Friday, March 14, 2014

International R. Kelly Day, or: What It Means To Be A Grownup

Today I opened my email to find, amidst generous plastic surgery offers and a Nigerian prince's polite request for monetary assistance, a customary annual notice from the Danish tax authority. I skimmed it over--nothing to be particularly concerned about--and scrolled through the rest of the crap. (Waking up to fifteen emails makes one feel wildly popular for a millisecond, until it is revealed that at least thirteen of these messages are complete worthless pieces of spam.) As I moved on to the morning Facebook binge, it suddenly hit me: I do taxes now. Spam genuinely annoys me. I'm allegedly considered a real, proper grownup in today's society.

This wasn't exactly news to me. I know how old I am. I have a job, I do laundry and buy toilet paper, I have a credit card and pay a (too-high) cell phone bill every month. I can vote and drink alcohol and buy a gun and change my name. I can eat breakfast for dinner whenever I want, and I can eat pizza for breakfast if it strikes my fancy. I can buy plane tickets and rent hotel rooms and feel the pain of an anemic post-vacation bank account. In about two weeks, I will officially be in my mid-20s. Knocking on the door of thirty, and ripe for a quarter-life crisis (if we're being generous with my life expectancy).

The thing is this. When you're little, all you want is to be like the grownups. You want to stay up late, drinking the smelly drinks that make people act funny, watching R-rated movies while wearing makeup and high heels and saying sassy words. Basically you want to do whatever you want when you want. Because when you're little, this is essentially what being a grownup means; it seems like the most exclusive party ever, plus you'll be taller, and just how great is that. You wait and wait for the day to arrive when you will become a grownup. You're not really sure what will happen, but obviously something magnificent will occur. You're not sure when it's going to happen, either--are you a grownup when you turn 18? or is it 21? or maybe 30? or is it tomorrow? (Are we there yet?) But it doesn't matter, because you're spending your youth practicing how to be one of "them" so when the day arrives, that magical day when you wake up and you just ARE an adult, you'll be the coolest, best one ever.

What no one tells you, what you don't realize until you start having to crack your back and neck before getting out of bed in the morning, and you wake up to emails from Scandinavian tax authorities, is that this wondrous day you prepare so meticulously for as a child never really comes. Yes, you get older. You wait in line for hours to vote in an election for the first time: so exciting. You combine the drinking alcohol and the staying up late to experience your first hangover: super awesome. You spend your hard-earned money on a really beautiful thing for yourself, perhaps an antique monocle or a taxidermied fox, because it's a Thursday and the sun is out and you deserve it: you feel like a particularly hip adult, until you realize Mom and Dad aren't buying your groceries and toilet paper anymore, so that foxy monocle cost even more than you thought.

So you get older and you can do more things. But with more things come more "other things". More paperwork. More responsibilities. More messiness. As you become an adult, you realize the secret life horror that grownups are essentially taller, older, potty-trained children, with more substances to enjoy/abuse and more serious consequences for their actions. When you're three, if you're unhappy with someone, you might throw a Lego at their face. When you're twenty-three, if you're unhappy with someone, you might throw a vicious Facebook message in their inbox, peppered with all the negative emojis you can find. Maybe you start to appreciate the things you took for granted as a kid: having a driver/nurse/chef (hey, Mom and Dad), headache-free Sunday mornings, midday naps, discounted meals at restaurants.

I am not a shining example for the youths of today of what a responsible adult should be. Yes, on paper, I'm a quasi-functioning, contributing member of society. I have a great job, a place to live, and taxes and bills and laundry and toilet paper. Boys don't have cooties anymore, I own some high heels, I've seen movies with bad words and sex and violence. But I also wear pigtails on a near-daily basis, fell asleep watching Shrek after eating ice cream the other night, still call my parents for a good vent when I need it, take near-daily naps, and own a 24-year-old stuffed elephant. I named my bike after a TV detective. I still listen to MmmBop every once in a while, though somewhat secretly; and 99% of my Snapchats are Disney princess-themed or intentionally hideous self-portraits with immature captions. (The remaining 1% are mostly devoted to photographing dairy products and puppies.) After all those years of desperately wanting to be old enough to start wearing makeup, I've come to realize I prefer morning sleep time to morning makeup time; society is just going to have to deal with it. When I visit my parents in New York, I fully expect them to simultaneously treat me as a functioning mature adult in her mid-20s while allowing me regress to my bratty 15-year-old self. (Also, they should drive me anywhere, whenever, since I never bothered to get a license.)

I guess my point is that I'm coming to some point in my life where a lot of very grownup things are happening: I've found a city I love to call my adopted home, in which I'm slowly attempting to build a life. I learned a bonus language (mostly, kind of, enoughish). I get legitimate work emails (in addition to the promotionals and penis enlargement ads). I actually use the calendar function on my phone for appointments and things other than birthdays and International R. Kelly Day. But at the end of the day, I still feel like a little kid sometimes, and I'm not sure that's a bad thing at all. On the way home from work this evening, I put my hair in the usual pigtails and stopped by 7-11. I bought myself a chocolate bar and a juice. It was a crappy day, so I came home, put on pajamas, had my snack, and watched Tangled. I texted my dad a bit and he made me feel a little better, and then I crawled under the blanket my mom knit for me and started writing whatever this is. I felt like a seven-year-old again (albeit with technology and a job), and to be honest, today, I don't really mind. It might even be time for a little MmmBop.

1 comment:

Myles said...

Right on. The day you become a "real adult" is the day you stop having fun!