Hey, real quick: whatever happened to adults? I guess I'm speaking to pop culture specifically, but the same phenomenon is reflected in large social trends. Why, for instance, are we so enamoured of books and movies for young audiences? I'd rather be shot in my goddamn face than learn how to train my dragon 2. And I like Jennifer Lawrence fine, but does she really have to be the biggest star in the world right now? She's barely out of being a bween! She hasn't bweaned, if you will.
Every male star seems borne of some franchise (again, intended for children), and reduced to soundbiting on late night TV. If there is a Dustin Hoffman-type actor coming up today, we'll never meet him unless he's in Spaghetti Kids 4: Uh-Oh, Spaghetti Kids! And Jimmy Fallon has to reduce everyone on his show to viral-worthy clickbait, which I understand gets good ratings, but I can't imagine Dick Cavett and Norman Mailer engaging in a lip-synch battle or forming a barbershop quartet.
I don't mean to suggest that we need proto-typical adult men and women role models to enforce some kind of arbitrary gender binary, but can't we place a little bit more emphasis on maturity? I don't mean we should all find jobs, homes, and families in short order; nailing those first two down is nearly impossible in our economy, but rather that we should be more realistic about just how great it is to be young and cool all the time. I'm neither cool nor particularly young and I've never been good at either. I really feel like I'm becoming more of a person by growing older and having new experiences; why doesn't everyone feel this way?
Dream: Embrace becoming an adult.
Goal: Achievable. In many cultures, adulthood is something that is simply thrust upon you, there's no choice about working to support the family, getting married, providing. But here in North America, there is a generation of us unwilling or unable to move out of a younger person's dynamic, whether that means living at home, having little to no full time work, or being a perpetual student. Contrary to blowhard thinkpieces in several "esteemed" publications, that's not laziness, that's just the reality for many people in this economy. Yet, I still there are things that we can do, that I can do specifically, to grow up a little bit.
Plan: Set foot on the path to maturity by making the following changes:
Cut my hair. No, I can't do that one. While the part may have moved from the centre to the side, I've had the same long shaggy hair in my long shaggy face since I was 14. I know a clean, close-cropped cut looks more professional and less like I slept in a car. But then what would I play with when I'm bored (suggestions aren't welcome)? What would I tug on nervously, or run my fingers through constantly? I was in a play once where a director accused me of relying too much on my hair. This particular show started with my hair slicked back and, over the course of the evening (the play more or less took place in real time), my nervous tics (and hot theatre lights) left my hair bedraggled and wild and I loved that, it was so much fun, and the director wanted to cut my hair because it was distracting. I fought and won that battle, thankfully. I know it's just fucking hair, but I'm also proud to have it. Someday I'll start balding and get that awful Michael Bolton/George Carlin no-hair-up-front-tons-in-the-back look and have to rethink, but that day is not today.
Wear a suit. No, I can't do that one. Suits are flattering and classy on the right person, but I'm no Diane Keaton. Even after working in (and getting a substantial discount on) nice menswear, I still look like a kid in his Dad's clothes when I wear a suit, or a pregnant bean on stilts. At my current job, I can get by in pressed pants and a dress shirt or polo. I never interact with clients, so I could also wear a garbage bag and a Tilley hat and no one would care. Some colleagues are suited up, though, and look great. Maybe if I was a little broader in the chest and narrower in the waist, I could be poured into some quality threads, but I'm not about to starting working out just to look a little better than Jason in Human Resources.
Develop a taste for wine. No, I can't do that one. Wine is so gross, you guys! It's sour and bitter and coats your mouth and makes your teeth disgusting. But people LOVE it! Guzzle it by the bottle, they do! I've heard that your tastebuds supposedly change as you age, thus explaining, for instance, why kids like the taste of Kool-Aid and adults like the taste of wine. I think I missed that all-important transition. The booze I like are sugar-bombed vodka coolers, like Smirnoff and Vex. These selections are terribly gauche and so, so bad for me, but taste so good! Give me a Raspberry Lemonade something with a 7% alcohol content over a Cabernet that was nestled with baby lamb for two hundred years any day of the week.
Travel. No, I can't do that one. Travelling is supposedly a fulfilling life-changing experience, but when I picture doing it myself all I can think is: are the beds comfortable, and will the food make me puke? Well-travelled friends make fabulous guests at a dinner party. Tales of backpacking through some awful mountain and bunking in some kind of eco-treehouse sound admirable from a distance, but I don't want to do any of those things. You know where I'm going on vacation next week? The Big City where I lived for many years. You know where I'm staying? With friends, and then a hotel. Maybe I'll travel someday, but from where I'm sitting, it's better to be home. But about that...
Own a home. No, I can't do that one. Home ownership is freaking impossible, and it's only getting worse, but I think in a sly way, Doc and I might have the market beat. Right now, we rent a small 1 bedroom apartment for $1100/month. I don't know anyone who pays that little for a mortgage and fees. If we were to buy a condo of comparable size, we'd pay at least $1100 per month on a mortgage payment in addition to condo fees (by the way, what the fuck are condo fees? It costs $800 per month per resident to shovel the snow?). The Doc and I don't have any debts, and we're able to squirrel away some nice chunks of change because our rent is so small. If we keep saving, we'll eventually be in a place to buy a little property without hurling ourselves into a massive money-owing pit of despair we won't be able to hoist ourselves out of until we're ready to retire.
Make peace with the younger me. That's the hardest one. I was always the kid who wanted to be older than he was because I never thought my current self was all that interesting. I was a neurotic, overly-sensitive child, prone to tantrums and tears. Despite having a marvelous childhood, I was not a marvelous child. The adults I knew were great role models of how to grow up and it infuriated me that I was not their contemporary. Now I'm the same age my parents were when I was small and I feel like the biggest faker. As if someone will see through my pretentious blathering and self-important dreams and point out that my grasp on adulthood is tenuous; that my veneer of maturity is paper thin. If I could go back and meet Younger James, a device often used in terrible films, I don't know what I'd tell him, necessarily, but I hope I'd be kind. Maybe he'd look at my little apartment, my paltry resume, my schlubby clothes and messy hair and think, "Oh fuck, I'm gonna turn into this guy?" Or maybe he'd take it all in, reserve his fleeting judgments, and decide that I must be trying my best.