I Don't Wanna Grow Up...
January 2, 2002 6:49 PM   Subscribe

I Don't Wanna Grow Up... When did you first consider yourself to be a full-fledged adult? How many more years later was it when you realized what a child you were when you first thought that? :-) The Washington Post had this conversation-starting story this morning about stretching the boundaries of what we consider adolescence. Some social scientists now argue that our (e.g. American) society has allowed the maturing process to take longer and longer, and that many people are still adolescent in their emotional and intellectual development into their mid-30s. Needless to say, there's a lot of disagreement.
posted by briank (55 comments total)
I've always thought hobbits had the right idea:

"Frodo was still in his tweens, as the hobbits called the irresponsible twenties between childhood and coming of age at thirty-three."
posted by moss at 6:56 PM on January 2, 2002

Does everything have to be "Lord-Of-The-Rings" based lately?
posted by Katy Action at 7:03 PM on January 2, 2002

Yay! I'm still a young adult @ 37!!
posted by fahfooh at 7:08 PM on January 2, 2002

Mind you, hobbits regularly lived to be 90-100 or so.
posted by darukaru at 7:08 PM on January 2, 2002

So let me get this straight, young people are growing up faster and taking on responsibilities at younger ages, while simutaneously growing up slower and remaining adolescent?
posted by bobo123 at 7:08 PM on January 2, 2002

The day I realized I was a grown-up was when I was walking through the mall and saw a pretty young girl in a bare midriff and a micro-mini and instead of thinking "Hubba-Hubba," I thought "Does her mother know she's wearing that?"

Now, I'm thinking like that all the time. Off to the rest home with me, off I say!
posted by jonmc at 7:08 PM on January 2, 2002

The first time I called the cops to complain about a loud keg party.
posted by machaus at 7:10 PM on January 2, 2002

Yes, yes it does. Everything should be LOTR related right now. BTW I am almost 30 and as you can tell by my post, still in my emotional and intellectual development.
posted by bunktone at 7:10 PM on January 2, 2002

The first time I used the expression "but what about the tax consequences?" in a strictly non-ironic sense.
posted by youhas at 7:28 PM on January 2, 2002

I realized I was an adult when I visited a friend at a college campus and the only thing I could think to myself was "wow, everyone is so thin!"
posted by mathowie at 7:45 PM on January 2, 2002

I was an adult way too soon, now I'm enjoying my first childhood.
posted by Mick at 7:56 PM on January 2, 2002

My age starts with a 2 (geeze I hate that...), but I don't consider myself an adult. But I'm also realizing that my old definition of "adult" is a far cry from the truth. So-called "adults" are far more irrational, obnoxious, and downright stupid than I had once imagined. So in my case, my definition of "adult" might be the culprit. My standards were too high.

But I suppose that's in line with the article. The standards are changing.
posted by whatnotever at 8:10 PM on January 2, 2002

I've got a different perspective on this, but that may be because I'm a naive 19 year-old.

Did it ever occur to anyone that perhaps "maturity" is simply a role we take up upon necessity? And what is maturity? Responsibility? Or maybe the ability to make good decisions?

Teenagers adapt to their surroundings and influence, just like adults do. If teenagers were taught to be more independent and not treated like sheltered "children," they would be substantially more mature.

Here's a tangeant idea: I think old people settle down because they are no longer physically capable to do things like before. And what better way to vent than picking on my generation, the physically capable? Is that maturity?

Is holding back impulses maturity? My grandparents always make a fuss about me speaking my mind (especially in public), saying that not all opinions need to be shared. Or is it perhaps my looking out for my better interests the more mature decision?

I think tradition and culture get mislabeled as maturity in many instances. There, I got to a point.
posted by Mach3avelli at 8:16 PM on January 2, 2002

society has allowed the maturing process to take longer and longer, and that many people are still adolescent in their emotional and intellectual development into their mid-30s

Sooo true. Evidence: silly beer, electronics, car commercials aimed at 20-30's market; any blockbuster movie for same market; too tight girly clothes (looks like they are outgrowing them); too loose boy clothes (basketball shorts flap like diapers); and the beat goes on.....
posted by caraig at 8:16 PM on January 2, 2002

My adult realization came the first time I entered a club and thought it was too smoky, closely followed by the purchase of a heating pad. It's been downhill since.
posted by kittyloop at 8:17 PM on January 2, 2002

one of the most disappointing things for me about being 'grown-up' is the stark realization that there's very little real correlation between age and maturity. there's something incredibly disturbing about having to tell someone 20 years your senior to grow up and stop acting like a baby...
posted by lizs at 8:28 PM on January 2, 2002

Mach3avelli...I b3li3v3 I'm ag3d b3caus3 I think ur nam3 is total l33t sp34k.

Nothing personal, I just don't understand it.

posted by Benway at 8:45 PM on January 2, 2002

It was 27 for me when I thought, yeah, I'm a grown-up now, and didn't snort at myself in derision for thinking it.
posted by kindall at 8:48 PM on January 2, 2002

the "i've grown up" epiphany hasn't really come to me yet (commonfolk have realizations.. intellectuals have epiphanies... mwahahaha- no. j/k.). im still young (19), and much too dependent on others for a variety of things, materially and emotionally. i imagine i'll at least be making that step towards adulthood sometime soon, especially with finishing school, moving out, and getting a stable job over the next year. i would hate to have people expect boys to become men and adolesence to be over by the age of 18. to my knowledge, nearly everyone i know around that age is stupid/immature (including myself.).
posted by lotsofno at 8:52 PM on January 2, 2002

I was an adult way too soon, now I'm enjoying my first childhood.

Ditto that. In fact, I'm regressing. After a lifetime of hearing adults tell me how mature I was, I've recently been described on three different occasions as "seeming kind of young."
posted by pudders at 8:57 PM on January 2, 2002

At 22 I'm self sufficient and not yet grown-up. I'd define it as future goals, and right now I'm like I always was and living hand to mouth. Eat now, dress, go to work. Like a music video trying to do 'drunk' there's a bus suddenly infront of me.

Does this thread feel like AM's Chunk to anyone? (not linked, on purpose)
posted by holloway at 8:58 PM on January 2, 2002

Mach3avelli...I b3li3v3 I'm ag3d b3caus3 I think ur nam3 is total l33t sp34k.

Nothing personal, I just don't understand it.


That's the third time someone's used the term "l33t" with me, and I have no idea what it means.

As for my name, Machiavelli is the name of an Italian from the 16th century who wrote "The Prince," a book about how to negotiate politics to your advantage.

Mach3 is a term meaning "3 times the speed of the sound barrier," or roughly 1900 mph.

Put them together, and that's me!
posted by Mach3avelli at 9:10 PM on January 2, 2002

l33t=elite, as in l33t hax0r= elite hacker. r33t is an extension of that, btw not intended as an asian accent thing as moz (?) suggested before. I guess r33t was stuck in my head from the old r33t website.

I think if you add the whole Prince Machiavelli perfume angle, you'll really be going places, Mach.
posted by Kafkaesque at 9:30 PM on January 2, 2002

Mach3: Unless you're a government official of some sort, Machiavelli has nothing to do with you, personally - except maybe in a tangential way.
posted by raysmj at 9:33 PM on January 2, 2002

"Great minds think alike."

In the politics of life, I am king.
posted by Mach3avelli at 9:38 PM on January 2, 2002

When did you first consider yourself to be a full-fledged adult?

Was it when I got married? Nope. First night in a jail cell? Nope. Was it when I had a kid? Nope. Was it when attractive store clerks began calling me "sir"? Nope. When I completed my terminal degree? Nope. Stopped smoking up? Nope. Bought a house? Nope. First new car? Nope. Day I stopped buying new music? Nope.

It was the day I got measured for my first bespoke suit AND took my first tablet of Lipitor. Both occurred on the SAME DAY. Nothing says "I am a grownup" like expensive work clothes and cholesterol medicine.
posted by UncleFes at 9:56 PM on January 2, 2002

"Great minds think alike."

In the politics of life, I am king.

Puerility and self-knowledge are usually mutually exclusive.

I follow what Gide once wrote:

There is no such thing as a grown up.

But there are degrees...
posted by y2karl at 11:39 PM on January 2, 2002

I paid for something in front of my father with an American Express card, and he looked at the credit card and asked me if he had signed for it. And I understood his reaction, and wondered what the expression would be on my face when I first realized that my child was emancipated. That shift in perspective made me feel that adolescence was over for me.
posted by bragadocchio at 11:43 PM on January 2, 2002

When my father, in hospital after a long bout of radiotherapy and follow-up surgery, was told he was incurable, my mother had a heart attack.

Several weeks of visiting them both made me grow up.

(a rather immature 26 at the time - in case you are interested)
posted by thatwhichfalls at 12:13 AM on January 3, 2002

When did you first consider yourself to be a full-fledged adult?

When I used the phrase "Pull your pants up, undies are not a fashion statement." ... to a random teenager in a 7-11....and he replied, "Yes, M'am."

Spooky...I know I'm mere moments away from telling kids to get off my lawn...and then, there will come a need for swim caps and sensible shoes...I'll have to sell the Camaro and buy a minivan...oh help me.

posted by dejah420 at 12:56 AM on January 3, 2002

"Girls, you know that I really DO like Hendrix,
but for crissakes could you please put it on the headphones or something....
I can't even hear the hockey game out here!"
posted by IXOYE at 1:15 AM on January 3, 2002

I'm 30 and I still like playing on my Playstation, buying new CDs and doing all the things I could do at 18. On the other hand, I have a house, a job, a credit card and I'm engaged.

I don't feel grown-up, but I'm starting to wonder if I'll even feel grown-up at 70.
posted by salmacis at 1:16 AM on January 3, 2002

I remember knowing my first pay packet was in the bank - walking across the town square in Stevenage and thinking "damn, I could buy a ticket to anywhere and just fly out of here". Clearing out some stuff from my parent's house this Christmas I found the contract - I was earning 6,000 a year (before tax)! Maybe it was worth more back then.

One of the good things about getting older is that older women look sexier (if you see what I mean).
posted by andrew cooke at 1:17 AM on January 3, 2002

The first paternity suit made feel like a man.

The second one just made feel sheepish, however, and the third one made me feel like a kid again as I led the dork acting as suit servant on a chase through three blocks of other people's back yards, including two trampolines, four pools and one of those big enclosed moonbouce things that the rich kid with the birthday party had rented.

Tenacious little buggers that they get to serve those things these days.
posted by dong_resin at 2:37 AM on January 3, 2002

When I first noticed policemen were younger than I was, then dentists, then judges. Any day now, practically everybody. I like it. It's nice to be respected and oh so good to be able to go "when I was your age" to a judge!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:59 AM on January 3, 2002

It's been my experience, Miguel, that condescension in the court of law ain't your most greased path back on out into the sunshine.
posted by dong_resin at 3:12 AM on January 3, 2002

when i signed mortgage papers, and had a huge debt that wasn't going away any time soon. (car payment's one thing... 30-year commitment is something else entirely.)
posted by krewson at 7:08 AM on January 3, 2002

The older I get the more I realize how much I don't know.
posted by normy at 7:10 AM on January 3, 2002

Way back when, I recall my Latin teacher saying the Romans considered anyone under 40 to be an adolescent. I expect it had a different meaning for them. Can anyone confirm this?
posted by piskycritters at 7:18 AM on January 3, 2002

The first time I opened a pack of baseball cards and noticed every player had a birthday later than mine.

The last time (and the last time) I dated a 21 year old girl (I'm 30) and realized that my curiousity about her tongue stud was not enough to convince me to spend even one more minute with a girl whose reading is limited to CD labels and cereal boxes.
posted by vito90 at 7:19 AM on January 3, 2002

i haven't decided if i am an adult yet.

on one hand, there's the bills, the responsibilities, the car payment, the 401k, the job and the relationship.

on the other hand, there's the obsessive video gaming, and the spongebob squarepants watching...
posted by jerseygirl at 7:40 AM on January 3, 2002

The day my Dad died.
posted by metrocake at 8:37 AM on January 3, 2002

When I got a divorce. I felt grown-up when I got married (at age 26), but getting a divorce (at age 29) is what really did it.
posted by JanetLand at 8:43 AM on January 3, 2002

I realized I was still a kid when I came home from my first semester in college last month and promptly started watching cartoons with my 8 yr old brother.

On the other hand, working a full time job in between school, (& a part time job at school), signing up for selective service, having a friend die, harping at my siblings for not doing the dishes, and watching the Sept. 11 attacks, have all made me feel old.
posted by insomnyuk at 9:42 AM on January 3, 2002

metrocake -- me, too
posted by briank at 10:25 AM on January 3, 2002

The article stresses that responsibility is what separates adolescence form adulthood. If this is the case, I might never be considered an adult. I am currently but a lowly college student (though a diligant one that has always graced the Dean's List), though responsibility has no real appeal to me. I put enough stress on myself as is, and I don't feel a need to take on more just for the hell of it.

This descrepancy really came up in a conversation with my parents the other night. It seemed they had dreams of me climbing to the top of a business and being a master over all corporate great and good. I have no such ambitions. I have no desire to be important.

Mr. Biegel can keep his damn cell phone, portfolio and Ford Explorer. His tools of success/responsibility represent shackles in my mind. I like being out of contact, away from my computer, not able to respond to emails or what have you. I wish to be a bachelor in all respects, free from commitments to pursue what I wish. I will likely be a horrible employee when I graduate. What a surprise to those who base my success on my grades!

No doubt I am a product of whatever unseen forces are extending adolescence, and I can only speak from my own experience of the matter. Adulthood will have to be forced on me, but I will fight it, tooth and nail.

I ask, not as a rhetorical device but with all seriousness, what is so great about being an adult?
posted by Dane at 10:34 AM on January 3, 2002

driving home from Safeway with my fiance-now-wife, with mushrooms and feta for a late friday night snack, using my cell phone to call the police about reckless kids driving who had almost side-swiped my old volvo. Calling the man. That is when i felt grown up.
posted by th3ph17 at 10:48 AM on January 3, 2002

As a child, adulthood represented everything I could not relate to in the people older than myself. It was a promise that someday I would stop being myself, that I'd be assimilated into the adult world and life would thereupon become boring and rigid. I stepped cautiously into my twenties wondering whether perhaps my determination to never grow up had paid off, since I still felt like myself; but life changed, I went through some rough times, and at age 23 I realized that sometime in the last few years I'd crossed the divide. My interests had changed, my patterns of thought grown less fantastic, my dreams and internal constraints had shrunk after contact with the limits of the real world. I discovered that I could relate to people twice or three times my age, that a kind of sordid understanding had replaced my determination to change everything that didn't make sense, that the rules of the game had finally started to gel.

In spite of never wanting to become an adult, my junior self put a great deal of effort into trying to pass for one; this intensified when I went into business in my mid-teens and had to present a professional appearance in order to inspire confidence in my customers. Once I realized that I had somehow become an adult without noticing it, it occured to me that everyone else must be faking it too. What I had taken for adultness was as much about restraint and rules of social behaviour as it was about maturity and experience.

From where I stand now, it's parenthood, not adulthood, that looks like the uncrossable divide, past which someone to whom I could once relate becomes Other. I think many of the changes I had believed were a result of increasing age are actually imposed by the stresses of child-rearing. That door, at least, I can choose not to enter.

posted by Mars Saxman at 10:53 AM on January 3, 2002

In the Cherokee tradition, you're not adult until you turn 51! (So says Dwyani Ywahoo in her book, Voices of Our Ancestors). There, doesn't that feel better?
posted by ferris at 11:33 AM on January 3, 2002

In the Cherokee tradition, you're not adult until you turn 51! (So says Dhyani Ywahoo in her book, Voices of Our Ancestors). There, doesn't that feel better?
posted by ferris at 11:33 AM on January 3, 2002

My grandparents always make a fuss about me speaking my mind (especially in public), saying that not all opinions need to be shared.

I suppose I reacted to this when I wrote my last comment. No matter how smart or well read you are at 19, you are in fact very shallow, not even the polish on the veneer.

My parents have both died, I've had friends who have died, cats and dogs who have died. I've seen people suffer and be betrayed and betray and cause suffering in turn. Or suffer disease or accidents, suffer physical pain beyond any moral compass.

Grandparents often cite tact because of the people they've upset, the feelings they've hurt in their younger days: if there is anything to growing older, it's learning to be kind, and that's a lesson that comes through shared pain. Which is why they dote so on children and pets.

God knows I was a holy terror when I was younger, and all my faults linger yet, but the older I get, the more pain I feel when I cause pain to anyone else. That's what growing up is about to me.

Arrogant smartypant twerps are a dime a dozen times a dozen--to be young and kind is wisdom beyond the years.
posted by y2karl at 12:33 PM on January 3, 2002

My short answer: when I started to hate the music on the radio and it all sounds "too loud."

The long answer: I often remark to my husband about "when did we grow up and stop playing 'house'?" I look back to the "good old days" when I was in college, could go on 3 hours of sleep, was young, thinner, healthier, learning a lot, not a care in the world. Now I am older, bigger, sicker, with a mortgage, stressful job, insurance worries, married. Thank god no kids.

I don't know if it's better to be an adult. Lots more sadness. But lots more knowledge. More control over myself and my actions. But more cynicism and stress and worries.

I think I'd rather be back in my 18-21 age any day of the week.......But I'm in a hard place in my life right now, so maybe now isn't the best time to be remarking on this.
posted by aacheson at 4:24 PM on January 3, 2002

I'm 19... yet I work 9-6 5 days a week, I rent a house and I have a car. Yet the vast majority of my friends still live with their parents and they're at college.

*THAT* makes me feel old.
posted by robzster1977 at 4:24 PM on January 3, 2002

piskycritters: "the Roman divisions of the life span...[were] childhood (pueritia) extended to age seventeem; adolescence (adulescentia) from seventeen through the thirtieth year; young manhood (juventus) from thirty one to forty-five, and old age (senectus) from forty-five on."

Modern American adolescence seems to last as long as there is money to play at life. Those who lack financial assets must grow up, hard and fast.
posted by Carol Anne at 6:39 PM on January 3, 2002

jonmc - Hah, okay, I don't qualifiy for your first test up there, which makes me wonder if it's possible to go straight from adolescent to dirty old man.
posted by NortonDC at 3:27 AM on January 4, 2002

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