Saturday, October 3
On the Fallacy of Adulthood
When I was 19 I thought Jenny Lewis was writing pop songs about teenage love through the more refined lens of an adult who knew better. It was the frothing, consuming, carnal sort of love that destroyed you while you lavished yourself in it. Those songs spoke to me, a teenager, and I felt that Jenny Lewis, an adult, knew what she was talking about because she had lived it already and then, as she sang about it, had the wisdom and grace to discuss it as an adult would.
I'm an adult now and I know that the only kind of love that exists is teenage love, and the only true knowledge Jenny Lewis had, as an adult, was that she knew better but couldn't help it.
This is all just to say that I don't really believe in growing up. I don't believe that adulthood is a real thing. And I don't mean some "Child at Heart" bullshit about whimsy, about buying twee skirts or playing with babies. I mean adulthood is a fallacy. As adults, and often I am called one, we really are just walking around pretending we know what the fuck is going on, pretending we're going to make all the best choices and always do the right thing and that our thoughts and feelings and lives are as evenly balanced as our checkbooks. Is your checkbook even balanced?
The truth is we're still as idiotic as our teenage selves.We're still manic and ruled by our hearts, our whims, the moon, a good time, the nagging want to be a hero, a rock star, happy.
I've always equated true adulthood with "settling down" or chilling the fuck out. You stay home, you decorate, you have a kid, you pay a mortgage, you work at a steady job, you drink less, you don't even know where you would buy weed, and you definitely don't touch your lover's penis through his pants in an alley. You know, you chill the fuck out. You're respectable.
But it seems to me now that settling down just means you're just tired. Too tired from work to leave your house, too tired from raising your kids to go out. Which is fine. Who could blame you? But you know the minute you get that second or third or fiftieth wind and you can catch your breath: you're drunk on the same brand of Schnapps you used to steal from your dad, and you're taking off your Eddie Bauer cargo shorts because the kids have all gone to bed and you're naked and swimming in a lake with your wife, who is also naked, and six of your best friends, who are also naked, and this is hilarious, you're 42.
Or maybe that's not you. Maybe catching your breath is just copping a feel in a darkened movie theater, or making out while the sun comes up, or quitting your job in a blaze of glory that burns all of your professional bridges, or touching a dick in an alley. Either way, these are not things that adults do, but we do these things anyway because we're all still the shitty kid we used to be and, in whatever tiny little ways we can manage it, we're all clawing and scratching and kicking at death.
One Independence Day while I swam in my clothes in a blow up pool that was purchased and inflated for my baby sister (I was a young teenager, and I felt awkward swimming in a pool that barely met my knees, like I was "too old" to play, but I did it anyway - clawing, scratching, kicking) I saw my elderly grandfather pinch my grandmother's ass. I know. I've fucking seen it. I've seen what I thought were adults violently fighting against the inevitabilities of their lives. I've seen what real adulthood looks like, real death, and I've seen what people who are finally catching a breath do to it. My mother post-seizure waiting until my father left the room to ask me to help her escape the hospital. When I was 21 I made out with a man who was nearly 40 in a parking lot. We were drinking and he was terrified of me, I touched his belt and he nearly jumped out of his skin, but he begged me to go home with him anyway. I saw a grown up couple, maybe in their 50s, sneak behind a rock wall at a country club so the woman could blow the man. I know about clandestine Facebook messages and new leather jackets and first tattoos at 35 and dads with pierced ears who still know how to kick flip and how if this weren't how it was, if things were different, if it didn't take so much out of you to catch your breath, if you wouldn't be the scorn of your social circle, end up in jail, have to explain it to your kids, if you didn't have to maintain some semblance of stability, you'd fucking do it exactly the way you would have if you were 18.
When the wind is warm or the snow is fresh or someone's drawn a hopscotch on the sidewalk and you get to act like an idiot for one more minute before dying, but you wait until you're sure nobody's looking, that's adulthood. The rest of it is a myth.