Tuesday, September 14, 2010

WHEN DID YOU (ASSUMING YOU DID) GROW UP?


Listening to the FRESH AIR interview with Jonathan Frantzen, he said he only began thinking of himself as a grown-up in the last few years. He is 51!

I hear this more and more on TV shows and in movies and books. Comments like "I guess we have to be the grownups now." Sort of the "Friendization" of society because I remember the characters on "FRIENDS" saying it before others did. Strolling into their forties with no claim on adulthood.

Has being a grownup suddenly come to mean old? Does disclaiming adulthood defer responsibility? What is it?

I thought of myself as a grownup by my early twenties when I had my kids. My husband even earlier. This doesn't mean we were truly and consistently adult in our behavior but we were willing to wear the mantle.

What's changed? What age were you when you thought of yourself as a grown-up? If ever.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

I remember the whiners on THIRTYSOMETHING complaining "we're too young; why do we have to deal with real problems?" like aging parents, etc.

I think it's a little different for those of us who never had kids. In some ways we still think of ourselves as "kids" even at an age we'd have considered ancient when we were in our twenties.

I don't know - probably after 30.

Jeff M.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - Interesting question! I really think I started thinking of myself as a "grownup" when I became a parent, and that was when I was 30. I'd been out of college, married, full-time job, the whole thing before then, but it was the responsibility of parenthood that "grew me up," I think.

Gordon Harries said...

Honestly, I was about 28.

When I was 28 I returned to University –for my second degree—and lived in halls for the first year. The gulf of time that separates the nominal university student for a 28 year old shocked me, as did the moment when I’d be talking to one of them and suddenly realize that my fellow student had been 15 very recently.

In so doing, I was forced to recognize that several aspects of my character hadn’t aged at all and subsequently tried hard to rectify that. (which sounds glip in print –or pixels—but it was a fairly harsh time, emotionally speaking.)

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Well, as Bob Dylan said: "the times they are a changin'"

A lot depends on your age today. I was born in 1946. While we were the beginning of the baby boom, we were also near the end of the "at 18 you are an adult" crowd. People got jobs, contributed at home, got married and had kids, got drafted, all before the age of 21.

Then people started to go to college and extend their adolescence and the age of being a grown up just keeps getting higher.

Terrie

pattinase (abbott) said...

Maybe it did begin with THIRTY SOMETHING. Maybe it began when ensemble casts like that and Seinfeld and Friends began talking about prosaic things rather than the workplace conversation you got on hospital and crime shows. Or even the heightened reality of shows like Dallas and Dynasty.
Yes, I returned to college in my forties and that was quite a shock. I didn't just feel like an adult, I felt like a senior citizen.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Good point, Terrie. College and schooling beyond that really pushes the age forward.

Charles Gramlich said...

I think grown up is coming to be a term of insult almost. I realize that I still think and act much like a child in many things, but I've been taking 'grown up responsibilities for a long time so I guess I'm officiall grown up.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think you're right, Charles. It's like you're admitting your youthful exuberance is gone-that you will just drone on from now on.

John McFetridge said...

Terrie hits the nail on the head, I think. We've been trained to think of a 22 year college student as a "kid" but someone who's been working from age 18 to 22 as an adult by then.

(of course, people who don't go to college are the new invisibles in or society, if we'd admit to the castes we have).

pattinase (abbott) said...

Neither of my kids were done "getting educated" until their mid to late twenties but I don't remember seeing them as children exactly. I think the last ten years has exacerbated the onus placed on being "grown-up."

Charlieopera said...

42-44 or thereabouts; when I finally realized this (street life) isn't going to workout long term. I met my wife and got busy writing again. Two years after I was published, the crew I was with took a huge hit. My wife says I give myself too much credit when I say I have the mind of an 11 year old, but soon I'll be 55 (the new 13). I'm definitely more appreciative of what's left to learn these days (too much to ever actually accomplish) and the humbling aspect of it makes it easy to appreciate the elders I've ignored along the way.

Charlieopera said...

42-44 or thereabouts; when I finally realized this (street life) isn't going to workout long term. I met my wife and got busy writing again. Two years after I was published, the crew I was with took a huge hit. My wife says I give myself too much credit when I say I have the mind of an 11 year old, but soon I'll be 55 (the new 13). I'm definitely more appreciative of what's left to learn these days (too much to ever actually accomplish) and the humbling aspect of it makes it easy to appreciate the elders I've ignored along the way.

Richard Prosch said...

I agree that "grown-up" has somehow become synonymous with: ultra-conservative square-headed fuddy-duddy. Far from the reality. I started embracing my innner adult in my early 30s. Now in my 40s, no way would I go back to being an inexperienced, addle-headed teen or twenty-something --constantly worried about what's cool or trendy.

Randy Johnson said...

I've always been of the opinion that the time was different for males and females. We've all heard the old saying "The only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys."

In a lot of cultures, it's the women that do the hard work while men do the hunting and gathering. In that, of course, I mean keep up a household while men go out to earn a living, then come home to throw up their feet while the "wife" gets supper ready.

Too much of that happens in today's societies where both sides of a marriage work outsie the house, yet so many males still think the wife should come home, fix supper, see to the kids, while they relax.

In my own case, I've managed to remain single, with one or two close calls(actually I think I'm closer to the old standard of hermit; I spend most of my time alone at home, sometimes going days without seeing or speaking to anyone live). I spend my time with my "toys:" computer, TV, music, books I suppose).

The only things I'm not responsible myself for these days are things my health makes physically impossible to do by myself. It's actually been that way since I was in my early twwenties(managing alone I mean). I think that means grown-up.

Sorry about being long-winded.

Olivia V. Ambrogio said...

"Grown-up" isn't a bad word to me, but I certainly felt cheated, as I reached college age and beyond, to discover that I didn't wake up one more (perhaps on a birthday) feeling like a mature adult. I asked my father about this and he furthered the disillusionment process, telling me that you never reach a *point* of maturity--you just fake it, and act as responsible as you can. (There's also a difference, though, between how "grown-up" *you* feel yourself to be and how grown-up other people perceive you to be; lots of people who claim maturity are juvenile and just plain stupid, while some who don't feel mature are just aware of their limitation.)

George said...

I grew up when I got married. College just extended my adolescence.

Ed Gorman said...

Fifteen years into my second marriage of thirty years (and still going strong) I made a vague pass at growing up. At least my days of rage ended then. On a one to ten scale (ten being real maturity) I'd put myself at six.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Randy-you spend your time with us--not alone.
I got married at 19 and maybe that is when I felt like a grownup, come to think of it. I was toiling away at a job instead of protesting the war or attending classes.
Based on what's here, I would say that men cling to their boyhood longer-maybe because they do more exciting things as children.
Olivia-you seemed like a grownup from the first time I met you and I mean that in the most flattering way.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Would being an 8 make you feel better or worse about yourself? My husband is a 10 except in one area-he never learned to close a drawer or pick up his socks.
I am a 7 at best--relying on him to drive me places, pay the bills, earn 95% of our earnings. But I think of myself as an adult-just an inept one in some areas.
In a marriage, you can watch each others backs. Single people have to cover all the bases.

Richard Prosch said...

And when I say "addle-headed teen or twenty-something..." I am talking about myself, not generalizing. I know a lot of really mature young people who don't fit that description.

Dorte H said...

I married when I was nineteen and had my first child a year later. I was definitely very grown-up and responsible, but as my own children began to grow up, I allowed myself to relax and have more fun once in a while. But I often shake my head at people in their thirties who dress and behave like teenagers because it is so different from my own life. Even if I had wanted adult life to be an endless party, having a first child who turned out to be an Asperger may have changed some things.

Anonymous said...

Some of the comments hit home. I dropped out of college the first year (totally the wrong school for me) and went to work at 17. After two years and exposure to the draft I went back - I got a high number in the first draft lottery and wasn'r drafted. I dropped out a second time and back to work, but this time when I went back I felt so much more mature than the kids who were starting then. I know my professors appreciated it.

But then...as I said, no kids, no house, we traveled every summer as Jackie was off from school, we still (yes, 60+) go to concerts regularly, so it's a tossup.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Maybe we all need a second childhood at some point. Especially if we marry young.

Richard R. said...

I felt grown up when I got to - or maybe got through - Army Basic Training. That was between high school and college.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Now that is something that probably used to do it for many men. Worrying about dying every day has to make you grow up.

Travis Erwin said...

For me it was 27. Two months before I turned 28 my oldest son was born with a heart problem requiring surgery. Sitting in that Neo Natal ICU all those long hours changed my life like nothing else had or most likely ever will.

Paul D. Brazill said...

Still not there. Never appealed to me.I left school and got my first job ant 16 but I never thought of it as anything other than a source of money to squander.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Oh, that must have been horrible, Travis. I lost a child but it was my third and I was 30. I've felt like a senior citizen ever since.
Paul-growing up does not mean not having fun. I think you are there.

le0pard13 said...

For me it was at age 23 when my mother died, patti. Having to bury the only parent that raised and loved her children unconditionally brought the world into crystal clarity. This she did even though she was an invalid for most of those years, and divorced from a man who gave her zero support, didn't understand the word responsibility nor what it meant to be a parent. In the end, I guess, she taught me the meaning of growing up.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I doubt that I have cried more in one day since my mother died. We all have such traumas to deal with. I am so sorry to learn growing up came at such a cost. Yet how lucky you were to have a mother like that for 23 years. Bless her.