Stuff you Learn in Your 40s
January 7, 2015 6:18 PM   Subscribe

There are no grown-ups. We suspect this when we are younger, but can confirm it only once we are the ones writing books and attending parent-teacher conferences. Everyone is winging it, some just do it more confidently.
posted by COD (86 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
 
I read this a couple of weeks back and for obvious reasons chuckled at the last bit of advice :-)
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:26 PM on January 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


I used to be tremendously impressed by daily newspaper opinion columnists. “How amazing,” I thought, “that within hours of a news story breaking, these people can produce an intelligent, coherent, articulate opinion piece about the story.” Now I think, “Who are these idiots and why do they think that I should care about their under-researched opinions?”

Analogy: When I walk past the house I grew up in, the garden looks tiny.

(This article made me smile: thanks for posting.)
posted by HoraceH at 6:31 PM on January 7, 2015 [15 favorites]


This article has been popping up regularly on my Facebook feed since it came early last year. Could have sworn I saw it here too.
posted by Miko at 6:32 PM on January 7, 2015


Thought Catalog is getting real fancy
posted by threeants at 6:50 PM on January 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


"There are no grown-ups"

I see this a lot these days. I'm not so sure. I think there are good and bad ways of being and thinking we can carry with us our whole lives. There are some things I do and things I think that have not changed in significant ways in the last 25 years, or the last 35. There are more things that have the same bones, but new flesh on them. And there are more that are new or different.

I know a few people my age (49) or nearly so who persist, against all odds, in clinging to the person and personality that characterized their personal golden age, no matter how far back it crystallized. I don't tend feel like those people have much to tell me.

I think the old cliche of childish versus childlike, threadbare as it is, can still be instructive. 'Grown up' means a lot of different things to different people, but I'm pretty sure, regardless, that it's important to change, and to leave behind the things of youth that are callow or childish or counterproductive and hang on to the things that bring us joy and strength and kindness.

For me, being 'grown up' means doing that. I think there are grownups, it's just that having a certain type of job, or lifestyle, or bank account, or family or whatever, all those old yardsticks that were used to measure grownupness -- they're kind of useless.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:53 PM on January 7, 2015 [57 favorites]


There are no grown-ups.

Damn, I thought this was just local to my office, now you're telling me it's everywhere?
posted by Joe Chip at 6:55 PM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Andre Malraux once asked a parish priest who had been taken confession for fifty years, what he had learned about mankind. The priest replied, “First of all people are much more unhappy than one thinks…and then the fundamental fact is that there is no such thing as a grown up person.”
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:58 PM on January 7, 2015 [9 favorites]


This seems relevant.
posted by 4ster at 7:11 PM on January 7, 2015 [16 favorites]


That's my favorite C&H ever. I kept a copy on my desk for years.
posted by COD at 7:14 PM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Grown ups are just people who had their own fair share of mistakes and failures growing up.

It isn't wisdom that you get, you just learn from your past mistakes and failures not to do them again and again.

I myself still make mistakes, I make communication problems, I don't always make things clear. People often misunderstand me and make assumptions about me due to my poor communication skills. I am often misjudged.

But I learned years ago not to care what other people think of me, because what is popular isn't always true, and what people perceive of people and things isn't always true either.
posted by Orion Blastar at 7:20 PM on January 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


The whole "no grown-ups" thing was totally the theme of my 30s. Guess I'm a prodigy.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:36 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Having just turned 46 last week, I still hold out hope that one day I will grow up.

A guy can dream.
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 7:38 PM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


The whole "no grown-ups" thing was totally the theme of my 30s. Guess I'm a prodigy.

As my mom termed it, years ago, "there is no adult supervision."
posted by Miko at 7:57 PM on January 7, 2015 [14 favorites]


Good stuff--of these, the most powerful truth for me in the past few years (currently 42) has been this one:
If you worry less about what people think of you, you can pick up an astonishing amount of information about them.
SO, so true, and liberating and wonderful. I worry so much less about myself and understand so much more about others now that my thoughts of me are much quieted.
posted by LooseFilter at 8:05 PM on January 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


It’s O.K. if you don’t like jazz.

Lies! Lies and calumny!!
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:12 PM on January 7, 2015 [13 favorites]


"Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult"

Thanks for posting!
posted by JoeXIII007 at 8:16 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


"It’s O.K. if you don’t like jazz."

Yeah if you're some kind of unamerican COMMUNIST.

Indigineous American art forms are jazz, quilts, and newspaper comics. IF YOU HATE ONE OF THEM YOU MUST BE SOME KIND OF TERRORIST who doesn't know how to roast a turkey or bake an apple pie or love your mother. What, you don't love your mother???? Fascist!!!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:46 PM on January 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


IF YOU HATE ONE OF THEM YOU MUST BE SOME KIND OF TERRORIST who doesn't know how to roast a turkey or bake an apple pie or love your mother.

Yeah, that just seems so, so...inauthentic! (gasps, shudders, clutches pearls)
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:01 PM on January 7, 2015


If you don't like jazz, that's just because you haven't really listened to it! Here, let me lend you twenty lovingly chosen CDs that will sit by your stereo for 18 months, slowly growing into an impassible barrier to us ever communicating again.
posted by No-sword at 9:02 PM on January 7, 2015 [87 favorites]


I’m authentic and don’t try to project an image.
posted by straight at 9:02 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


So, did you listen to those CDs yet?
posted by No-sword at 9:03 PM on January 7, 2015 [51 favorites]


There's a line at the end of the (delightful) movie "Matinee" that mid-20's me found very comforting and enlightening:

Gene: "You're pretty cool...for a grown-up."

Lawrence Woolsey: "You think grown-ups know what they're doin? That's a hustle. We make it up as we go along, just like you do."

I think this might be akin to that phenomenon where experts feel like they're frauds (which I'm sure has been discussed here before) in that people growing up might find themselves surprised that there is no "Now I am a grown up!" switch that gets pulled when they: a. graduate, b. get married, c. have kids, d. retire...

You're the same person you always were, and since there's an infinite amount of knowledge in the world, you're still hovering at around 0% til the day you die, no matter how much you've learned.
posted by ShutterBun at 9:07 PM on January 7, 2015 [15 favorites]


So, did you listen to those CDs yet?

Yeah, I totally did! They're...good. No, seriously, they're great. Really.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:27 PM on January 7, 2015 [8 favorites]


We are all the great Pagliacci, weeping on the psychiatrist's couch.
posted by Sebmojo at 9:34 PM on January 7, 2015 [9 favorites]


I then spent my 30s ruminating on grievances accumulated in my 20s

Went into this piece looking for life advice. Found some. (Or at least some consolation that I'm not the only one.)
posted by lollusc at 9:50 PM on January 7, 2015


To me most of the other pieces of information noted were more useful than "there are no grown-ups" and many of them possibly contradict it... Things like not feeling obliged to do things or fit in with what's popular are part of the larger sense of adulthood that I think most people do come to. Maybe people are just forgetting how tough being young is. Being any kind of human still isn't easy, but being an adult is a different stage.
posted by mdn at 9:55 PM on January 7, 2015


The problem with all the stuff you learn in your 40s is that when you get in your 50s like me, you can't even remember them.

I am convinced that is why we have kids. I am constantly asking my kids where my glasses or keys are. Once, I was WEARING the glasses when I asked. Ugh.
posted by 724A at 10:14 PM on January 7, 2015


does any anyone over the age of 18 really refer to people as "grown-ups"?!
posted by onesidys at 10:28 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Count me in with the people who only realized they're adults once they had observed actual non-adults long enough.
posted by jklaiho at 10:56 PM on January 7, 2015 [29 favorites]




You may be winging it but y'all are winging it with wisdom.

At least, I hope you are, because I'm learning from you guys...
posted by halifix at 1:04 AM on January 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Excellent.
My own life has felt a lot easier since I read something else along these lines. The gist of it was that we're all just trying to be happy, and we're all improvising as we go along. I've found myself much more accepting of other people and more able to see their actions from their perspective.
posted by dowcrag at 1:10 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


does any anyone over the age of 18 really refer to people as "grown-ups"?!

Ironically? Or non-ironically?
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:29 AM on January 8, 2015


(This one kind of got away from me, and basically turned into a Livejournal post. I promise that one of these days I'll go a whole week without posting something on Metafilter that doesn't reference my cancer.)

2014 was an astonishingly horrible, God Said, "Ha!" kind of year for me. In a year that included losing a good chunk of my colon to cancer, my career imploding yet again and lots of dental horror, the hardest thing was watching my cat die. His health failed slowly and then he got very sick and old in a hurry, and over the course of a few days it became obvious he would only get worse and it was time to put him down.

I remember sitting with him on the day that the euthanasia folks were scheduled to come, knowing that my little boy was going to die in 5 hours, 4 hours, 3 hours. Watching him sit there on my lap, so very very still and quiet, almost a ghost already.

I remember thinking, over and over again, that it was unbearable. The pain I was feeling was simply beyond what I could bear. I had been through some awful shit in my life, but this was some whole other deal. I couldn't bear it.

And yet... the minutes ticked by, and he was still there on my lap, still not dead, not quite yet.

Putting him down was so awful that even now, going on a year later, I can fall apart when I remember it. But I got through it, because there was no other option. It was a grim lesson to learn, but there is some solace in it too: you can bear the unbearable. You have to. We all have to, eventually.

I look at the future, at burying my parents and the possibility of my cancer coming back and all of the other things that can or will go wrong, and I remind myself that I watched my boy die and I'm still here. I had a hunk of my guts hacked out, and I'm still here. I've had days when it felt like I was on fire, and I'm still here. And that's not me boasting about my resilience or anything of the sort, it's just how life works: unbearable things happen, and you bear them and go on because the alternative is to just go crazy forever or fall over and die or something.

Maybe some people figure that out when they're 9 years old, but it took me decades of hard livin' to learn it. So, if anybody reading this hasn't experienced their own unbearable day yet, I'm here to tell you that it is at least as awful as you think, like being on fire... but eventually the fire goes out. You may be left with some scars, but that fire goes out. And you're still there.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:12 AM on January 8, 2015 [59 favorites]


So, did you listen to those CDs yet?

What's a CD?
posted by effbot at 4:05 AM on January 8, 2015


What's a CD?

It's like a cassette tape but different.
posted by mikelieman at 4:58 AM on January 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Be kind, for everyone you meet is improvising what they are and fighting hard with "shoulds."
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:06 AM on January 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Maybe people are just forgetting how tough being young is. Being any kind of human still isn't easy, but being an adult is a different stage.

Count me in with the people who only realized they're adults once they had observed actual non-adults long enough.

Yes to both of these. I lose track of things, I'm a lousy housekeeper, I eat dry cereal for dinner and stay up past my bedtime, I still call my mom for advice on everything, and I can't pass an open bucket of Legos without building something. But I still feel like an adult. Saying something to the effect of "I haven't grown up" or "I'll never grow up" suggests, ironically, a loss of familiarity of what youth was really like, and it discredits the learning and growing you have done over the decades.

I'm far from a model of perfect, wrinkle-free, balanced-checkbook adulthood, but it's not like I hit all the marks on childhood or teenhood either. We stumble the whole way through, it's just our immediate surroundings that change over the years. And while we can see the imperfections of our surroundings up close, everything in the distance - past or future - loses detail and looks cleaner and simpler by comparison.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:14 AM on January 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


That 22 year old with me. She is my daughter. I've got most of my 40s in the rear view mirror.
posted by McMillan's Other Wife at 5:14 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Eh? I grew up.

I'm like, 5'7" now.
posted by kyrademon at 5:25 AM on January 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


stavrosthewonderchicken: it's just that having a certain type of job, or lifestyle, or bank account, or family or whatever, all those old yardsticks that were used to measure grownupness -- they're kind of useless.

I was very happy to see that the FPP article was a pushback against the sort of performative standard for grown-up-ness that crops up now and again, the sort of why-don't-we-have-cocktail-parties-wearing-chic-dresses-or-suits-the-way-our-parents-or-grandparents-did thing. (One of the things that's always irritated me about that shtick is how many class assumptions are wrapped up in it.) Part of my personal standard for maturity is not just the ability but the personal responsibility for finding solutions for my life problems that work out for me, and not just looking over my shoulder to see what my cousins or people I went to high school with are doing these days.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:31 AM on January 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


The most tedious 40s thing it didn't deal with is the endless negotiation and renegotiation of one's relationship with alcohol that becomes a feature of every day pretty much as soon as the decade begins.
posted by colie at 5:46 AM on January 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


There's one line (of many, really) that's always stuck with me from The Zoo Story. We listened to a cast recording album in high school English class in which the great William Daniels reprised his award-winning performance as Peter. At one point Jerry is really pushing Peter's buttons, and he responds angrily and defensively with a list of reasons he thinks he isn't like Jerry, culminating with "AND I'M A GROWN-UP!"

The desperation of that assertion got thru to me when I was in high school and I think it's stuck.
posted by Gelatin at 5:49 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Another huge implication of this sort of article is that there are no real authorities on anything. Sure, we can all jovially agree that we're not grownups, but those folks we allow to be in charge aren't grownups, either. Congressmen, the President, cops, your boss, your priest, all winging it, all the time. They have no more grasp on what they're doing (and no less, it should be added) than you do. This is a liberating and terrifying realization.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:02 AM on January 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


Congressmen, the President, cops, your boss, your priest, all winging it, all the time.

I don't think this is true. Those guys were 'grown-ups' from around the age of 20, when I was doing massive bong hits or whatever.

Or at least they figured out a way to do the bong hits part of the time and then flick the switch into 'I, and people like me, run the world and that is how it should be' mode whenever required, while I had no idea such a switch even existed and by the time I realised it was too late.
posted by colie at 6:07 AM on January 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


//The most tedious 40s thing it didn't deal with is the endless negotiation and renegotiation of one's relationship with alcohol that becomes a feature of every day pretty much as soon as the decade begins.//

Funny you mention that. I only made two New Year's resolutions. One was to stop drinking at home. I don't have a drinking problem. Drinking at home for me meant pick up a six pack after work on Friday, and drink it over the course of the next 7 days. However, with most of my 40s behind me, even 1 or 2 beers at night impacts how I feel in the morning. Also, the extra calories have become an issue.

The other resolution is to burn 1000 extra calories a week via exercise.

There are a lot of things about my 20s I don't miss, but I sure as hell wouldn't mind having my 20s metabolism for life.
posted by COD at 6:20 AM on January 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


You're doing well, COD. My alcohol consumption is really at the crossroads and I think a lot of early 40s men have the same issue. Don Draper kind of thing.
posted by colie at 6:23 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


She left out:
Your lessons/revelations/epiphanies are mainly yours. Yes, some apply to others but many of them don't, even though you're now 40 and think they do. However, it's OK to write articles as if they are universal, just like it's OK to write articles assuming everyone can or must like jazz. Or not.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:44 AM on January 8, 2015


I liked the piece, although there are some parts I didn't relate to. I'm Facebook-friends with what seems like about half my high school graduating class, and more of us in our 40s are DITTs--double income, tweens/teenagers--than are dealing with toddler twins, for one thing. And I doubt I'll ever have much use for tips about what to do when invited to lunch by someone in the fashion industry (unless by "someone in the fashion industry" you mean someone who sells knitted things on Etsy or sews costumes for the local community theater).

And thinking about it, I do think there is such a thing as being a grown up, although I think it has less to do with what you know and how you feel and is more about what you do and are responsible for doing. It's pretty simple, really: when you're a kid, other people are (or should be) looking out for you. Then there's a transitional phase when you're mostly looking out for yourself. Then you reach a phase where you start to look out for other people and things--your pets, your partner, kids, the people you supervise at work, your house, your car that's worth more than $500, etc. It's not that you're necessarily secure in your competence at those things, but people expect you to try, and you do try. There are 40-year-old not-grownups, and they're the ones that aren't even trying to take responsibility for and make decisions (even bad ones) about any of that external stuff.
posted by drlith at 6:55 AM on January 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


The most amusing/alarming part is that even though you know that you, yourself, are a morass of doubts, fears and longings that seethe and distract you just as much as when you were 15, with extra life-stress on top that makes you feel like you might actually crack up at any given moment, or fail spectacularly to keep all the balls in the air, everyone else does think of you as a grown-up. And treats you as such. And so you have to pretend like you are one, because otherwise the whole world will fall apart. And smile while you do it.
posted by emjaybee at 6:58 AM on January 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


Some features of grown-ups:

You've watched your parents grieve their parents.
You've watched figures you worship change in ways that contradict their holiness.
You've had friends who are lost to you due to mental and physical illness.
Your' early loves have moved on, are married, have kids.

Growing up is inevitable as it ever was. Improved medicine and demographics has moved some of these events later into life.

I don't understand how all of you got the illusion that adults were in control of their finances, emotions, jobs and futures. Did so many of you have magic childhoods which you wanted to live in forever? What was it like?
posted by bdc34 at 7:17 AM on January 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


In my 40s I learned that I actually died in my teens and so did everybody else. This is why teenagers can never look you in the eye. They can't. You don't exist.
posted by srboisvert at 7:18 AM on January 8, 2015 [13 favorites]


What I am learning is that being "grown-up" is, actually, not a stage, its a continuous process and there are people who keep trying to "grow-up" and there are those who just give up or, even, regress.

All I can do is to choose whether I want to keep growing up or whether I want to just give up and stay the way I am.

\though I am learning this, I haven't started yet to implicitly believe this. I guess thats what I will be doing in my 40s.

\\one key zen type adage that I came up with to explain growing up: "people start growing up when they realize that their parents also make mistakes. And people actually grow up when they are able to forgive their parents for these mistakes. " .. which is, basically, never
posted by TheLittlePrince at 7:21 AM on January 8, 2015


Congressmen, the President, cops, your boss, your priest, all winging it, all the time.

Related: Impostor Syndrome.
posted by effbot at 7:36 AM on January 8, 2015


I don't understand how all of you got the illusion that adults were in control of their finances, emotions, jobs and futures. Did so many of you have magic childhoods which you wanted to live in forever? What was it like?

My parents (I have since learned) sucked with money and screwed up constantly, but they were really really good at hiding it from us. (Which caused problems later, when they really should have brought us in to help them with stuff). Adult stuff was boring, and so long as my life was uneventful, I assumed they were dealing with it competently, as I would one day. I knew we weren't super rich, but I wasn't going without necessities, so I didn't worry, because my ignorance was vast; I didn't know just how many things could go horribly wrong. Self-absorption is a wonderful thing when you're young.
posted by emjaybee at 7:39 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Things like not feeling obliged to do things or fit in with what's popular are part of the larger sense of adulthood that I think most people do come to.

Um ... Have you ever worked in any kind of large organization as an adult? The basic MO there is usually "conform or be crushed."
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:49 AM on January 8, 2015


My favorite working definition of being a grown-up is doing something you don't want to do because it's the right thing to do.

It's small, but it seems to encompass all I truly feel about grownupiness: responsibility, conscience, agency. and yeah, a certain amount of maturity.

I'm still working on it.
posted by Mchelly at 7:57 AM on January 8, 2015 [17 favorites]


A popular catch phrase amongst my friends in difficult times is, "Oh, man, we really need to find a grown up!" or some such variant. We are all in our 30s and 40s.

The idea of the "grown up" when you're a kid is the person who shows up and fixes the broken toy, gets the gum out of your hair, or knows how to use the microwave, or just saves you from yourself by giving you a decent bedtime so you don't melt down. As an adult, the "grown up" becomes the person who knows how to solve the stupid problem with Excel or who to call when the chimney on the house crumbles or what to do when you realize your car is stuck in the snow.

"Grown up" isn't a specific age - it's the person who swoops in with the solution before you start to cry. We can all be the grown ups for other people when we can't be the grown ups for ourselves.
posted by VioletU at 8:42 AM on January 8, 2015 [28 favorites]


The grown-up is the person willing to take responsibility and whose knees hurt. The 40s was when my body started breaking down or at least not running like a race car. I used to be able to put the cheap gas in my body, but now I can only put the high octane (healthy) stuff in to make it run.

I would add to the definition put forth by Mchelly that not only is being a grown-up doing the right thing, but recognizing what the right thing is.
posted by 724A at 8:46 AM on January 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


you don't really get to judge.

Well, of course I get to judge. Remember how part of being a grownup is learning not to care about what others think of your choices? What if judging people makes me happy?

But seriously, I can see how you can read what you're saying into my words. But what I really mean is that at the beginning and end of life, things are necessarily weighted so that you are taking more from the people around you than you're able to give. If everyone in the middle just decided to resign from the rat race and look out for their own minimal survival needs, then the whole system would collapse, no? That doesn't necessarily mean everyone needs to be married and have a kid and a house and pay property taxes to keep the schools open in order to be a grownup. I've got two friends right now sitting vigil in hospice watching their parents die. They sure as hell aren't happy about it, but that's being a grownup. But for me someone who doesn't want to take the responsibility for taking care of anyone or anything other than themselves, and whose highest purpose in life is to do what makes them happy* is not, in fact, a grownup.

* Unless they've reached a state of enlightenment where "what makes me happy" = "achieving the greater good"
posted by drlith at 9:18 AM on January 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


It isn't wisdom that you get, you just learn from your past mistakes and failures not to do them again and again.

That is wisdom.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:24 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


My single biggest criterion for whether or not someone is a "grown-up" is pretty simple: do you realize it's not all about you? Once you learn that you are not, in fact, a super special snowflake, and that everyone else has needs and wants, and that yours are not privileged above theirs simply because they're yours, you are well on your way to grown-up-hood, in my estimation.

All the other stuff, external markers, roles, whatever, those are left to individual choices, and a good grown-up has learned that they get to decide those things for themselves. But for me, it's mainly has one outgrown the inherent solipsism of our embodiment?

(For me, constant struggle. But I feel like that fact that I try hard to remember this daily is a pretty good marker that I'm a grown-up, no matter how much I feel like I'm winging it day-to-day.)
posted by LooseFilter at 9:29 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Congressmen, the President, cops, your boss, your priest, all winging it, all the time.

Related: Impostor Syndrome.


I had such a bad self-image as a young adult that I sort of had anticipatory impostor syndrome: I didn't believe that I could be good enough at anything to be able to make a decent living on my own, or have a decent life. This was exacerbated by people in my life who recognized my poor self-image, and weren't hesitant to make themselves look or feel better at my expense. Gradually, I came to realize that, not only did I have strengths of my own that I could use to make a career and a life, but that some of the people that I mention above really were impostors: they either weren't very good at what they did or didn't feel the need to bother trying, and just sort of bullshitted their way through life. It was quite a revelation.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:47 AM on January 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


Things I've learned so far in my 40s:

-Oh god, everything hurts. Why does everything hurt?

-Being regular is fantastic.

-The quality of your booze counts way more than the quantity.

-It's not the teenagers' fault that they're teenagers.

-Even if the 20-year-old is legitimately flirting with you, there's probably still something up with that.

-Why shouldn't I be enthusiastic about the things I enjoy?

-Moe Berg gets it.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:47 AM on January 8, 2015 [11 favorites]


I've got one pretty good criterion for being a grown-up. Someone who looks at a mess and thinks "Well, I didn't make that mess, but it looks like I'm going to be the one to clean it up." is a grown-up, whether they're 45, 25, or 15.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:49 AM on January 8, 2015 [18 favorites]


b.s., that's also a major criterion for having kids, so everything fits together.
posted by sneebler at 10:00 AM on January 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I didn't believe that I could be good enough at anything to be able to make a decent living on my own, or have a decent life.

I had that mum too.
posted by colie at 10:01 AM on January 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


does any anyone over the age of 18 really refer to people as "grown-ups"?!

Always, all the time, very frequently at work when my boss and I realize we no longer have anyone above us to report to and are thus tasked with making important financial decisions all on our own. Anything over 10k and we can't cope with not asking at least one more person if it seems like a good idea.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:22 AM on January 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've been thinking about this a lot lately since recently turning 30. Growing up for me hasn't been so much about realizing that I am not a special snowflake, but that nobody is a special snowflake. I spent my childhood and most of my 20s with such poor self-esteem that I never believed that I was more important or better than anyone. Just the opposite (although I guess you could argue it's just two sides of the same specialness coin). I didn't realize that maybe my own thoughts and feelings and desires weren't something to be ashamed of. I don't always need to defer to other people's ideas and opinions just because they seem more confident than me. Being an adult meant recognizing that I matter just as much as anyone else.
posted by downtohisturtles at 10:25 AM on January 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


MrMoonPie: "Another huge implication of this sort of article is that there are no real authorities on anything. ... Congressmen, the President, cops, your boss, your priest, all winging it, all the time. They have no more grasp on what they're doing (and no less, it should be added) than you do. This is a liberating and terrifying realization."

Realizing this was one of the things that made me realize I actually could run for office. "Hey! These guys are just ... some assholes. I could be that asshole!"

VioletU: "A popular catch phrase amongst my friends in difficult times is, "Oh, man, we really need to find a grown up!" or some such variant. We are all in our 30s and 40s. "

In college I worked for an independent student newspaper (wholly owned and operated by the staff of the paper, that is; not affiliated with the school, no faculty oversight, just a newspaper), and we had a really angry guy come in and demand to talk to a person in charge. I was the senior editor working that day and I said, "I can help you, sir." "I want to talk to an ADULT!" "I am an adult." "A FULL-GROWN adult!" "Well, sir, I'm as fully-grown as you're going to find here."

But after that when something went catastrophically, we'd always be like, "Uh, I think we need a full-grown adult in here ..." (My husband and I still say it, I'll be like, "Wow, I do not know how to deal with this crisis, we may need a fully-grown adult," and then call our parents.)

My mom says she realized she was an adult and that adults have no idea what they're doing when the hospital sent her first baby home with her. She said for the first 8 hours or so it was great fun, and then she started wondering, "When is your mother going to come get you, baby?" And then she was like, "Wait, oh ...... OH."

bdc34: "adults were in control of their finances, emotions, jobs and futures. Did so many of you have magic childhoods which you wanted to live in forever? What was it like?"

Basically my parents were pretty well in control of their finances, emotions, jobs, and futures, they are good at adulting, and then on top of that they're funny and loving and generous. It was pretty great. I was very secure and well-loved. There were problems and crises but I always felt like they were well in hand and I could trust the train wouldn't run off the tracks because my parents could handle it.

I mostly don't mind being an adult, either, though. It's pretty good.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:40 AM on January 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm turning 31 sooner than I'd like to admit and I don't feel like an adult. But I just finished grad school less than a year ago and embarked on a new career (the one I wanted). I'm actually one of the oldest people in my office, and my supervisors are younger than me (but not by much). So in many ways, I feel like I'm 21-22 again, just starting to work.

This has coincided with my first time living on my own, without a roommate. Previously I had just de facto lived on my own, since most of my roommates were ghosts. But at the same time, the last two years have been a period of tremendous change and flux for me. Most of it good, most of it needed and possibly long overdue. I feel like a better and happier person than I was three years ago, even though 2014 wasn't really the kindest to me. Being an adult is a state of mind. I'm not sure when I'll hit it, but I'll keep trying.
posted by X-Himy at 12:23 PM on January 8, 2015


Adult moment: First thing in the morning, and the dog has slaughtered a stray rooster in our barn, with blood and feathers everywhere. Immediate thought: I really need another cup of coffee before I clean this up.
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:46 PM on January 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


• More about you is universal than not universal. My unscientific assessment is that we are 95 percent cohort, 5 percent unique. Knowing this is a bit of a disappointment, and a bit of a relief.

A lot of this, for me, is about the confessional culture of the internet era; we suddenly have a safe space to talk about all the behaviors and quirks we all try desperately to hide in public.

I have Tourette Syndrome, severely enough that I have complex tics; I'm capable of screaming full sentences and throwing items versus the more common simple tics like tapping on surfaces and blinking. While the disorder is not especially rare (about 1 in 2000 people; around 1 in 1000 if you include people with milder tic disorders) having Tourette Syndrome in this severity is so rare that I've never met another person with symptoms like mine. This is going to change soon.

Anyway, for a long time I chalked most of my neurological quirks up to the Tourette Syndrome, and I'm often surprised to find out something I do is actually normal and totally common. I was shocked when I found out that blurting something out when you recall an embarrassing memory is something other humans did.
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:59 PM on January 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


As an adult I have found myself wondering about the adults who were in my life as a kid who got lumped unevaluatedly into the "adult" box. They didn't get measured in the same peer-ish way they would be if I met them now. I wonder what parts of the characters of these people I missed and would have enjoyed or if I would have seen some of my more cherished adults in a worse light.

Being an adult means realizing things go away and don't come back. Mostly restaurants you really like. That and being painfully aware that you will have to watch your pets die. Also that you can measure your life in major purchases. I've got like only three beds left.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:47 PM on January 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


This year (as in, the last 12 months, not 2015) has felt like a year of Adult Moments in some respects. I have enough work in my small business that I seriously considered hiring someone, which would make me someone's boss; I live in a place with room for people not just to visit but to stay in; I have begun hosting my family's holidays to take some weight off my mom's hands.

But hands-down the most adult thing that happened to me this year was on Christmas Eve, when I was wrangling houseguests and presents like a herd of cats, and my SO called out:

"Honey, do you know where my travel toothbrush has gone?"

Without even missing a beat I replied, "It's in the linen closet, right hand side, on the shelf above your shelf."

At that moment his mother and my mother looked at me, and then at each other, and my mom said, "dear god, they've grown up."
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:54 PM on January 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


I knew lots of grown-ups, but I'm not old enough to be one.
When I was a teen-ager, in the 1950s, I would look at the grown-ups of the time--anyone from politicians on TV to the guy who ran the local candy store, and compare them to my contemporaries.

I knew then we were in trouble. My contemporaries were not on track to replace the grown-ups. They (and I) were miserable underpowered imitations. And time has proven this evaluation correct.

Tom Brokaw (slightly older than me) wrote about this: The Greatest Generation. The depression-and-WW2 generation had gravitas, both the good and the bad. We later folk have puny, self-centered, weightless drives, except perhaps for some immigrants from more extreme environments.

And so far, no in-charge generation has initiated global nuclear war. This is a big success, and far, far from obvious or easy. Please keep up the good work, kids.
posted by hexatron at 3:42 PM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


People’s youthful quirks can harden into adult pathologies. What’s adorable at 20 can be worrisome at 30 and dangerous at 40. Also, at 40, you see the outlines of what your peers will look like when they’re 70.
PERSPEX

An interesting thing about growing older

is being able to see precisely how the mundane, tiny, seemingly inconsequential flaws of a person’s youth

may butterfly-effect and snowball and very gradually, though no great or particularly consequential fault of that person’s own,

turn said person into the kind of ruined, compromised, contemptible mid-lifer you used to look at and wonder:

how does someone wind up like this, why would they choose to be like this, why would they not just stop being awful.
posted by rollick at 4:00 PM on January 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Indigineous American art forms are jazz, quilts, and newspaper comics. IF YOU HATE ONE OF THEM YOU MUST BE SOME KIND OF TERRORIST who doesn't know how to roast a turkey or bake an apple pie or love your mother. What, you don't love your mother???? Fascist!!!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:46 PM on January 7 [+] [!]


So now i know R. Lee Armory metafilter name...

(seriously, I read that in his voice, sounds awesome)
posted by bartonlong at 4:10 PM on January 8, 2015


hexatron: "he depression-and-WW2 generation had gravitas, both the good and the bad. We later folk have puny, self-centered, weightless drives, except perhaps for some immigrants from more extreme environments."

Speak for yourself, Boomer!

(Although if you buy the "Fourth Turning" stuff, the Boomers' role was literally to enjoy the fruits of the last few generations' labor and fuck it all up for the generations to come, who will clean up your shit and have our own Boomers who fuck it all up. The Millennials get to be the new Greatest Generation.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:22 PM on January 8, 2015


Speak for yourself, Boomer!

I am several years older than the oldest boomer. Too young to be a beatnik--too old to be a hippie, and really, not much in common with any of the named gens.

But not tough. Not really tough.

Perhaps the millenials' decade of unemployed indolence will prove to be character-building. Or perhaps it will just result in a generation of superior video-game players. I care, but I know the universe does not.
posted by hexatron at 4:38 PM on January 8, 2015


People were speaking admiringly of a man in his 40s. "He looks so good! He takes such good care of himself!" Fran Lebowitz scornfully replied that an adult doesn't just take care of themself-- they take care of other people.

That's my definition of a grown up-- a person who has accepted responsibility for an animal, a piece of land, a family, or a business. At some point, they have gone against personal inclination and gone outside in the freezing rain, wiped up loathsome body fluids, or delayed their own purchase of an indulgence in favor of some necessity.

Some people accept that responsibility as children, some people avoid responsibility forever.

I'll make up my mind who I'll trust my money, my heart, or my children with.
posted by ohshenandoah at 5:43 PM on January 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've also learned that time speeds up like you would not believe. I know a woman who is in her early twenties, and I probably bore her to tears constantly trying to impress upon her that her years will soon last 6 months, and then Christmases will start to happen every 6 weeks or so. I don't know why it seems so urgent to me so get this across to her, or what I'm hoping she'll do with that information. But time has changed in such a bizarre, dramatic fashion that I feel like I have to help prepare her for it somehow.

I'm also relieved to report that as you get older middle age people become more attractive to you, and people in their twenties can still look great but they usually seem like such silly little babies that the idea of shagging one of them can sound kind of gross. When I was in my twenties I used to look at middle age women and it was hard to imagine getting excited for somebody who looked like a mom, and I dreaded the prospect of getting old and being stuck forever swooning over young women. I don't know if everybody stops feeling that way, but I did and I'm grateful for it. Now it's hard to imagine being attracted to women in their 80s, but I suppose as I get older myself that will happen too.

Also, also, it gets really annoying watching people get nostalgic over shit that you were too old to enjoy when it was new. If I never hear about Britney freaking Spears again, that will be just fine. (She's not a goddess diva, Buzzfeed! She's a Mousketeer who went crazy for a while, then came back as a reality show judge!)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:49 PM on January 8, 2015 [14 favorites]


The depression-and-WW2 generation had gravitas, both the good and the bad. We later folk have puny, self-centered, weightless drives, except perhaps for some immigrants from more extreme environments.

They also had high rates of PTSD, alcoholism, and domestic violence because they were working so hard at maintaining the gravitas all the time.
posted by Miko at 6:56 PM on January 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm a grown up! I know, because children call me "Miss Biblio" and shyly ask me where the dinosaur books are or why we don't have more copies of Percy Jackson on the shelf or how to make an origami rabbit. Their parents come to me and pour out their hearts about their kids and ask for book recommendations, which they gratefully accept.
Then I go sit back down at my desk and think "do they know they just took advice from a raging crackpot who's behind on her student loans and who never flosses?"
posted by Biblio at 7:41 PM on January 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


They also had high rates of PTSD, alcoholism, and domestic violence because they were working so hard at maintaining the gravitas all the time.

Yep, and my family had the whole trifecta.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:34 AM on January 9, 2015


" (My husband and I still say it, I'll be like, "Wow, I do not know how to deal with this crisis, we may need a fully-grown adult," and then call our parents.)

Yup, you've grown up when you realize someone might know more than you do, and it's really OK to ask.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:43 PM on January 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


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