Does anyone actually feel like an adult?
“I’m beginning to wonder if everyone feels this way and that “the straight world,” or adulthood, as we call it nowadays, is in fact a total mirage. If we’re all cosplaying adulthood, who and where are the real adults?”
Not feeling like an adult when you are, in fact, an adult is a much meme-d topic on social platforms. Kathryn Jezer-Morton wrote about this phenomenon in The Cut the other week and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. Jezer-Morton grew up in a hippie household and struggles to see herself as a proper adult in the “straight world”—a term her father coined to describe the way conventional people live. The piece centers around her experience of not feeling adult enough while navigating the specific social environment that is parenthood.
Personally, I do often find myself wondering when I will start to feel like more of an adult. Is it when I have meaningful financial savings? Is it when I get married? Is it if I have children? Is it when I buy a house? According to Jezer-Morton’s anecdotal research (amongst her parent friend group), she uncovered that a “source of widespread adult feeling is planning and executing dinner: Meal planning, even though several parents admitted they hate doing it, is rewarding. Making meals that kids are happy to eat ranks high, as does packing a child-approved school lunch; one parent feels adult ‘when I pack wicked snacks that my daughter gasps at.’”
As you might remember, I wrote some musings on turning 30 a few months back, and many of those questions about adulthood have continued to crop up ever since. Don’t get me wrong, there are times—usually around tax season—when I reluctantly feel very adult. Sometimes I have moments of glee when I realize I can eat whatever I want for dinner or snack on sweets—the ‘adult’ things I always wanted when I was a teen. Yet, there are other times when I find myself irrationally irritated that I have to pay for a mole removal because, for some reason, I still think my parents should pay for my healthcare needs. Or, sometimes I’ll realize that, if I don’t go grocery shopping, no one is going to feed me.
Of course, I asked fellow Diemers their thoughts.
This response particularly interested me:
“A lot of it has to do with the fact that we share the internet with teenagers. We adapt to their discourse and vocabulary. Social media is always producing/ promoting something new. We don’t give ourselves the grace and patience to enjoy who we are now outside of what we consume. Since I was little, I knew that there would come a day where I’d embrace my womanness and have weekly dinner parties with my friends and we’d drink wine or cocktails and talk about art, our growing and changing bodies, and our hearts. And I realized, that I won’t get there if I keep on referring to my quick dinner after a long day of work as girl dinner. It was funny and cute when it started but now, it shows me that I didn’t set myself up for success in my fitness goals to have a meal planned out. We need to find a balance between who we want to be and who we should be for the person we are at the age we’re at. Learn to be on your own team.”
Some follow-up thoughts: Perhaps women, in comparison to men, are more susceptible to feeling like they’re an imposter in adulthood because they’re constantly chasing youth. While women have traditionally taken on the heavy emotional roles that come with being of ‘adult’ age—caretaking, motherhood, looking after a home— I wonder if the high-pressure pursuit of looking and feeling young is giving us a bit of whiplash and keeping us from feeling adult as we strive to maintain relevancy?
I think we could go as far as to say that the growing tendency to embrace girlhood—via girl trends online—could actually be our collective rejection of traditional womanhood. Biological age is irrelevant when it comes to ‘girl’ activities, like eating a snack for dinner, embracing Barbie-core, or making friendship bracelets for the Eras tour. While rebranding walks to “hot girl walks” and summers to “feral girl summers” can come off as juvenile to some, perhaps it’s more of an expression of freedom. Of not wanting to fit squarely into the boring, conventional “straight world.” I’m more than sure that men also question their own status as adults, but maybe they care less about that label because society allows men to continue their independence (and sometimes, childlike behavior) despite their age.
I’d love to learn from you. When do you feel most like an adult? When do you feel most like a child? Please do chime in!
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