeed in any given venture, but that I figured I was, more or less, in charge of my life.   I would make my choices and I would deal with the ramifications of those choices; whether that meant I would reap the benefits or pay dearly.

I don’t know what to attribute this to.  Was it because my parents took care to educate me in basic life skills like laundry, cooking, and following a budget, and taught me at being self-sufficient was something to be proud of?  Because I was financially on my own once I went to college?  Because I was born female, and I learned pretty quickly that I had to be extra competent to be considered competent at all?  Is it just that I was “born that way?”  I remember a college boyfriend telling me during my freshman year: “weird, I never think about you as anyone’s daughter,” which pleased me immensely at the time (although now I find it slightly troubling).

RB has said multiple times that he doesn’t think of himself as an adult, and whenever his family gives him cash for Christmas or birthdays (and usually this a considerable chunk of change), he complains about how it “infantilizes” him. If I got several hundred “extra” dollars a year from my family I would be thrilled, and I wouldn’t take it as a commentary on my maturity level.

So what is it that makes an adult?  If our guests’ and RB’s  feelings are any indication, it doesn’t seem to be a matter of simply doing things that adults are expected to do, like holding jobs, paying bills, raising children, etc.  And certainly, by those standards I don’t make a very good adult, although I feel like one: my work has never been steady, I own very little (no house,  no retirement savings, but I’m solvent), I don’t have children, and I’m not even married, which used to be a sort of baseline for adulthood.  So what is it? 

Do you feel like an adult?  If so, why?  If not, what would make you feel that way?


In other news:  a large proportion of my traffic is coming as a result of this post, which is just weird.


One comment

  1. I definitely do NOT feel like a whole adult. no way. I think if I owned a house, had a significant other, and/or had a kid/something that depended upon me for its life (sure, pets count), I’d answer differently… and writing that now makes me feel like a product of The Man’s definition of the feminine, even though I’ve never really done things The Man’s way. I can’t think hard enough to expand upon that right now.

    in short: I feel like a half grown-up.

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