Young adults are uncertain about the value of commitment to adult responsibilities like marriage and career, as they seem more difficult to achieve, and less permanent, than they’ve been for previous generations.
Right, so here I am, turning 30 and thinking to myself “Should I be called an adult now?”
My adult definition: An adult is a person who’s no longer dependent on their parents on one hand, and has people depending on them on the other.
The reason for describing it that way is that, the way I see it, before the 1960s there was no such thing as being a young man. You were either a child or an adult, which meant by the time you reached your thirties you were either an adult or a failure.
As education progressed and life became more complicated than just going ahead, getting a job, a wife and children; people needed study to get ready for adulthood, so younghood was invented: this amazing time of life just before turning adult when you’re a student and can enjoy, experiment, have fun with a new sense of independence, but without the responsibilities of having your own family to take care of.
Some loved that lifestyle with such fervour that they simply remained in that state forever. Society called them immature and losers. Women didn’t want them, their parents wondered what they did wrong and no respectful careers could be accomplished by such an unorthodox and childish lifestyle.
Life then begun to get a little more complicated, jobs more difficult to master (or more underpaid), women got equality rights and, all of a sudden, being an adult meant that both you and your prospective spouse had to get a job, in order to afford children by the time you were thirty. Balancing time for your romantic life got even more complicated and the term “quality time” was invented to justify the small but intense amount of time that people spent with their children after the divorce.
Now careers (those things adults had one or two of in their entire lifetimes) don’t really exist anymore. Every person is a brand, a business, an entrepreneur. You just never stop being a student. Women can have children later in life and you don’t really want to buy a house because mortgages at this day and age just seem like a stupid idea. We’re all children of divorced parents, so we choose to start slowly, move in together instead of getting married, and adopting a cat to see if we both can handle the responsibilities of becoming an adult.
But now you turn thirty and you’re suddenly not a “youngster” anymore. And you can’t really be called an adult either if the greatest responsibility you ever took was moving in with your girlfriend to an East London council flat with her cat. So what are you?
Who cares about labels anyway? you may ask. Well I don’t, but as you get older and refuse to become an adult (especially when you’re not even keen on that girlfriend / cat / flatshare idea) you’ll always have to explain yourself in social situations, and that bothers the hell out of me.
So instead, while no one comes up with a better term (“stubborn-manchild”?) and I don’t have the patience to read this back to anyone, I’ll simply reply: I’m 29!
Image of happy weekend the unrecognizable casual modern young couple with pets courtesy of Shutterstock