One of the first jobs I ever applied for after I graduated university was as a copywriter for an ad agency. The woman who interviewed me (let’s call her Alice) was exceptionally nice and personable and started the interview with some friendly chat.

Alice mentioned my dimples and how when she was a child she was obsessed with wanting dimples. Alice pointed out that she was very tall and broad for a female, even as a child, and she used to think that dimples would make her cuter and more adorable.

I told her that I thought having dimples made it difficult for grown-ups to take me seriously sometimes because I always looked like I was smirking.

Alice smiled and said, “It’s funny that you said “grown-ups” because I hate to be the one to break this to you, but you’re a grown-up.

I must have looked completely stunned at this revelation because she burst out laughing. I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that I could be a grown-up. It was the first time that the idea that I might be a grown-up had ever entered my mind.

I didn’t feel grown up. I mostly still don’t feel grown up. Often, when I’m with older people or even people my own age or even sometimes people younger than me, I think of them as grown-ups. I usually do not feel like a grown-up. But, I don’t feel like a kid anymore either.

I feel too wise and comfortable and responsible and tired to be a kid; but I don’t feel serious or established or rich enough to be a grown-up. I’ve never done a lot of the things that most grown-ups have done.

I know lots of grown-ups and I wonder if they feel like grown-ups. Some of the people I grew up with are now grown-ups and sometimes that’s kind of a scary feeling – like a “left behind” feeling.  Most of the time I’m okay with it though.

What’s your definition of a grown-up? Do you feel you are a grown-up? When did you become a grown-up? If you’re not a grown-up, why not?

PS: I got that copywriting job and Alice said it was because I was so shocked that someone had called me a grown-up.  Alice was a great interviewer and maybe even a nice person in real life, but she was some kind of freaky nutbar of a boss. Her madcap antics drove me straight into the arms of the federal public service.


29 responses to “Grown-ups

  1. i think grown-ups are those who know well about their duties and responsibilities. (and those who can distinguish between the real and imaginary world). but i don’t know whether an old old man, like of about 109 who has lost his metal bearing is called a grown up.
    if i were 69, i think i wud call a man of 119 a grown up..XD

    i feel i am about to be a grown-up.

  2. My niece says that I am older than a teenager but younger than a grown up. That is about right. I am not sure what makes a grown up.

    With the events of the last few months of my life so many people say, with sympathy, “you are so young to be dealing with this” or “you are too young”. They say it about my partner too. I am not sure what to say when people say that at all. Sometimes I wish I could say, “Yes, I am too young, maybe I will just quit my life, trade it in for a new one.” Sorry, mistakes were made, I’m too young! Do over! Like when you bend the rules of a board game for a young player. 😉

    Ah the loving arms of civil service, how I love thee. Golden handcuffs.

  3. I guess I’m the opposite, in that I’ve never really felt young. I remember being told constantly while growing up that I should “act like a kid”. So, I suppose I’m not sure how to answer the question of how I define a ‘grown up’ or when I became one … but one thing is for certain – being grown up is overrated.

  4. “You always have 20 years somewhere in your heart” (a saying we have in Argentina… silly but true)

    And I learned a word today “dimples” Thanks! In exchange, we call them “hoyuelos” where I come from.

    Have a good night

  5. I feel the same as I always have for as long as I can remember. Whether that’s grown-up or not, I don’t know.

    I am certainly more serious about some things than some others. Is that grown up?

    But, then again, others consider me laid back or lackadaisical. Again, grown up? I don’t know.

  6. Heck I’d hire you just because your dimples are so adorable.
    I think grownups are the people that finally realize they have to help others instead of just doing what they want all the time.
    Some never make it there and some do it from early on in life never realizing that it is normally an adult trait.
    And as for your boss Alice, that sort of behavior is what jail sentences should be saved for not trivial things like robbery.

  7. There’s a place in T H White’s ‘The Once and Future King’ where he is talking about Guenvere and how her youth and inexperience make her very sensitive to all around her. When I read your last post about dealing with XUP Jr, I thought of that piece (and I must get up the energy to actually go and find the quote.)
    What he said was that when you are adult you have oil on your feathers that enables you to stay dry and ride out the waves and the storm. Until you have that stability you are at the mercy of your emotions.
    That’s adult to me – oil on the feathers.

  8. I’m pretty sure I know just how you feel. I always think of myself as the most not grown up person in a group of adults. I’ve been an adult a long time but I’ve never been grown up.

  9. I feel like a grownup in terms of some of my responsibilities and having to drag my ass to work everyday, but I try to retain the imaginative, dreamy and spontaneous child inside.
    I don’t ever want to grow up completely. That would be horribly boring and depressing!

  10. I’ve always been a grown-up in the ‘shouldering of responsibility’ sense. I remember my mother putting my brother’s hand in mine and telling me to take care of him because she had a baby to watch. I was 26 months old . . . For my 18th birthday the only thing I asked for was that my widowed mother take me to the lawyer’s to name me guardian of my 8 younger sibs should anything happen to her. I’ve always been frivolous like that . . .

    That being said, last night I went for a sleepover on my deck to enjoy the full moon. And nearly died laughing when I had to crawl around in the dark to find my bifocals to get in out of the rain. The second childhood cometh.

  11. My Mom once said:

    “Growing old, you can’t help. But growing up is optional”.

    I’ve been trying to live by that, ever since.

  12. I never felt like a “grown-up” until I was a parent. Before then, if I got fired and couldn’t pay my bills or ate only one food group seven days a week, it didn’t matter so much. It would be my choice and I’d live with it.

    But when you’re caring for other human beings, it does matter. These little beings are entirely reliant on you for basic things like shelter and healthy food. And that’s just the start! It’s this weight of responsibility that makes me feel “grown up.” Not things like a house in the suburbs or a sofa that’s not a hand-me-down.

    My best friend thinks only a 12-year-old would wear my Hello Kitty socks; she has no interest in such things because she is not a 12-year-old. Maybe I do these silly little things as a way to preserve a little bit of my “kid” self.

  13. I’m an adult, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be a grown-up.

    And I always think it’s so bizarre turning that into a noun…

  14. I became a grown-up when my nieces and nephews learned that word — taught to them by their parents to distinguish the likes of us (whom they had to respect and heed) from the likes of people their size (whom they didn’t).

    I felt like I got a promotion.

  15. I’ve avoided most of the cues that usually tell people they’re grown up. I don’t have kids, I’ve never gotten married, have never owned a house or any big ticket item, never went to university. never had the same job for more than three years. In my head, I’m still 20.

    I’m too achy and creaky not to realize that I’m getting old, but I don’t think I’ve grown up yet. Not sure I ever will.

    By the way, New York Magazine had an interesting article about the new breed of adults who don’t grow up, grups, that’s worth a read.

  16. “freaky nutbar of a boss”

    Wow. That really made me laugh. No, you can’t be a grown up and talk like that.

    I have two elementary age kids, am almost 40 years old, and no, I’m not a grown up. Even my grown up husband says so sometimes. He catches a glimpse of the inner me trapped in this grown up body and just smiles.

    I don’t think I’ll ever grow up. I’m not sure I know how to. And I don’t think I would try to if I did do.

    “freaky nutbar” Oh that’s so good.

  17. I really like your readers’ definitions of grown up:

    “i think grown-ups are those who know well about their duties and responsibilities. (and those who can distinguish between the real and imaginary world).”
    “I think grownups are the people that finally realize they have to help others instead of just doing what they want all the time.”
    “What he said was that when you are adult you have oil on your feathers that enables you to stay dry and ride out the waves and the storm. Until you have that stability you are at the mercy of your emotions.”
    “I’ve always been a grown-up in the ’shouldering of responsibility’ sense.”

    In that sense, like Quack Attack, I have always been grown up too.

  18. Mary G, I like your definition. It isn’t anywhere near what I might have said, but it captures the essence so nicely.

    I hated being a kid… the lack of power and control over your own destiny. I seized the mantle of “grown-up”hood as soon as possible. It delights me still.

    I confess to rubbing it in with my stepdaughters when they get irate because their lives are governed by our rules. “When you’re a grown-up, you can do as you wish (eat jam out of the jar as object lesson) but for now, you do as we tell you.”

    Sooo satisfying.

  19. I look young for my age (35) and it doesn’t help that I’m I’m on the short side, which I’ve embraced. 🙂 I sound very young too, especially on the phone. Now that I have kids I feel like a teenager with kids. I’m sure that’s what some think but now that I have some white hair (which I refuse to dye) it throws people off. I like that. 🙂

    I guess I feel grown up even though I don’t look it.

  20. Good question XUP.

    “Grown up” implies, to me, a sense of finality or a cessation of “growing”. All of the growing is done. Kaput. And it’s a flat line steady state from that point forward.

    And “growing” can mean many things. It can be physical (done some horizontal growing since quitting smoking 5 1/2 years ago). It can be growing intellectually, emotionally, financially. It can be growth in one’s family – kids and spouses represent growth.

    Growing is flux, change and the absence of monotony.

    And, except for the ol’ girth growth, I happen to like all this growing. It is my life.

    So, I guess I never, ever want to “grow up”.

  21. If I ever meet a grown up I will let you know. Tell us about your whackadoo of a boss and what made her a whackadoo. I like to hear stories about strange people, it is like hearing about family .

  22. some call me a grown up but i dont think i am. i have dealt ith some very grown up situations but i like to have WAY too much fun to be a grown up

  23. I think there is a lot to be said for never feeling like a grown up. My husband’s grandmother never really felt fully grown up. When she was in hospital after a fall (for only the second time in her life – the first was when she had scarlet fever aged 8), she was chatting to us and pointed to the woman in the bed opposite who was shuffling around, looking elderly. “Look at that old biddy!” she said, slightly scornfully. The “biddy” in question was 63. Husband’s Granny was 84.

  24. White Crow – Thanks for visiting! And you bring up an interesting new point – can you stop being a grown-up? Or is it one of those things that once you are one, that’s it?

    Missy – Yes, you’ve been having a very rough time. I guess people mean that at your age you should be enjoying life and save the tough stuff for when you’ve done all the fun stuff??

    Quack – Poor you. It’s never too late to be young, you know.

    Guillermo – That’s an excellent saying and I believe it’s true. “Hoyuelos” .. I’d love to know the etymology of that word.

    Mike – That’s what my mum always says. She claims to feel and be and think exactly the same way now as when she was 16. I find that odd, but I guess if you know who you are from a very young age, you don’t have a lot of years of growing pains and angst.

    Bandobras – That’s an interesting definition of a grown-up. I’m thinking a lot of people formerly thought of as grown-ups aren’t going to make the cut.

    Mary – Very nice. I’m sure you could google “oil on your feathers” and find the quote – much easier than getting out the book and leafing through it!! (Does being that lazy make ME a grown-up?)

    Dr. Monkey – Ya, I kind of got the idea for this post from your comment yesterday about being around grown-ups!

    Hannah – Being grown-up has compensations, too – depending on your definition of a grown-up…and there are some very interesting ones here in the comments.

    Grace – I was an oldest child, too so I get a little of what you were saying. I’m trying to do the math here – you were just over 2 years old and your brother, in order for him to be walking could, at the very most, only been a year younger than you. That’s some pretty tight baby scheduling. No wonder your mum found her child minders wherever she could! (I love your sleepover story!)

    Friar – Friar’s Mom seems to be a very good example of that homily, too!

    Julie – There are times as a parent when I feel ancient. When you have to make some tough decisions for or on behalf of your kids; when you hold that helpless, utterly dependant infant in your arms the first time.

    Jazz- What makes the word interesting is that it’s a child-invented word, I think. I can see it evolving from a kid who’s told “you have to wait until you’ve grown up”.

    Ellie – For real or in name only? Because I gotta say, looking at all the photos of your wild and crazy life you still seem very much a youngster at heart.

    Louise – Damn! I wish I’d read that before this post. There’s a word for everything – grups! Ha. And yes, like you, I’ve missed most of the milestones toward grown-uppedness, too.

    Christine – Ya, you had to go work for this woman for a short while to understand the true definition of freaky nutbar (actually, it’s starting to sound like a yummy candy now). So, if your husband is a grown-up and you’re not, does that make him a pedophile?

    Julia – I know! There are some really nice definitions of being grown up here, aren’t there. And I pretty much could have guessed that you were always a grown-up. I’m sure you have your moments though???

    Susan – No fair. You’re getting all the fun of parenting without the stretch marks, labour and cracked nipples.

    Stefania – Ya, it’s a lot more fun to be old when you don’t act, look or feel old.

    Trashee – Ah, thank you. Another excellent definition of “grown-up”. Sort of the same feeling I have about the word “mature”. I’ve always hated that word for the same reason – once you’re mature you’re done. All that’s left is the crumbling and dying part.

    Cedar – Okay, I shall take that one under advisement. I may try to conjure up a whole post about the strangest people I’ve encountered. Thanks.

    Jobthingy – No. You’re definitely not a grown-up. True, you’re often in adult situations (har har, I kill myself), but you’re too wild and crazy to be labeled with such a somber moniker as “grown-up”.

    Loth – Yay, granny. I trust she survived the fall to continue scoffing and pouring scorn on the elderly? I often find myself surrendering a bus seat or extending some other courtesy one usually extends to older people – except that the people I’m being courteous to are probably younger than me, though they seem a lot older to me at first impression.

  25. Good heavens, I can’t keep up with you, writing post after post every day!
    Actually, I thought I had commented… apparently I forgot to ‘submit’.
    In answer to your question to White Crow “can you stop being a grown up”? Oh yes, definitely. Having dealt with both my parents regressing into stubborn, whiny, pouty 5 year olds in 90 year old bodies, it is possible to be an un-grown-up.

  26. Pingback: Too Old for Silly Hats? Perish the thought! « Brightest Blue

  27. Catching up on old posts. Loved this one and the one that followed, but your last line had me chuckling. As if there are no nutbars in the civil service… present company excluded, of course. 😉

  28. Violetsky – I’m sorry. I’ll try to cut down, I really will.

    Mary – Thanks. That’s odd. Google can usually turn up anything.

    Dani – This is where we all come to settle down!