Did the Grown-Up Fairy Visit You Yet?

How do you know when you're really an adult?

Posted Mar 04, 2012

One of the greatest illusions in life is that, someday, you'll know better. I hate to break it to you, but it's not something that happens automatically. It's not like getting your period or going bald or having to procure a product that helps you with acid reflux: it's not something that happens with age.

It's not as if one day the Adult Fairy comes around and whacks you on the head with a wand and says "Now you are a Grown-Up, good and proper! Go Thou and Know Stuff. Also pay your taxes, get insurance, have a colonoscopy, and start walking at least three times a week."

Most people get to do adult stuff WAY before they become an adult. That's one of the reasons life is messy. And that's one of the reasons folks expect to be able to act like grown-ups even when they aren't even close.

After all, at some point you got your license, drank legally, and voted for President (perhaps all on the same morning).

You therefore assumed that at some point in your adult life, you'd actually know how to choose a good head of lettuce, recognize a real bargain, and be able to find exactly the right mate.

Funny, isn't it?

In part, that's because the first set of markers—getting a driver's license, being able to order a drink, and choosing a world leader—depend primarily on age, and not on judgment.

You can show up wearing cowboy boots, a helmet stenciled with "Live Fast, Die Young" on the front of it, and sucking your thumb, but as long as you have I.D., you're good in any of these situations.

Wouldn't it be nice, in fact, if there was an equivalent of having to make a three-point turn before a person was encouraged to consider him or herself an adult?

Wouldn't it be great if, for example, you couldn't drink one Appletini without giving your phone number to the bartender, to have your drinking license be revoked? Wouldn't it be great if you think that "arugula" is what the background singers are chanting in "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" you would be sent back to school?

Wouldn't it be nice if you could choose good produce, find an authentically good deal on a car, house, or pair of palazzo pants, and find somebody interesting, loving, cheerful, and smart with whom to spend your time?

But lettuce, bargains, and lovers all need to be checked for worms, secretly gushy centers, and for hidden damage wreaked by those who handled them previously.

This comes from experience, learning, and listening to good advice as well as from benefiting from your own mistakes.

Hey, if it was easier to do, everybody you know would be a grown-up; and that's not the case, is it?