YOU GUYS. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s a giggling, infantile trend sweeping the nation. It’s called “the woman child,” she of the adult pigtails, homemade cupcakes and adorable wide-eyed vulnerability. According to an essay excerpted on Jezebel, woman-children are “aging backwards,” refusing to go through the NORMAL motions of adult womanhood, ie: getting married and having babies.
You might think that if you look up “woman-child” in the dictionary, you’d find my picture is right there next to Zooey Dechanel’s. I love everything glittery, shiny and colourful. I occasionally clothes shop in the girls section of Target. My nails are always done & almost always sparkly. I joined Pottermore just to find out what house I’d be in (Ravenclaw, duh). The inside of my head feels very much the same as it did when I was sixteen, except less obsessed with professional wrestling.
At the same time, I have what is universally considered “a grown-up job.” I am as emotionally capable as it’s possible for me to be. I have my own health insurance and I try really hard to live without debt. I take care of two people who can’t–and sometimes won’t–take care of themselves. I pay a mortgage, fill prescriptions, schedule bloodwork. I talk to intimidating people and I make them listen. I have a dog, for god’s sake, which is basically a toddler that never learns to talk.
So how am I to be catagorised? Where do I fit on the child-adult continuum? Am I a pathetic infantile throwback because I’d prefer to watch Spongebob than The Wire? Or am I an adult because I have grown up responsibilities? Does what I like define me, or is it what I do?
I am not, as this piece republished in Jezebel says, reliving my teen years with gusto, because my teen years were not the most fun that I’ve ever had. What I am doing is deciding for myself what adulthood means, and for me that means some damn unicorns.
So what if I post pictures of fun with my friends rather than wedding and baby pictures? Does not picking out future child names or obsessing over imaginary seating charts make me less of a REAL GROWN-UP? Because we all know that every single adult woman is obsessed with marriage and babies!
Hopefully you can feel my sarcasm oozing through the screen, but just in case: no. If wanting to get married and have babies makes you an adult, then every six year old girl who’s seen Cinderella is an adult. Matrimony and reproduction are no longer requisites for a seat at the grown-up table.
Even a generation ago, people “grew up” in definite stages: they got married, got a job, bought houses, had kids, got divorced, maybe got remarried, retired, had grandkids. Now we’re getting married later. We’re living with significant others. We’re renting instead of buying. We’re putting off babies until we’re financially stable. We’re going back to school. We’re moving back home. We’re swearing we won’t get divorced like our parents did. Our generation of adults is doing things really differently, but this doesn’t mean we need a pity party, because seriously, what’s to pity? Those poor lonely single women (and it’s always women, because single men are having a blast), with their jobs and apartments and friends. Don’t they wish they’d married their college boyfriends at 23?
If I’d married the guy I was dating at 23, I’d be in jail for murder by now. That is how badly that would have ended.
I’ve never been ashamed to like what I like. Yeah, I like colourful cardigans and Taylor Swift and stuffed animals. I don’t like this stuff because, as the author suggests, I’m scared of a world full of nasty political machinations and global warming. I like this stuff because I like this stuff. I’m not about to give up cartoons, get a helmet perm and wear high waisted pleated khakis because I’ve passed some imaginary “adulthood” age line. I am who I am, and changing that simply because of my age is grade-A bullshit. Whether I freeze my eggs, join the circus, get married, move to a commune, have kids, or never do any of those things, I am going to be my sparkly self until the day I die. Trying to be any other way than how I am will just make me miserable. And life is far too short for that.
The thing is that we can be silly and fun and wear headbands and like unicorns and still be grown-ups of substance. The two things are not mutually exclusive. I have no fewer than three unicorn Pillow Pets in my bedroom right at this moment, and tomorrow I’m doing something really serious and scary for work. I can get excited about the new season of Vampire Diaries and also have opinions about the wage gap between men and women. People aren’t just one thing. We’re many things, all the time, and that’s what makes us so interesting.
I choose to be myself, because being myself is what makes me happy. If that makes me a “woman-child” and that’s judged as contemptible by the outside world, fine. I am all out of fucks to give about what other people think of me.
In articles like the one I’ve linked to above, there’s this weird undercurrent of “Why are you trying to have fun? Fun is stupid. Don’t you have other things to do?” As if to be a grown-up you have to take your desire for fun and happiness and murder it.
It’s true that adult life, no matter how you choose to live it, isn’t always fun. It’s dealing with aging parents and mentally ill siblings. It’s medical issues and bills and trying to find time to date. It’s putting your own issues in a tiny little box so that you can deal with other people’s. It’s a lot of pretending and going through the motions. It’s a lot of doing the best you can and always knowing that it probably isn’t good enough.
So if I want to hang out with my friends and laugh, or play Apples to Apples as an escape from my multitude of responsibilities, I’m damn well going to do it. And maybe I’ll eat cereal for dinner. Because I’m a fucking adult now, and I get to decide what that means.