What is an adult?
I mean I’m way over 13 or 18 or 21 or any of the other arbitrary points at which you magically become one. But I know that by certain standards I’m not an adult.
I have no children. I don’t own a house or a flat or any other kind of property. Nor do I own a car. And I’ve never been through any initiation-to-adulthood ceremonies. Or killed any enemies of my tribe.
I have had sex and been drunk though. I’m married. I also have a job. Or at least am self-employed. So I’ve got some claims to adulthood other than my chronological age. But for some that’s not enough.
Those people for whom you have to leap a bunch of arbitrary hurdles in order to be a “real” adult have been around since the very dawn of time.1 They reckon the childless, property-less youngies are layabouts what don’t hold up the previous generation’s standards and know bugger all about responsibility and blah blah blah.
Generations have been bagging the generation that came after them since forever. There’s a famous quote from Thucydides or Herodutus or someone bagging the young uns, but I’m not in the mood to go hunt it down. It sounds exactly like Bill O’Reilly insisting that America is about to be destroyed because of all those young uns and their devil video games.
Utter, uttter, utter rubbish. Chariot racing didn’t destroy the fabric of society and neither has the charleston, television, or the humble ipod.
My dear friend, the multi-talented Kate Crawford, has recently published a book on this very topic. Adult Themes in which she examines how this debate evolved and how very stupid it is. Why aren’t the folks under forty getting married, having babies and buying houses as quickly and as often as their parents did? Because houses are way more expensive, as is raising a kid. Der.
Adult Themes is awesome. Funny, smart and wicked to the point. You should all read it.
Update: and if you wish to buy it go here. As far as I know the book has only been published in Australia so far.
In the meantime. Those of you who are adults—do you feel like one? What is it that makes you feel like a grown up? Or do you feel like an imposter?
And for those you aren’t adults yet—whatcha reckon you’ll need to do to become one?
Update: Sherwood Smith has now written very eloquently and movingly on this subject.
- Or, you know, that time when humans were evolved enough to start bitching at one another. [↩]