Young Adult Friction

When I was four, I had a conversation with my best friend’s brother, who was a few years older than us. I don’t remember how it started, but I do remember that he was bragging about all the cool things older kids could do.

My response to this was to say, “But you can’t shoot a cannon even if you wanted to, huh?” He had no comeback.

In his defense, if someone were to say the same thing to me today, I would also be at a loss for words. For some reason, to my four-year-old self, the ability to shoot a cannon was the mark of adulthood. When you’re responsible enough to man a heavy piece of war machinery, you’re responsible enough to be a grownup.

My friends and I whine about becoming grownups a lot. There’s just so much stuff you have to do and none of it involves cannons.

Cannon in Riga, Latvia.

Pictured: Adulthood?

Boring Stuff Grownups Have to Do

– Pay bills

– Buy things like “whole-wheat bread”, “sensible work clothes”, and “nail polish that isn’t glittery”

– Get a job

– Change the oil in their cars

– Wait in lines

– Tuck in their shirts

See? Not one piece of field artillery in that list! I don’t want to sound too Peter Pan here, but being a grownup doesn’t sound that great. Even worse, it’s kind of ambiguous. When do you become an adult? Am I there yet?

When I was in first grade, I spent a lot of time looking at the taller people around me in grades two through six, thinking they really had a handle on things. Here I am, on the verge of graduating 16th grade, and I still feel like the first grader who watched sadly as a boy with a red rattail wiped his boogers on her chicken nuggets. I don’t have life down to a science. It’s a miracle I even remember to brush my hair in the morning.

Legally, I became an adult at 18, but that only meant I could play the lotto and be tried as an adult in court of law. I spent a surprising amount of time dancing around to “I’m Too Sexy” in my underwear, for god’s sake. It certainly didn’t happen on my 21st birthday, which I also spent dancing to “I’m Too Sexy”, this time while wearing pants.

In an ideal world, someone would throw you a “Now You’re A Grownup!” party so you’d have at least a little determination.

Things I Would Have Liked at My “Now You’re a Grownup!” Party

– A large banner saying something like, “Congratulations! You’ve successfully attained post-pubescence and we’ll all treat you like a real person now!” (I would also have accepted a smaller banner with a variation of that.)

– A buffet of grownup food, which we would of course refer to as “hors d’oeuvres” and not “appetizers”. We definitely wouldn’t call them “snackiepoos”, because that would render the whole affair completely pointless. Also, hopefully there would be pie.

Sadly, these little guys are not mature enough to be grownup party snackiepoos.

– A card with a message making it really, really clear that this party was being thrown specifically to make me aware of my new status as an adult, contributing member of society.

– Grownup gifts, like an absurdly expensive pen I’d probably lose right away, or a guide to dyeing your hair a nice, employable shade.

Honestly, I don’t even need a party or a shady initiation ceremony. I’d be perfectly okay with taking an aptitude test, and afterwards having a man in an official-looking suit pull me aside and hand me a piece of paper stamped OFFICIAL GROWNUP. I need some kind of clear sign like passing a standardized test because so far I’ve had to infer it from clues.

Hints that I May, in Fact, Be a Grownup

– People sell me alcohol. I can drive motorized vehicles. I’ve been allowed access to both a casino and a strip club and was not thrown out of either one (which is too bad really, because they were both tremendously awkward experiences). I can hardly believe it, but society thinks I am adult enough to gamble, consume liquor, operate heavy equipment, and look at topless women. (Not all at the same time.) (Mostly.)

– Kids I grew up with are getting married and spawning their own kids. Since their parents aren’t mad at them, I guess it means it’s OK now.

– I pay taxes. Not the Monopoly kind, either, but actual, real taxes. I no longer keep my money in a plastic bank shaped like a unicorn with a rainbow mane, but in a much larger bank shaped like a building. I have a PIN number! Can you imagine?!

– I make dentist appointments! I think about things like the thread-count of my sheets and where to find the best deal on toilet paper! I can’t even remember the last time I rented a Care Bear movie!

Slowly, inexorably, I appear to have become an adult and no one told me. It’s not all bad, though.

Awesome Things Grownups Can Do (That They Totally Take for Granted)

– I ate Cap’n Crunch for dinner tonight because I wanted to, that’s why. I could eat Cap’n Crunch for dinner for the rest of my life and no one could stop me. (Although they probably should. Please don’t let me do that.) The point is, YOU GET TO MAKE THE RULES WHEN YOU’RE A GROWNUP.

But on the Crunch ship, the Cap’n’s word is law.

– It’s 2 a.m. and I am still awake. I wish I was asleep because I have work in the morning, but for someone whose bedtime was 8:30 until she was in high school, this is a pretty big deal. YOU DECIDE ON BEDTIME WHEN YOU’RE A GROWNUP.

– If I wanted a puppy, I could just get in my car and go buy one. (Obviously not right now, because it’s 2 a.m., but you understand.) YOU CAN GET YOUR OWN PUPPIES WHEN YOU’RE A GROWNUP.

– Speaking of cars, if you have a license and access to a vehicle, you could drive away right now. You could drive away and never look back because YOU ARE A GROWNUP AND YOU ARE THE DECIDER.


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  3. Scott Nagele

    Cap’n Crunch without cruchberries? What a travesty! I hope that’s just the box image you used and not the kind you actually ate for dinner. Otherwise, I am totally disappointed in some of the so-called “adult” decisions you are making.

  4. kdevries

    I love it! Sometimes I see that I’ve turned into one of those responsible grown ups and I wonder when it happened. I often then throw in a good wholehearted irresponsible move just to prove I’m not becoming what my grandma called a “fuddy fuddy.”

  5. Maurer Letters

    Right on, great list. Love your site. Keep it up. Sadly, I am 47 and understand STILL what you’re driving at. (er, that at which you are driving?…so what about grammar and lingo? Like when do certain previously cool words become uncool? And music? Where will your music tastes morph and leave the next gen behind? will they? When will you feel shock that teenagers now look at you funny? That personally freaks me out, having no children of my own.) Thanks for working all this out for us! Very user-friendly post, even for us really really old people. ;)

  6. gojulesgo

    1.) Have we not HEARD about the strip club experience?
    2.) You must use this line in the memoir I really, really hope you write: “…like the first grader who watched sadly as a boy with a red rattail wiped his boogers on her chicken nuggets.”
    3.) I’m about to turn 30, and I still have no idea how to shoot a cannon. But I do have a dog, and I TOTALLY eat cereal for dinner.

  7. Jane

    I’m 54, and still get excited that I’m grown up enough to eat Lucky Charms whenever I want. (This is either solidarity or pathetic, depending on your view.)

    I had this like TOTALLY awesome idea. (Fine. We’re going with pathetic. I really shouldn’t talk like this at 54.)

    Stephanie becomes the person to write the Standardized Grownup Test, and grade the results! (Puhleaze? If we throw in a cannon?)

  8. Dana

    In Grade 8, my girlfriends and I choreographed an awesome dance routine to “I’m Too Sexy”. Then we performed it on a STAGE in front of the WHOLE SCHOOL! The adult me would probably not do this, so I’m thinking I’m all grown up now? (That’s my marker, in any case.)

  9. Mary

    I’m pretty sure you don’t qualify as a grownup until 1.) You stop using the term “grownup” and 2.) You stop overestimating your age i.e. “I’m about to turn 23.” Or “I’m 25 and 3/4.”

  10. emisformaker

    Whenever we’re in the checkout at the grocery store with only two pints of ice cream, and there’s a little kid (plus parent) behind us in line with a jealous gleam in his/her tiny eyes, I feel like saying, “This is what being a grownup is all about.” Because it is.

  11. Simon

    This post is awesome. Do you mind if I start inserting “But you can’t shoot a cannon even if you wanted to, huh?” into 90% of my conversations everyday? That is gold.

  12. gabrielgarbowota

    You’ve done it again. Your prose has such a knack for taking these unexpected turns, yet remaining thematically cohesive. Which is nice and all, but most importantly… You’re So Friggin Funny. Thanks for a great start to the day!

  13. lhnathan

    Bravo, Stephanie, you’ve done it again — another take on what’s going on inside that insightful head of yours. I had similar thoughts when I was that age, too.
    I’ve got a question about your “listful” formatting style. Do you prefer numbered or bulleted lists? And when you use bulleting, what is your favorite symbol?
    I wish the people in the business world who write annual reports would take the hint and break up their long incomprehensible sentences into lists. Listing is just so much easier to read!!

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  15. Zara

    I thoght I was grown up when I was 16. Then I actually turned one, legaly, and realized I wasn’t even close. There is just so much that nobody tells you how to do! I started asking my mom so many questions about basic thigs, some of wich I had allready done for years like making my bed, doing laundry and cooking. Now, as I am 25, have a lousy job, pay taxes, stay up too late, always use the spare napkins instead of buying toilet paper in time and don’t know what to do with my life I truely feel like an adult. I think it’s all about minding your own buisnes but doing it badly that makes you a grownp.

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  19. Laura S.

    I just enjoy reading your blog so much. I can identify with a lot of things you are writing about, including having cereal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I can’t wait to get my own dog, but I still find it weird to hear about friends from school getting married and having kids… What does that make me?

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