I F*&$% Refuse to Grow Up
Today’s installment of the American Dream Essay Series comes to us from Brittany Shoot. I “met” Brittany through the comments section of my Bitch blog, but I’m pretty sure there was no swearing involved.
A couple of years ago, I wrote my master’s thesis on young people’s ethical right to privacy online. I was absorbed in Millennial theory for months, but it didn’t hit me that I was a full-fledged member of Gen Y until I realized I no longer cared what adults thought of me. An adult myself by then — if you consider 25 an adult, which by our increasingly confusing standards, you may not — I suddenly stopped worrying about whether people older than me approved of my apparently very adult decisions; examples may include moving abroad, getting married, having kids, or having one’s tubes tied. In this context, the decision at hand didn’t matter so much as my complete autonomy, the joyous feeling of being unburdened by adult expectations and a world in which there was supposed to be one proper course to follow. For the first time in my life, without a nagging suspicion that I would later be denied entry into some boring club for middle-aged conformists, I decided I was done. I might get older, but I didn’t need their approval to move forward.
Photo by 917press
Only later did I realize that even though — or perhaps because — I don’t tend to consider the judgment of those ten years (or more) my senior, I’m completely ill prepared for the niceties that comprise adult relationships. I swear like a sailor, if not a 15-year-old boy, and I generally blurt out whatever’s on my mind. I’m not trying to be rude or make everyone uncomfortable. I don’t need to seek out space in which to act on my weird tendencies; I’m frankly a little weary of being the freak at the party and just want to be myself, without too much hoopla surrounding it, if it can be helped. But I also don’t want to be so old and stuffy that I can’t be myself. I equate adulthood with growing into an intolerable beast of a person more concerned about making the bed than world news. I’d rather speak several languages than fuss over thank you cards. I’d rather do what I love for meager pay than be tied to a soulless desk job, from where I can watch my (and your) youth fade away.
Perhaps it makes sense, then, that I am the non-adult in seemingly every social interaction I have. People look at me with bewildered amusement at first-time gatherings and wonder why my unshaven legs, thrift store wardrobe, and frank admission that I don’t make much money right now doesn’t make me blush or stammer uncomfortably. If anything, they’re the ones who become uncomfortable. What they don’t realize is that their yardstick simply doesn’t measure my standards for adulthood. For example, my partner and I are actively childfree and plan to always be so, which automatically removes us from some of the so-called “adult” discussions about how people have matured and feel complete — though they’re often also interrupted when they have to go do parental things. My partner and I also both work jobs about which we are deeply passionate but for which we are still underpaid. In other words, we opted for the alternate American Dream — in part because my partner isn’t even an American citizen — in a time when this is becoming increasingly normal; yet we have yet to meet anyone else, besides the friends we already have, for whom this is the norm. Instead, we meet thirtysomethings who work jobs they tolerate for an end goal we don’t understand. I don’t question it to their faces because what if they don’t know what the goal is? Is it my job to deconstruct their reality? And am I responsible for assisting in the restoration if I cause the demolition?
A friend in her fifties recently told me that I’m the artist in the family because I feel so compelled to act based on emotion. It felt like a compliment in the sense that I’d just classify myself as a woman-child. In comparison with my friend’s life, my house is messy, my schedule is hectic, and my manners are only on display when necessary. She begins sentences with “Forgive me for saying so but…” whereas I lob curses left and right, no apology offered. She’s an unlikely pal for someone like me, but we click because we both seek a wider world in which we can find meaning in what we do. And, she may be a full-fledged adult by now, but she doesn’t care if I forget to buy curtains and wander around naked, or don’t unpack for three months after a move. It isn’t her life. It’s mine.
Brittany Shoot is a freelance writer, editor, and critic currently living in Copenhagen, Denmark. Sometimes she writes essays about her supposedly scandalous adult decisions under a pseudonym.