“When I became a man, I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.“ – C.S. Lewis
Keith Ackers tackles the age-old question: can maturity and fart noises co-exist?
Upon turning 40 this year, I was struck by the notion that I’m not very mature. At least, I’m not what I once imagined a mature man to be.
I imagined the 40-year-old version of myself as a latter-day Ward Cleaver, sitting around in my smoking jacket and chuckling as my silly family brought me their trifling problems. I’d have all the answers mentally stockpiled, and have a handy response for any situation. (That response would, of course, come in the form of a question, so my family would be forced to come up with the answers themselves. Or at least think they had. *knowing wink*.)
In real life, however, that’s not how I roll. I play video games. I’m a fantasy football commissioner. I’d rather sit around drinking a beer, and watching any type of sporting event on TV, than do anything remotely productive. I am increasingly bitter when fabulous things aren’t simply handed to me, because, after all, I’m so awesome. I still use the word awesome. I will happily simulate fart noises if unable to conjure up the real thing to amuse my kids. The 40-year-old version of me likes The 40-Year-Old Virgin better than anything that involves British accents. That’s a blanket statement, I know, but I stand by it. Exceptions include The Rolling Stones, The Young Ones, and Shaun of the Dead.
However: I am also a happily married father of two and I take the jobs of husband and father very seriously. I have been gainfully employed since college, and have been entrusted with increasing responsibility along the way. I have hired and fired people, I have had to tell people their loved ones have died. I’ve not regretted the way I’ve handled any of those tough tasks. In fact, I have felt surprisingly empowered after each difficult discussion, knowing full well that’s not the same as having enjoyed them.
So my mid-life crisis subject of endless reflection is this: does seriousness need to be a component of maturity at all? While you ponder this, can I interest you in a beer and some hilarious fart noises?
At one point, I even turned to Webster’s for guidance, cliché as that sounds. I now can tell you that if you Google the word “mature”, the majority of results are porn-related. (A less mature individual than myself might find that ironic, or at least vaguely smirk-worthy.)
The most relevant definitions found for the word “mature”:
- Based on slow, careful consideration
- Having completed natural growth and development. Having attained a final or desired state.
- Of or relating to a condition of full development
Completed? Final state? Full development? My daughter’s preschool teacher says she is very mature, but she certainly isn’t completed, or fully developed, and hasn’t reached a final or desired state. Not only is it all relative, my point is this: the concept of maturity is a fraud, perpetrated by unseen culture police cloistered in their Etiquette Lab. Maturity is not what we’ve been taught by parents and teachers and spouses. It’s completely subjective, constantly evolving and eternally vulnerable to the whims of pop culture. It’s relative to your beliefs and values and sense of what is and is not acceptable. Victorian-era maturity is not the same as Facebook-era maturity.
Steve Carrell is likable and seems smart, so “That’s what she said” has crept into polite society in a way that no similarly immature Artie Lange comment ever will. If you are likable and appear intelligent, you’re granted much more latitude as it pertains to maturity. (This notion has been my bread and butter for years.) Your gross comments are far more acceptable if you don’t just seem like a gross person. A smirk trumps a guffaw in the court of public opinion, and the notion that you and your audience are in on the joke makes all the difference in assessing maturity.
Maturity bears the brunt of our societal expectations and disappointments. It’s the fall guy for things that simply rub people the wrong way.
But this much I know definitively: Farts are funny. There’s no other explanation for the reaction both my kids have had as tiny infants. That we stigmatize and suppress something that inherently brings joy and happiness is further proof that maturity is in the eyes of the beholder. It’s a convenient cover story for conformity, a didactic nursery rhyme, forever burned into the subconscious of all us grown-up kids.