Acting Like a Grownup

It says something about the pervasive inclination of our culture toward youth that I am now 35 years old yet still occasionally surprised when I do “adult” things. Case in point: We’re refinancing the mortgage on our Virgina property. This will accomplish a number of things: because the value of the property has gone up, it’ll rid us of the need for private mortgage insurance; it will lower our monthly mortgage payment on the house; and it’ll get my uncle off the mortgage, my uncle having very graciously co-signed on the mortgage back in 1998 because I had just become a freelancer, and the bank wanted the mortgage backed by someone with an actual job (never mind that I was making more than my uncle at the time). And as a practical matter it will allow us to tweak more income out of the house without royally screwing our renters, who are a very nice couple that we like quite a bit. In all, a good outcome for everyone.

But as Krissy and I were talking about it, it occurred to me: A re-fi. On rental property. We’re landlords, for God’s sake. And then you get that moment of cognitive dissonance that comes from knowing that a few short years ago (actually not a few short years ago, more like 15 years ago, but it feels closer), you were driving your drunk friend’s car down a San Diego road on the way to go bowling, playing a game called “Don’t Fuck,” in which one of your drunk friends tried to cover your eyes while you were driving, and your only defense was to yell “don’t fuck!” as loud as you could.

And you weren’t driving drunk, but then, given that drunk people were climbing over themselves in the back seat trying to obscure your vision, it wasn’t all that much better. And you reflect that someone who would willingly play a game that stupid probably shouldn’t have been given a mortgage in the first place. And then you also remember that the drunk friends in the back seat are now a doctor and a software executive, respectively, and you all have kids. Yup, that’s a sobering moment, no pun intended.

No, I’m not getting nostalgic for stupid driving games (Krissy had a driving game that was far more worse than “Don’t Fuck” — so terrifyingly stupid and dangerous, in fact, that I won’t even write about it for fear that my own child may one day stumble upon these archives and attempt to play it herself. Suffice to say, it’s a miracle Krissy’s alive and has all of her skin intact). I’m simply saying that the person who did the stupid driving games and the person refinancing the mortgage on his rental property don’t feel that far removed from each other.

The older I get, the more I suspect that that occasional feeling of “who thought it was a good idea to make me an adult?” never actually goes away. My first real inkling of this idea occurred in college, when a good friend who was a decade older started grousing about her dating problems, which sounded rather disturbingly like my dating problems (no, we never dated each other); I said to her “so, it never really does get any better, does it?” and she allowed that it didn’t, although now the both of us are happily married to our respective partners, so we could have been wrong. The larger point of age not necessarily or uniformly imparting wisdom and/or serenity, however, remains true.

I don’t want to go back to being young. The fact is, I like being an adult, and generally speaking I’m very comfortable with it. I also like being a parent and being one of two default grown-ups for Athena; between me and Krissy, I think she’s got pretty decent role models. Being young was fun, but being an adult is fun, too; more fun, in fact (mostly — refinancing a mortgage isn’t fun, you know, but the results are nice).

Thing is, you eventually realize that there really isn’t a moment when you stop feeling young and start feeling adult. You’re just always you. And that’s oddly comforting, despite the occasional moments of cognitive dissonance.

23 Comments on “Acting Like a Grownup”

  1. There’s this twisty hilly road where I grew up that has a very good reason for having a 35mph speed limit.

    We used to go out late at night, and run it with the lights off as fast as we could

    I have very fond memories of my best friend and I in an 1984 Olds delta 88 doin 85+ around switchbacks with the lights off and three terrified drunken passengers in the back seat.

    The thing is, I grew up, but he didnt. He’s still the same 17 year old kid driving too fast with the lights off.

    And really, I’ve only maringally grown up. Sure I take care of my moms mortgage, and I’ve had grown up jobs, and I’ve even been married (and am no longer), but I still have the same hobbies, do the same things for fun, have the same best friend….

    I guess I was just never the kid that the people around me were. Everyone tells me I was old when I was five.

    But you know what makes me feel old? Looking at college freshmen today.

    I look at these kids, and it seems to me that they KNOW NOTHING AT ALL, and they all look like babies wearing the clothes of bums and prostitutes.

    Most of them don’t remember Ronald Reagan as anything other than a history lesson, and barely remember the first Gulf war if at all.

    Now that makes me feel old.

  2. Conversely, any moments of cognitive dissonance I’m liable to run across terrify me immensely. The amazing perspective an extra, (what, 25 years?) Gives you, I suppose.

  3. Heh. I grew up in the golden age of drugs and rock (the sex part was overrated), you know – the seventies. It is a wonder to me how any of us survived, much less turned into responsible members of society.

    One of my best friends and I have discussed this several times – how we went down the road of self destruction, went through the fire and came out the other side and remained friends. The downside is that some of our old “party pals” have not made the transition so successfully. They are still trapped by their addictions, but they are blinded by them. We have become what they fear for themselves, and it is the fear of the unknown for them.

    Some of them are fairly productive, but for the most part, they are in chains while protesting that they are actually free. Strings of failed relationships, marriages, businesses and jobs are unimportant compared to the “freedom to live life the way I want.” A Pyrrhic victory for sure. Their existence provides us quite a bit of cognitive dissonance.

    I feel old when I see kids with the sprouting seeds of similar behavior – the urge to drink heavily and often, experiment with various substances, and avoidance of responsibility. It is also irritating to see kids not living up to their potential. I don’t have any kids, but I am the “revered uncle” to quite a few. They all have received a lecture or three – it is the best I can do for them. I’m quite sure I wouldn’t have listened to future me in the past – but I gotta try with my charges. Past me would have thought present me was nucking futz!

    I like being an adult, too. I certainly don’t want to go back and change anything – that would change the person I am now. We really do become our parents (or responsible relative, etc.), with our own take on things. I’m still me, just a bit weathered!

  4. I’m with you on the adult thing – the good part is that you can still do just about all of the things that were fun for you as a kid (except a few that you’re just too big for, like some of those tunnel slides, and even that doesn’t really apply to me) and you have a whole new set of fun things as well. And yeah, I have a mortgage, a job, a car loan, and a marriage, but the first three are not really that awful to deal with and the last is a lot of fun in itself. Also, unlike in school, in the business world and most other adult places (the internet excepted) people have to be relatively polite to you, and whether they like you or not is irrelevant.

  5. Here’s what I wish I’d heard someone say when I was younger: I *love* being grown up.

    I have a hell of a lot more freedom, for one thing, and more rights under the law. I don’t have to depend on someone else taking care of my physical needs (which is a terrifying situation to be in if the adults around you are unreliable), and I can choose the people I associate with (or don’t associate with, as the case may be). I can choose where I live and what work I do; I have my own bank account, my own mortgage, my own utilities accounts. I choose my own doctor and dentist, and I choose when to see them. And, by gum, I can check as many books out of the library as I want.

    No way in hell would I go back. Life gets better and better the further away from childhood I get.

  6. Amen to that, Destrier.

    It’s still occasionally a shock when something happens that reminds me that I AM a grown-up, though.

  7. A friend had the following quotation “What is spirit? My grandmother says she is a 16 year old trapped in the body of an 83 year old. Now that’s spirit!”

    Personally it sounds more like hell to me, but I think it truly does reflect reality. Our bodies can age more than ourselves, and vice versa.

    Being adult is fun. Being old is not. You can be old at any age, but certain things tend to make a person old.

    1. Losing a sibling.
    2. Putting your parents in a nursing home.
    3. Having a sibling struggle unsuccessfully with chemical dependancy.
    4. Hearing your friend was killed in a stupid driving stunt.
    5. Having to bury the third dog you raised from a pup.

    On the other hand, certain things can make you feel young:

    1. The zing-zing when you catch the eye of someone of the opposite sex.
    2. Seeing babies.
    3. Rolling on the ground with puppies.

  8. I had a long message board exchange with someone in their twenties about how there was actually more then one moon landing. “Six times! your kidding right?” *sigh*

    FWIW, I enjoyed my refi when I did it a year ago. So much less paperwork these days compared to a decade ago when I got the original mortgage.

    Enjoy your comfort years… The “Why does it hurt” years are coming only too soon.

  9. CB: That’s saddening. Somewhere the education system failed that person – that’s the sort of thing you can’t blame a person for not knowing (not saying that you did) because how would they even know to go look it up? No wonder no one’s excited enough about the space program, when they don’t even know what we’ve *done*. Sigh.

  10. Being young is overrated. Going to bars is WAY overrated. Drinking heavily is so over the top, and the only reason I’m glad I smoked pot is so I can tell my kids, with authority, why it isn’t worth it.

    I much rather be an adult, even at my advanced age, when I can do what I really want to do — like writing — without worrying about whether there’s an exciting party going on (see above).

    And being married? The sex is MUCH better. Especially after the vascetomy.

  11. My first real “grown up” moment of cognitive dissonance was a few years back when Anderson Cooper still had an anchor gig on the 3am news slot. I happened to catch a show on his birthday and they mentioned his age (within a few years of my own) and I had a sudden sinking feeling when it computed that I was old enough to be considered respectable enough to anchor a major cable news show. Granted, it was the 3 am accordian-playing bonzo shift (more than once, anchors who had the night off were replaced with life-sized cardboard cutouts of themselves), but still.

    I’ve never quite recovered from that.

  12. Haha, that sounds like a bad game. It reminds me a bit though of something my climbing pals and I used to do: It wasn’t so much a game as something to do when you were bored in the car. If you were in a pickup, then you’d tell the driver to “scoot” and the driver had to climb out of the drivers side window, go across the back of the pickup, and climb back in the passenger side. Yes, we’re all still alive, and yes, we did it on the freeway :)

    It wasn’t actually that dangerous, though it could be a bit scary :)


  13. “It wasn’t actually that dangerous”

    Climbing out of a moving vehicle *through the window* while it’s on the freeway isn’t “actually that dangerous”?!? You need to look up the definition of “dangerous,” my friend.

  14. And dangerous *to others*. I think that’s one of the things you see differently as a grown-up; not “You could have been killed!” but “You could have killed some innocent driver going the other way!” That kind of thing.

    I have less trouble with kid–> grownup than I did with at-home parent –> full-time employed workaholic person. I still feel weird referring to “my secretary.”

  15. I’m enjoying the not really a kid, not really an adult phase right now. From what John said, it sounds like the phase lasts a long time. Excellent.

  16. Well, I’m that old now that I have paid off my mortgage — which has left me free to buy all the toys I’ve wanted for many years. I don’t think anyone grows up, really. You just get weighed down with stuff.
    Then it gradually goes away again as the kids leave home,etc. That’s why there are so many eager-beaver over-60s.

    My mom started playing the stock market and ordering pizza delivered instead of home cooking (the shame!) at 70. She managed another 10 years after that because she had a young mind.

  17. I’ve been noticing this for a while now. In my case, I attributed it to Asperger’s Syndrome; when I was 24, I mentally felt 17. There was a consistent 7-year lag that somewhere along the way became less obvious and important. I am who I am; I feel how I feel; I deal with life as it comes.

  18. Dave F,

    You just get weighed down with stuff.

    Amen to that, brother. That is exactly what I was trying to say. I hear that I am in my maximum weighty stuff time (supporting four kids, three of which are teens, and ailing parents), but I take hope that there is a light at the end somewhere, even if it is the ‘go towards the’ light.

    I wish some of the snotty young Republicans who are SO sure they can do better than SS would spend a month or two helping out their own elderly parents WITHOUT the benefit of SS or medicare.

    I am eternally greatful for what everyone is contributing to my parents.

  19. Incidentally, it has been shown that you can start new things around 60-70 and it does help you keep a fit mind and let you enjoy quality life longer. Same idea for physical activity. So keep being fit, mentally & physically, and you’ll be rewarded.

  20. Actually Tripp, I’m a snotty young libertarian who voted republican the last two elections, and I’ve been supporting and caring for my disabled mother for two years without beneift of SS.

    You see cancer caused growths in her spine that have partially paralysed her. The medication made her blood pressure and clotting behavior wonky, and she’s had seven aneurysms. She now has permanent brain damage, and partial loss of motor control and sensation inher extremeties.

    They’ve denied her SS claim twice now.

    See there’s so much fraud and so much beaurocracy in the system that they have this unofficial policy of denying everyone at least twice rahter than taking the effort to actually do their jobs.

    And I KNOW I can do better than social insecurity, and so can everyone else. Every penny I pay into social security is being stolen from me. I dont own it, I dont control it, and there won’t be anything for me when I retire 30-40 or so years from now. Hell there won’t be anything for anyone in 15-20 years.

    The government isnt actually good at anything except stealing and killing (that is their job when you get down to it), why would they be good at dealing with my money (or yours, or anyone elses)?

    To put it another way, you wouldn’t trust the federal government with picking your kids schools, or your doctors, or your job, why should you trust them with your money or your retirement?

    I just wish some snotty democrats who are so sure that everyone would be worse off if they had control of their own money would get down from their high horses, stop being such sanctimonious asses and actually trust the people over beurocrats.

    How about this, you trust the people to control their sex lives, and their choice of drugs, but not their money.

    But that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.

  21. Skipping over Chris’s comment because I didn’t come here to talk politics….

    Every once in a while, when I’ve just woken up and I’m bleary-eyed, I’ll glance in the bathroom mirror and literally gasp — the guy I’m expecting to see is the guy in my college graduation portrait. He’s a bit thinner.

    I guess what’s bugging me about this thread so far is that it just seems so simplistic. Being 20 was sometimes great, and it could also suck. Being 35 is sometimes great, but can also suck. 20-year me hadn’t written a book, started a business, traveled to a bunch of cool places, met a bunch of great people, and had no old friends he could say he’s known for 20 years. But he could have lunch with his mom.

    This is life. It is what it is. If a genie offered me my youth back, I’d consider taking it only because it weighed less than my age. Is that worth giving up the accomplishments along the way? Ask me tomorrow, you’ll get a different answer.

    But there are no genies — so not much point to making the comparison. Or rather, if you find yourself making the comparison, that itself should probably make you wonder what’s in your now that’s leading you to it.

  22. I am on the eve of turning forty and I am very “bring it on already”. My parents cursed me with the common “may your children be just like you were” the problem was- I was not that bad in all reality and 2 of my three children have gone the drug abuse/alcohol abuse running away etc route.
    my daughter is now 20 and has a son of her own.

    I often reflect on the fact that I knew shit when I was younger. I made choices that make me wince with my health and self esteem.
    With HIV on the scene it’s pure grace that none of us in our group of “friends” isn’t dead or that we aren’t dead for being with them.

    At forty I truly struggle with the fact that I am not the woman I thought I would be. My husband whom I love more than life itself is very stable and I am a bit of a flake yet. He works for the State and thus has the ultimate in benefits and security and I just kind of takeit for granted.

    My youngest son is a good kid- we have unfortunately taught him to question things and actually develop an opinion of his own.

    I would have to say that my 30’s absolutely sucked beyond all belief and this past year I have done the mid-life crisis as far as taking a year off to find yself.

    The problem is I have found myself and it is a safer, more conservative, less likely to take on the world kind of woman.

    There is a peace about me that is not connected to where I work, how much money I have in the bank or what I have or haven’t accomplished but it has come at the price of doing battle with everyone I love. Especially myself.

    It has been a year where I have become a grandmother and put my widowed mother in a nursing home with Alzheiimers. Yet when the sun sets at night I am happy to be me and feel honored to be alive


  23. im not old yay for me im having the best life ever hell yea! whoo i have so many awsome friends and the best and hottest boyfriend ever!im usually having fun alot but i know i will get old and im not just about fun 2 i have to do work and do good in school right now im working really hard and i am getting rally good grades and i hope i can keep them up so i can get into a good college. But i am loving my life right now even though there are are some down points. But im just enjoying it while i can!=]

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