We (as a society) let our children’s activities dictate how our free time is spent, we let our teenagers epitomize cool, we think a body in it’s young twenties is ideal and we spend hours recapturing toys we had as a child or forwarding lists confirming we grew up in the 70s/80s when in fact our birthdates provide adequate evidence for which decades we lived through just fine. There’s an entire industry of clothing companies thriving on shirts with Oscar the Grouch/Smurfs/Transformers/Rainbow Bright on them for adults.
I am guilty of all of these things. I’ve shopped in the junior’s department, held my ideal body as the one that fits my prom dress, let my children’s activities run my day, coveted those Hello Kitty diamond earrings and watched every I heart the 80s show on VH1. That novelty Snoopy Joe Cool t-shirt has become daily wear for a lot of us. It really has me thinking. Can you picture your grandmother in a t-shirt with Snoopy on it? How about Michelle Obama? There’s a certain amount of sophistication lacking when constantly reminiscing and simultaneously worshiping youth.
I’ve been wondering if the grown up culture is shrinking and our cultural intellect with it. Are we loosing some of the rights of passage or mores I expected to embrace and instead increasingly believing being old stinks? Ok so, I’m not exactly sure what those “grown up” things are. As a child I was sure they’d have something to do with the nightly news, coffee, voting, cigarettes and slinky dresses. Now that I’m in my thirties, those things don’t seem as fun as I thought they’d be, nor do you need to be a grown up to do them.
So I’m still trying to define what “grown-up” things are and aren’t for both myself and my daughter who cornered me on the subject by asking me if being a grown up is fun. Having not really been ready for such a question, like all questions children have, I quickly replied “Yes! You get to vote and drive, get married, push important buttons, have a job, drink wine, spend money, stay up late and do whatever you want with your life AND be the boss of your kids.” But it haunted me that my list wasn’t longer or better or perhaps more that she had asked at all. Did I not appear to be enjoying adulthood?
I wished I had a better answer and after much thought this is what I know. Being a grown up is fun because it means having informed ideas, conversations and interactions that only people who have experienced life can have even if those conversations revolve around novel or childish things. It means having a mature palate and an appetite for things based on experience. It’s having character, convictions, talents and relationships that are solid and strong because they’ve formed slowly over a long time.
This isn't exactly the Justin Bieber squashing answer that makes forty the new seventeen, but having fun being a grown up includes not having to know who Justin Bieber is.
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