What is adulthood? We all know, but from where I sit the boundaries are a little mushy. It seems there are several parts.
First, there’s doing the stuff for yourself you relied on your parents for as a child: driving, shopping, food service, and anything else involving flames or sharp objects. So adulthood can mean self-sufficiency. Or at least the ability to staunch the bleeding. What comes with this is being able to earn money to pay for self-sufficiency – although conditions now seem to make that harder and harder on more and more people. Still, lots of people make the attempt; rent, mortgages, and car loans are relatively common. We even think of the acquisition of our first apartment, house, or car worth celebrating as a rite of passage.
On top of that, there’s a knowledge base to self-sufficiency that is partially covered by education, and partly you learn on the fly. The hypotenuse is rarely part of the calculations I need to make these days, though I enjoyed doing those problems at the time. Geometry seemed a clean form of entertainment in the days when Richard Nixon was still in the White House and the Watergate hearings were the other offering.
It was Nixon who triggered my passage to political awareness, another aspect of maturing, so I owe him a debt there. Though, in the current year when Donald Trump and his various appendages, or his woot-off with Ted Cruz over their wives, are what pass for topics of political discussion, I’m not sure this is a good thing. Nixon’s potty mouth now seems vastly more innocent than the slate of Neanderthals puffing their chests and strutting through this year’s political play-offs. March Madness, indeed. Nixon, at least, had some clue about foreign policy and even a modest acquaintance with the truth, even if he pretended not to know it when meeting it in public. If gerrymandering and pure ugly pandering are part of political adulthood, count me out.
Socially, adulthood seems to require a certain fitting-in; that goes OK for a lot of people, though for others the fit is on the itchy, choky side. If adulthood was a suit, I would be able to fit one arm in, but the other would be unpredictable. The skirt would not quite cover my ass, and I would just give up on the pantyhose – I tried to wear them once and they squeezed me so hard I got sick to my stomach. I do prefer the sparkly penguin socks. Yes – that picture is of my own sartorially splendid ankle.
Part of this itchiness is my profession. Yes, I have one, which is very adult-ish. I am a university professor (uh oh) and a scientist (oh). I get that a lot. When others learn what I do I immediately get pegged as someone who “knows stuff”. Often it’s stuff other people do not want to know and feel uncomfortable about. It’s stuff I love. I remember the first time I saw the world as an integrated, living, breathing entity; it took my breath away. I see the poetry in it; however, dealing in data means I have a short fuse for those who wander from the truth. It makes me a prickly prospect at times. So, I have never taken part in that other rite that is often a passage rite of adulting – marriage.
So here I am, well into my sixth decade, severely opinionated, and perennially single. I’m that “extra” dinner guest people dread. (Though, can we talk about that? The dinner table is not the ark and dining doesn’t require a spotter – why do participants have to come in twos?) I have short hair. I can’t stand nail polish. I know how to use power tools and I buy cars and appliances on my own. I get the points for self-sufficiency, while losing out on the pairing bonus. It’s a nice life, just a few degrees off of plumb. Perhaps that’s due to my natural bent and my environs. More about that next time.
Stay tuned for more on the Here’s a Quarter blog next week! Your thoughts and comments are always welcome – they are moderated (I know – adulting again), so they may take a little while to appear, but I read them all and appreciate that you were here. Thank you!