I really enjoy being an adult.
It seems that everyone else wants to be a kid again. Sorry, but I don’t.
Adulthood gets a bad rap, undeservedly in my opinion. I haven’t figured it out yet, but I suspect this has something to do with American worship of youth culture.
Back in the sixteenth century, Ponce de León searched the tropics for the mythical Fountain of Youth. We’re still searching.
I’ve noticed that the Dylan song “Forever Young” (usually the Rod Stewart remake) keeps popping up on TV sitcoms and commercials. The mall features a shop named Forever 21. Anti-aging treatments and wrinkle creams make fortunes for the cosmetics industry.
The message is unmistakable: Older is bad, younger is good. And teenage is best of all.
Even the very word “adult” has taken on negative connotations. If you patronize “adult bookstores,” then you are a perv. If you partake of “adult beverages,” then you are a lush. And if you are a fornicator who cheats on your spouse, then you have committed “adultery.”
Although it has been more than three decades since I joined the ranks of adults, I began thinking about our antipathy toward adulthood recently when my wife and I were cleaning out a closet. As we made piles of junk to sell, donate and recycle, I ran across an old issue of an employee newsletter from a job I worked many years ago. The front page featured an article under the byline of one of the executives, titled “I Want to Be Six Again.”
The piece began with the author’s declaration that she is resigning from adulthood to accept the position of a six year old. She then proceeded to go on and on about the virtues of being age six, from preferring M&Ms to money because the former can be eaten, to watching television for pure enjoyment rather than to procrastinate from tasks she should be doing, to assuming our loved ones will be with us forever because we have not yet learned the concept of death.
Well, call me a rebel, but I must emphatically state that I do not wish to be a six year old again. Honestly, it wasn’t so great the first time around.
What do I remember about the age of six? Let’s see, I turned six in the middle of the first grade, at which time I attended what I would characterize as a fundamentalist religious school. To summarize the philosophy taught there: If you enjoy doing it, it’s a sin. I learned about the methods of capital punishment used in the Old Testament (stoning, strangling, burning at the stake, etc.) and I came home threatening to try them out on my sisters. My father allowed me to take a sip of his coffee (which I liked) and his beer (which I didn’t). I became a TV addict, watching the boob tube every minute I could get away with. I memorized the commercials and begged my parents for Lincoln’s “two true flu-fighting flavors.” We lived on the fourth floor of a hundred year old New York City walkup that was infested with millions of cockroaches.
Then we moved. My parents bought a house in the suburbs, but only after we spent every weekend for months on end driving out there to look at one new subdivision after another. I was bored out of mind. The move put me in an even stricter religious school. I began chastising my parents for being unholy sinners who thumbed their noses at everything the Bible commanded.
No, I do not wish to be six again.
When I was six, I did not know what tortoni was, or tofu, tiramisu, Tolkien or Tolstoy. I had never heard of Bach, Beethoven, Balzac, brie, burritos or baklava. I had never tasted pita bread, Portobello mushrooms or papaya. I hadn’t yet played a game of tennis, used a computer, earned a paycheck or attended a wedding. What I did do regularly was pee the bed and cry over every little thing.
I suppose it must have been nice to never be left alone, but I didn’t appreciate being watched every second and being told exactly what I could and could not do. I did not enjoy being spanked when I became persnickety and would not cooperate with the agendas of the grown-ups. I prayed a lot because I was told to, although I didn’t really understand what for and, frankly, all that praying was starting to bug the heck out of me. I definitely preferred playing to praying.
When I was six, I did not get to jump in the car and drive to the beach on the spur of the moment just because I felt like smelling the salt air. I did not get to hold meetings, write memos and tell my employees what to do. No one asked my advice, no one cared what I thought, and I had to be in bed by eight o’clock every night.
When I was six, my little sisters and I had to share a bedroom. I did not get to share a bed with my loving wife, nor to whisper to her my innermost secrets and talk over future plans for hours. I did not get to pick out the furniture, choose the house in which I would live or even decide what to have for dinner.
No, thank you, I refuse to go back to being six years old. I enjoy being an adult, even with all its responsibilities, uncertainties, hospitals and funerals.
So if you want to be six years old again, have a good time. As for me, I refuse to resign from adulthood. I may not earn a perfect progress review every year, but here I will stay until the Lord sends me a pink slip.