Free Thoughts #3: Grown-Ups

A few days ago, The Telegraph posted this apparently innocuous little article entitled “The 50 Signs You’re A Grown-Up“.

Normally, I don’t take things like this particularly seriously. But this one kind of hit a nerve. Mostly because it sort of calcifies a rather horrible message I’ve been getting my whole life.

Namely, that to be an adult, a grown-up, you have to conform to a VERY specific kind of life. A life that is furthermore almost wholly defined by hetero/cisnormative expectations. Appearing on the list? Get married. Have kids.

What of those of us who can’t?

The “signs” here, in addition to being completely dominated by cisgender, heterosexual, white, middle-class English values, carry numerous more subtle exercises in privilege. One that ended up leaping out at a friend of mine was the insistence that being a “grown-up” requires calling your parents every week. The truth, however, is that many people (queer people particularly) are often quite alienated from their parents, if not disowned. Some people have abusive parents. Some people were abused by their parents in childhood and prefer not to revisit the trauma. Some people’s parents left. And some people’s parents just plain aren’t alive anymore.

I’m sure some people might look at what this list comprises and see something that, for them, seems like the kind of life they want. But for many of us, it seems dismal and horrible. The absolute antithesis of what we want for ourselves. Some of the items directly suggest servitude to the social order, such as “have a mortgage”. Have a home I might be able to view as just another potential positive that some people strive for and others don’t consider all that important, but a mortgage isn’t a home. A mortgage is a debt.

Some of us don’t have much control over the degree to which we meet these criteria our culture holds as a “proper” adult life. But I’ve also often thought that one of the defining features of being an adult was autonomy, making one’s own choices. Defining who you are for yourself rather than in relation to how well you live up to a very narrow set of imposed expectations and values.

That and being over the age of 19 or whatever.

I’m never going to be able to have my “own” kids. Ever. I made that decision for myself. I also have no intention of ever adopting. The legality of my being able to marry (a partner of any sex) is complex and varies from place to place, and these days I really prefer to eschew defining my relationships in specific terms anyway. I rent. I have a roommate. I eat a lot of junk food. I’m not financially independent, and make my pitiful living off of writing ramby rants on the internet. I can’t cook. I sometimes fall asleep in my clothes. I’m trans and queer and I totally, completely fail to dress my age. I read a lot of comic books and listen to a lot of punk rock. And I’m an activist, too. I still put more of my energy into imagining the way the world could be than simply trying to live with the way it is. I still think the world, both as it could be and as it is, are worth fighting for, as are the people in it. And most of the time, I still believe life is worth living.

And I don’t garden or go antiqueing or host dinner parties or listen to Radio fucking 2. Radio 6 sometimes, though. Usually only when Jarvis Cocker is on.

I have a huge crush on Jarvis Cocker.

But NONE of that takes away from the fact that I’m a grown woman who’s made her own choices about her own life.

It occurred to me, after a little more stewing over this: are the terms “grown-up” and “adulthood”, the concepts and images that go with them, the way we implore one another to be such… is it ever much more than a codeword for “fit into my normative expectations”? Is it ever about self-determination, the actual independence of living your own life, and not instead about someone denying the validity of the choices you’ve made? Implying that you’re living the “wrong” sort of life?

I’m not sure it is. And from now, these are going in my black book of Words To Watch-Out For. Right alongside “politically correct”, “reverse discrimination”, “biologically (fe)male”, “offense”, “States’ rights”, “special rights”, “rap music”, “thuggish”, “female privilege”, “victim card” and “oversensitive”.

If being a “grown-up” means having to conform to these kinds of boxed-in, outdated values, defined by the privileged and powerful, then I’ll stake my claim right here in Neverland.

I’ll close with a poignant thought from xkcd.


    • says

      Risotto is also great for making up as a giant batch and then having as leftovers for the next four or five days. Get thee to Physioproffe’s blog pronto!

      (Unless of course you don’t like risotto.)

      • says

        Blargh, no thanks. Why he has a blog on FTB at all is a mystery to me – all he does is swear a lot and blog about many not-very-differentiated and not particularly good pasta dishes. I already know how to ruin pasta, thankyouverymuch.

        If you want a good food blog, you should check out <a href=""The Food in My Beard, or i eat food. Much more interesting.

  1. Pen says

    I managed 18/50. I have no aspirations to do any of the rest, although I might not mind receiving gift vouchers. I can’t say for sure, never having tried it.

  2. A. Person says

    Doesn’t surprise me, because it’s an ad for a financial services company. They’re trying to sell the middle class lifestyle in order to make money from mortgages. It’s a pressure sell, make you feel bad for not fitting societal expectations. Works though.

    As for being a grown-up, I’ve always thought that it was about giving up self-determination and following society’s expectations. Trying to be one sucks, but I admit the alternative is scary.

  3. says

    Gack! Most of those options having *nothing* to do with “growing up” but sure do define a boring life style. I am soooo sorry that that defines “grown up” for whoever wrote that crap.

  4. says

    Haha, I got 6! 😛 I used to have more, but they were part of my ill-advised “try to be a guy” project that was a dismal failure. But even then,I wouldn’t have made much more than 12, I guess. I had a mortgage but not a lawn mower, haha. This list is idiotic. A few things are valid(ish), take care of yourself kind of things. But most are just “be a slave” imperatives that are totally abhorrent to me, and are none of what I want for my life.

  5. Michael says

    “…completely dominated by cisgender, heterosexual, white, middle-class English values…”

    You’ve not read the Telegraph before, have you?

    The list is actually “50 Signs You’re a Grown Up Who Reads The Daily Telegraph”

    In my book, you grow up when you realise that no one else is going to make, or take responsibility for, your decisions any more.

    • northstargirl says

      There’s an old saying in journalism that these kinds of silly “list” stories are the result of coming up against deadline and not having any story ideas. 🙂

      As for being “grown up,” to me how you conduct your life and how you treat other people, how you handle responsibility, how you handle the bumps in life’s road, and so on say a lot more about how grown up (or the other word is “mature”) you are than would a family, a mortgage, or anything like that. But something like that wouldn’t fit the superficial theme of that Telegraph story, I guess.

    • Coroxn says

      “The list is actually “50 Signs You’re a Grown Up Who Reads The Daily Telegraph””

      Yes (^_^)

      Bluh. I’m really happy as a teenager. People /expect/ me to be all weird and odd and things. Adulthood seems kind of scary, if you have to be autonomous /and/ confirm to all these norms. I don’t want any of those things on the list right now! Can’t I just be Robert Downey Junior?

  6. Movius says

    What a silly list

    I like the term ‘grown-up’, which to me means someone who lives in the real world and who can and should take responsibility for their own life where possible.

    The phrase I *HATE* with a passion is any variant upon “Settling-down”. Which just perpetrates the myth that the proper way to live life is a short burst of self-destructive behaviour followed by dispensing of childish notions of living your own life how you want to.

    • Happiestsadist says

      I prefer “adult” to “grown-up”, if only because I tend to use grown-up to refer to things like reading comics all night instead of going to bed and having cake for breakfast because, as a grown-up, I can.

      To me, “adult” is someone who has a grasp on their own affairs, regardless of how normative they are.

    • ik says

      The whole burst of questionable (though often not self destructive) behavior and then settling down thing is REALLY, REALLY bad. It is making a huge mess of my culture, and it also helps romanticize a wide variety of unfortunate characters. The brief spurt of regimented individuality wrecks our only hope of maintaining our dynastic culture, and then when it ends people sink into ridiculous pits of dispair.

      And then the people who react against this most strongly too often are _only_ iconoclasts. They pretty much just extend the initial spurt of normatively norm-breaking behavior. And then the

      @the XKCD link: Awwwwwwwww. I love that one. Though it makes me so unhappy. Maybe someday I will know a lover who I’ll be able to do oddball architectural modifications with!

  7. Happiestsadist says

    “6.Having children”
    And thus, through the magic of a couple of titanium clips and a wonderful doctor, I ensured at age 24 that I’d never grow up. I am clearly Peter Pan y/n?

    Our apartment came with bins under the sink and appropriate bins in the garbage room. I thought I couldn’t rent and be an adult, but apparently not.

    “21.Having a view on politics”
    I’ve had such since before puberty. I was a grown-up even back then?

    “30.Mum starts asking you for advice”
    Being able to recommend makeup for my mother and show her how to make tortillas from scratch=adult. What?

    “34.Going to bed before 11pm”
    My father worked nights for more or less his entire career, having recently retired. He has become an adult shortly after hitting 60.

    “37.Repairing torn clothing rather than throwing it away”
    I thought that was being a hippie/punk/broke.

    “42.Always going out with a sensible pair of shoes”
    Having a grumpy knee is not being an adult. Also, my sensible shoes are hot pink chrome finish, which I like to think detracts from sensibility.

    I also love how many of these are contingent on being able-bodied.

    • ik says

      Wow. So I stopped having political views a few years ago (for any vaguely normal value of ‘political’ and so am not an adult?

  8. brianpansky says

    Rich white guy: so what do your parents do brian?
    Me: I have parentS now?

    You listed a great number of reasons why that question fails, in my case it’s divorce removing the plural. also the “do” seems to imply a career. Mr rich guy has a career, but maybe he doesn’t realize a lot of us just do whatever we can find here and there.

    also, if I’m allowed to post this here:

  9. says

    Getting married and having children is neither heteronormative or cisnormative; it is completely acceptable to want to have kids even if you are homosexual or a trans person and I do not see any evidence-based / rational principle that should preclude these groups from getting married or having children (e. g. adopted).

    • says

      It’s not hetero/cisnormative on the basis of being prohibited to queer people, or something we never ever do, it’s such because it’s much, much more difficult for us. And it’s not any means a given. Pushing people into the nuclear family always come with the tacit implication that a good life is the life that most closely resembles that of the cisgender, heterosexual norm.

      • ik says

        I can understand how nuclear families would be linked to heterosexual norms but I don’t quite get the cisgender part… It seems like a simple substitution once one gets past laws which don’t recognize it…

        What is the transgender norm? What is the homosexual norm?

        (insert very high, soft, meek voice:
        “I’m sorry, Ms. Reed. I like my norms. *sob*”

        • says

          This is really not a joking matter. I don’t even know how to answer your question without triggering anyone; it’d be best if you look up the effects of hormone replacement therapy for transsexual women.

        • No Light says

          Your comment comes off as:

          “Please don’t remind me that not everyone is cisstraight like me. I love my privilege, I shouldn’t have to think about those people, they Make me uncomfortable”

          It’s not a joking matter, and marginalised people do not owe you answers to your faux-naive questions. It’s unbelievably disrespectful to expect handholding, and to be educated, in response to ignorance.

          Oh, and asking ;What is the transgender norm? What is the homosexual (wow, is it the fifties again?) norm?” makes about as much sense as asking “What do straight people wear? or “Where do cis people eat lunch?”

          *meek voice* sowwy if I’ve rained on your privilege parade. Tee hee!

          • says

            Oh, and asking ;What is the transgender norm? What is the homosexual (wow, is it the fifties again?) norm?” makes about as much sense as asking “What do straight people wear? or “Where do cis people eat lunch?”

            When I read that part, I kind of got the impression that that is exactly what this person was pointing out.

            Also, I think ik’s question can be answered without triggering anyone by simply pointing out that those things aren’t necessarily legal around these parts. Ik seems to think the laws are something you can just “get past” but they are, in fact, a pretty substantial barrier. Societal pressure is also a contributing factor (including violence committed by bigots against people who don’t fit their subscribed norms), though if the laws were reformed and enforced sufficiently that would lose much of its teeth.

          • No Light says

            @Michael – hilariously enough we (me, my lovely partner) used to get constant pressure to have kids. “Two women, you could share all the parenting!” (lol forever) and “You two would make amazing parents”. We both have problems that make pregnancy too risky, but our local social services team is always begging same sex couples to foster.

            When we told friends and family, you’d have thought we’d declared an intent to shave some cats and raise them as children. “They’re not really like your own children” and “Why would you just settle for that?”

            After my partner had incapacitated me, to assure the physical safety of said idiots, they were told to never darken our door again.

            Then as if by magic, the pressure on us to parent children just disappeared in a puff of pink smoke. I’m totally sure that it has nothing at all to do with me becoming a wheelchair user. Nooo, nothing at all.

        • says

          A simple substitution?!?

          Just “getting past” laws?

          What are you talking about?

          Again, this isn’t about impossibility, it’s about difficulty. You know that having kids tends to be really fucking difficult for us, right? And that those laws tend to be, you know, enforced? And that a whole lot of what is required to raise a family is dependent on its legal recognition?

          Jesus, Ik. You REALLY don’t see why the nuclear family is a cisgender thing?!? Here’s three hints: REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEMS. WHO WILL AND WILL NOT BE PERMITTED TO ADOPT. MARRIAGE LAW.

  10. alt+3 says

    “Being able to change a lightbulb.”

    Uh, what? It’s a lightbulb not a rubik’s cube. Are British light sockets some kind of mystery?

    “Being able to drain a radiator.”
    “Being able to change a tire.”

    I could do these when I was ten. Matter of fact, I’ll bet I knew more about car repair when I was ten than most people do at fifty. Does that mean I was an adult then?

    “You always wear sensible shoes.”

    What does “sensible” even mean here? Wouldn’t that be defined by your goals in wearing whichever shoes you wear? I own a pair of steel toed boots, they’re required by my work, I wear them everywhere. Is that sensible? Seriously, I have no idea what this item is trying to say.

    • Happiestsadist says

      I’ve never owned a car, likely never will, and the family didn’t have one when I was growing up. It’s certainly not practical where I am. So many people who live in the downtown core that I do are apparently children forever.

    • ik says

      Changing a tire? That’s probably the easiest routine maintenance EVER. The only hard thing about it is that tires are a little bit heavy. That being on the list is pathetic.

  11. betsumei says

    28/50. I think that’d be a barely passing grade if this was a school assignment.

    Then again, if you don’t look at these as “requirements to achieve a status” and more “symptoms of a condition”, it’s a lot more fun. Some people are entirely asymptomatic and live a wonderful life full of comic books, ice cream for dinner, and building (and demolishing) sand castles, or whatever else they want to do. Some people let their symptoms keep them from having any fun, some people learn to enjoy them, but at the end, growing up is always terminal.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some toys to play with. Bumblebee isn’t going to transform himself, after all.

  12. Kels says

    I got about 10 on the list. Then again, despite being over 40 I’ve always identified most closely with the under-25 crowd, and I’m told I fit in pretty well.

    I’m willing to consider that a Good Thing.

  13. jessica says

    Just because you have kids doesn’t necessarily mean you are a “grown up” either. See also: teen pregnancy.

    Most of these make me head-desk (how does a joint bank account make you an adult…?), but this one doesn’t even make sense:

    “48.Being sensible enough to remove make up off before bedtime ”

    I think the person who wrote this didn’t think too hard about it. Or proofread. :/

  14. Stevarious says

    Final score: 10. Most accomplished LONG before I was an adult.

    2: Never did.
    4: Took me a few minutes to figure out what that meant.
    6: Not only did this have nothing to do with me becoming an adult, I did this LONG before I could consider myself even adult-ish.
    7: …yeah. Sort of agree with this one?
    8: A skill learned in early childhood.
    16: Another childhood learned skill.
    21: Damned if enough adults have these. Too many people just don’t give a shit.
    23: Interesting how they just say ‘find it annoying’ instead of ‘actually keep your house clean’
    25: Hmmm…
    33: Well, depending on where you live, you either do this all the time however old you are, or you never do. This seems more geographical than anything.

    1: Agree with Nat here. A mortgage is a debt, not a home. You could have a home and no mortgage, you could still be paying on a mortgage after the home burns to the ground.
    3, 10: Haaaahahahahahaaahahahahaaaahahahaha!!
    5: Don’t actually have anything valuable to will to anyone. And only the one kid anymore.
    9: Fuck you, authors. Seriously. Fuck you.
    17: What does this mean?
    18, 28: Interesting how ‘planting flowers’ and ‘enjoying gardening’ are two different entries. It’s like, not only do you have to DO it, you have to LIKE it. It’s not enough to do it and not like it. It’s not enough to like it but not DO it. Gotta be both!
    20: So… co-dependence is ‘adult-y’ now? Let me tell you, I HAD a joint account. Worst financial mistake I ever made. Even if I DO get married someday, this will never happen again.
    22: So ‘having money to invest’ is adulthood now?
    26: Dinner parties. Really.
    29: So wasting a whole fucking weekend doing jack shit is ‘adulthood’ now? Or, wait, no, when you’re a kid it’s ‘wasting time’. When you are an adult it’s ‘pottering’. I see. (bullshit!)
    31: Just in case what? Seriously, what sudden emergency needs a shopping bag?
    32: More garden shit. You have to garden, LIKE gardening, and LIKE shopping for gardening shit. All required!
    34, 36: Yes, because having a 9-5 job has more to do with how ‘grown up’ you are and nothing whatsoever to do with your employment situation.
    35: “Hahahah!!” said the article writer. “Fuck you, people who have lost or never had parents! You CAN’T be an adult!”
    40: Another instance of not just having to know something, but actually enjoy doing it.
    41: Seriously?
    43: Who doesn’t?
    44: Ah, so having a stressful job that you don’t love is adulthood. Good to know.
    45: Man, I don’t even check my mail more than like once a week. All my bills pay automatically, anyone who I actually want to get mail from has email. It’s just junk mail, every time. Only one file!
    46, 50: Poor people can’t be adults! Still!
    49: What does this mean?

  15. Kim says

    To me, they don’t sound like things to aspire to, but more a list warning signs.

    Kind of like “50 signs you might be turning into an old fuddy duddy”. Quick, buy something from us or book a holiday before you calcify.

  16. vicki says

    Why is that man using a screwdriver to change a lightbulb?

    Whatever, I usually smash the bulb in the socket and just stop going to that room at night.

  17. says

    Many of the items on the list are things I made sure my kids learned to do as preteens/teenagers. One of the things I *did not* teach them was that they needed to have kids of their own in order to be properly grownup/feel fulfilled.

    And by the way:
    Growing older is mandatory; growing up is optional.

  18. dangerousbeans says

    Hmm, I consider getting myself spayed a sign of adulthood.
    And why would i watch the news? It is just full of lies, distortions, and sport.

  19. says

    1: No. I used to, but I paid it off early.
    2: Yes.
    3: No. If I paid into a private pension, I would be allowing the state to abdicate responsibility towards its citizens.
    4: No. I do my food shopping “little and often”, one rucksack load at a time.
    5: No. I have precious little to leave to anyone.
    6: No. Well, probably not anyway. I took a risk with Lauren, but I was not the only one. Zoë may or may not be mine.
    7: No. I spend my pay cheque, I live contentedly skint for the rest of the month.
    8: Yes.
    9: No.
    10: Yes, then back to no again. (See 1.)
    11: Yes.
    12: No.
    13: Yes. But I don’t take a blind bit of notice of them, so functionally no.
    14: No. I watch UK Gold because it has no news.
    15: Yes, then back to no again.
    16: Yes.
    17: No. Not easy to get a lift there.
    18: No. Tried it. They died.
    19: Yes.
    20: Yes.
    21: Yes.
    22: No.
    23: No.
    24: Yes.
    25: Yes. A Dyson. It has had 3 spare parts in 8 years.
    26: Sometimes, yes.
    27: Of course.
    28: Yes. When I actually do any, I do enjoy it.
    29: No. I wish!
    30: No.
    31: Yes.
    32: No.
    33: Yes.
    34: No.
    35: My mother phones me if I haven’t phoned her in 24 hours.
    36: No. I class it as fun 🙂
    37: Yes.
    38: No. I chose clothes that do not require ironing.
    39: No — I wash up immediately before cooking.
    40: Yes.
    41: No.
    42: I don’t always go out wearing a pair of shoes at all, let alone sensible ones.
    43: No.
    44: No.
    45: Only into “contents – recycling, cellophane window – rubbish, rest of envelope – recycling”.
    46: No. I use my Denby pottery every day. And it’s local.
    47: No. But I probably could do this, if I had a car and if it ever needed a tyre changing.
    48: Yes.
    49: Yes.
    50: No. But I do have “two legs towels” and “four legs towels”.

    There are a lot of things on that list that I don’t even aspire to. It’s representative of a particular segment of society that I don’t belong to, and I don’t feel ashamed of that.

  20. Onamission5 says

    I got a whopping 19. I’m a 41 year old mom of four, ffs. Not financially dependent on one’s parents? Really? In this current economy? I know folks my age with kids who’ve had to move back with their parents. Did they have their grownup cards revoked? My grandma pays for kids’ extra activities because it makes her feel special to do so. Does that make me less adult than if I said no thanks, g’ma, the kids don’t need music lessons to enrich their lives unless I can afford it myself?

    And uh, I’ve been doing my own washing, cooking meals and changing lightbulbs since I was eight. I find it sad that merely being able to clean up your own messes and feed yourself had to make the list of uber grownupness. I can think of more worthy things, like showing compassion, being able to listen, and admitting when you’re wrong. Those are harder by far than washing a shirt, and much more important.

  21. says

    Ha ha, I was reading this and totally thinking “I have got to post that xkcd cartoon” right up to the very last sentence. And then bam! pre-empted.

    I don’t have a mortgage; it’s paid off. Is there a post-grown-up state? Maybe I’m dead. Also, I’m not keen on admitting to how many points I got, because it seems too boring. But at least I got under 50%. Phew!

  22. eNeMeE says

    I got thirteen, and I’m pretty much as privileged as they come.

    …and I’ll probably lose three in the next couple of months. Then again, if someone calls me an adult I tend to look at ’em funny.

  23. Dunc says

    I’m not even going to bother to read it, but…

    The “signs” here, in addition to being completely dominated by cisgender, heterosexual, white, middle-class English values, carry numerous more subtle exercises in privilege.

    Since when has the Torygraph (as it is generally known over here) been subtle about its embrace of privilege?

    • No Light says

      Our North,American cousins aren’t really aware of the dogwhistles and “Keep Britain pure and white!” culture of the Torygraph, the Vexpress, and the Fail. They’re very lucky!

      I see the Fail linked to from blogs that are progressive and social justice resources, and it always shocks me.

      The most bizarre place I keep seeing it, held up as a bastion of truth, is on a Jewish site. The cognitive dissonance that causes me makes me feel like my brain’s going to fizz out of my ears.

  24. No Light says

    Wow, it’s like fucking Privilege Bingo. Because I’m a dirty queer, a member of the stinking underclass, a pathetic cripple, and a feeble-minded non-NT, I managed to get six.

    Oh, and also because I’m not some pensioner in a twenty year olds body called Cressida either. A better name for the. list would be “The fifty signs that you should just give up, and die. Or move to the Cotswolds.”

  25. Walton says

    Agreed, Natalie. I’ve always disliked all these bullshit expectations about what one has to do to be a “proper adult”. I’m an “adult” (whether I like it or not) because I’m over eighteen and not dead. The idea that one is a “proper adult” if one lives up to certain arbitrary expectations (which, as you point out, tend to be incredibly middle-class and heteronormative), and that one ought to “grow out of” behaviour which deviates from those expectations, is extremely patronizing and psises me off.

    And, as some people above have observed, this kind of shit is standard fare for the Telegraph – a white-affluent-Middle-Englander conservative paper. Though it’s not quite as awful as the Daily Mail, which is more-or-less openly racist.

    • says

      …and openly homophobic and misogynistic. And transphobic. And basically ran an overt smear campaign on trans people for several weeks in apparent retaliation for Paris Lees’ involvement in the Leveson inquiry.

      • says

        Indeed. It’s an awful paper. They’re all about demonizing and vilifying asylum-seekers, undocumented immigrants, benefit claimants, the unemployed, single mothers, LGBT people, and anyone else who isn’t a white middle-class Middle Englander. And, sadly, the Mail has a huge circulation and is very influential. It makes me depressed. 🙁

  26. Vene says

    Huh, there’s a fair number of things on this list I can’t do simply because I work second shift. I guess this is another sign it’s privileged as fuck, well off white people don’t typically work nights.

    This one in particular:
    “34.Going to bed before 11pm ”
    I’m at fucking work at 11pm, I can’t go to bed.

  27. geocatherder says

    Heel, sit, stay, roll over, speak, that’s a good grown-up, now have a treat… utter garbage.

    Being grown-up means you get to pilot your own course through life; how well you take responsibility for that job probably affects your happiness — and I say that knowing full well that some people have far, FAR more obstacles to deal with than others. It’s still better to be your own pilot.

    Conversely there are people who never grow up; these are the ones who allow family/church/peers/society to tell them how to live their lives rather than thinking it through for themselves.

    That’s it, as far as I can tell. That’s the difference between being grown-up and not.

  28. badandfierce says

    For fuck’s sake, this list is incomprehensible. Having a view on politics? Being able to change a lightbulb? I had both of those when I was ten years old. There’re an awful lot of things on here that strike me as “participating in society” or “able to function,” and the rest is all random privileged nothings.

    Anyway,there’s a distinct subheading I’ve noticed that stands out a lot in the “be an adult” message. The big stuff, of course, is all urging you to live a capitalist, heteronormative life of quiet desperation, but there’s an almost frantic note in this sort of thing to control the small things, too. You hit that note up there by bringing up comic books. It’s not enough that you’re a nice, suburban idealized bundle of privilege and obliviousness, but you’re not allowed to have hobbies you like, either. It’s all about gardening and entertaining (even more class markers) whether you like it or not. The squeals of “stop having fun!” have been following me for years now, as I refuse to stop doing things I like because it’s time to be grown-up now, and grown-ups don’t have fun.

    • northstargirl says

      Well, let’s see…I’m more or less in middle management, oversee a department with three workers, about 50 clients and a budget of several thousand dollars. I have to make sure all those things work properly. All the while I have to keep not only an encyclopedic knowledge of my field of specialty, but also know corporate, state and federal policies, laws, etc. I have an advanced degree. I’m not only considered very good in my field, but I’ve won awards for it and I have clients who make a point of seeking me out for what they need. Higher management seeks my advice and has given me very sensitive responsibilities from time to time. You’d think that would signal being “grown-up.”

      Yet at the end of the day I leave that at the office, come home and play with toys and laugh at silly things. I live with someone who has his toys and laughs at silly things, and a large part of why we’re together is because we had that in common. I suppose by the standard of this silly article, I’m not a grown-up. Which is fine. I’ve spent my life resisting the boxes and categories people have striven to put me in, and this is just another for me to say “sorry, guess again” about.

      (For the record, I still talk to my parents every week by phone. They’ve never accepted my transition. More often than not, it’s the most awkward ten minutes of my entire week.)

  29. says

    According to the picture at least, one incontrovertible sign of adulthood is being electrocuted because you shoved a screwdriver up into a light fixture with the electricity still on.

  30. says

    Bleuargh, I hate these “how to tell when you’re a grownup” type things. All I see here is “50 ways the author is trying to convince themselves they don’t have a boring life”.

  31. lochaber says

    I’ve seen a number of these “are you an adult” type lists before, but I think this one is about the worst.

    I think a better title would be “The 50 traits that idiot privileged fuckwits think make them more of a real person than you”

    wow, this is bad.

    I would have thought more effort would be put in to include qualities/habits/attributes that lead to a better functioning society. you know, stuff like not trying to start a fight when someone bumps into you at the bar, not littering, not taking up more then one seat on public transit when it’s crowded, treating food service workers with respect, returning your library books on time (or at least not arguing over the fines when they are late).

    but the messy house one (#23) is kinda amusing, since I can’t help but think of a slightly cluttered but well adapted/adjusted person being considered less mature then some person who trashed their house, and just sits on the couch whining about how messy and horrible everything is, instead of either cleaning it up or getting about their day.

  32. thatcharminglittleStephgirl says

    I tried all of that before transitioning at 25. Being a grown up sucks 😛 Just need to get rid of the niggling in my brain tht says it is still required tho :/

  33. embertine says

    Question: if you were a Horsewoman of the Atheist Apocalypse, which MLP would you ride as you guided us into the End Times?

  34. Jen says

    I always suspect that stuff about becoming a grown-up by having a mortgage was bullshit. Thanks Natalie! Where would we be without you, eh?

  35. Ex Patriot says

    I read the list of things that say you are an adult. I guess I not grown up yet even though I am retired. Some people told me to grow up when I retired because I boughf a one way ticket to small country in Europe and I am still there and very happy and satisfied. I have nice apt overlooking the Adriatic, drive an old Italian car and have a girl friend from the Ukraine.those who tell you to grow up tell them to go screw them seleves. Live your life as you see fit and not as others think you should.

  36. says

    Being a grown-up means calling your parents every week? What? My parents love me, I live within easy walking distance of their house, and I don’t talk to them that often. Who comes up with this shit?

  37. nms says

    They missed some

    – complain about the kids of today and their hippity-hop
    – be unable to work a DVD player
    – vote Conservative
    – drive everywhere
    – have a lawn, mow it at least four times a week

  38. Tyrant of Skepsis says

    Did they also put “Hiding porn videos in the closet and being afraid as hell of being caught masturbating by partner. At the same time, having a miserable sex life.” on the list? Because for me that goes right together with owning a lawn mower and having a mortgage.

  39. embertine says

    Hey Tyrant, I have a mortgage and own a lawn mower. I dress up in fancy dress to mow my lawn because it freaks out my next door neighbour. Also, my little hover mower makes light sabre noises so I have conversations with it.

    It is entirely possible to be a grown up without losing the fun bits of being a kid. Sorry about the sex life thing, but maybe you need a partner who is into masturbation and porn. Applications welcome. 😉

  40. says

    It’s definitely a list with a total hetero/cisnormative bias, but there are tons of hetero/cis who find this list just as repugnant as you do. These things, as you rightly point out, don’t make you an adult, they make you part of a specific sub-set of adults. And if you’re only doing these things because you think you’re supposed to — well, how adult is that, really?

    IOW – I agree with you. 🙂

  41. Dendritic Trees says

    Wow. I’ve actually been working on a grownup list of my own but it looks more like this.

    1. Take responsibility for your own problems, regardless of whether they are your fault, rather than sitting sadly waiting for them to go away. Fix them or ask for help.

    2. Learn to distinguish between things you personally dislike and things which are actually bad or more generally offensive.

    3. Be able to give and take constructive criticism

    That’ really all I came up with, but I still have the training wheels on my grownuphood, so…

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