My number was always 30. That was the age I was going to be a proper grown-up. While 18 was the cut-off point for adulthood, the holy grail of ages that, as a teen, heralded an end to parental meddling and a new responsibility to go out and commit all manner of hideous mistakes, 30 was when it got real.
Perhaps you chose earlier, or later, but I’ll bet you had an age in mind. For, as arbitrary as they may be, we all set ourselves deadlines in life and for me, 30 was the shining golden stage in life at which I was going to get my act together.
I did pretty well too. By the time I hit the big 3-0, I’d built myself a thoroughly enjoyable career that, while not massively lucrative, gave me freedom, satisfaction and kept me perfectly well in handbags and fab shoes thank you very much. I’d bought my own property independent of the man I now call my husband, I’d somehow become a wife (ugh, that word), complete with new surname and even coordinated our move to the sandpit. So far so grown up, right?
When the next big adult life signifier, motherhood, arrived earlier this year at the ripe old age of 31, it immediately necessitated the accomplishment of another grown-up milestone, the purchasing of anti-ageing skincare and, shock horror, an eye cream. Adult life, tick tick tick.
The problem is, this month I’m going to blow out 32 candles (oh yes, there will be cake... you’re never too old for cake) and I still don’t feel at all like a grown-up. Not. At. All.
Because for every big life landmark I’ve reached, there are a hundred small but significant aspects of adulthood where my success rate hovers around ‘epic fail’ – not least my inability to stop using kids phrases like epic fail. *ROFL*
I don’t think I own any matching socks and finding a set of matching underwear in the mornings is the stuff of dreams. I have absolutely no clue how to iron. The only sewing kits I own have been pilfered from hotel bathrooms and are inevitably impossible to find when required. While I have at least mastered the art of cooking without setting the house on fire, I’m still too clumsy to hold on to a matching dinner set for any length of time (three breakages last week) and dinner parties round our house involve guests number five and above drawing straws to see if they’ll end up floating above the table on a bar stool or kneeling on the foot stool.
My husband is no better. This morning I found him dancing around the living room, baby in arms, singing the cartoon-style theme tune he inexplicably created for our son. He still doesn’t know how to do dishes properly. He can never, ever, find his keys, walks into things at least three times a day and absolutely cannot be trusted around chocolate. Plumbing remains a mystery to us both, we don’t own a ladder or a proper tool kit and, frankly, we’re both absolutely astounded that we’ve been entrusted with keeping a small person alive when some days we’re lucky to get through without a trip to A&E ourselves.
Glimmer of Hope
Nonetheless, age creeps up on us all, and no matter how we try to deny it, hubby and I are starting to display some small signs of maturity. Our friendship circle varies in age from 25 to 45, numbers no longer proving a barrier to friendship now that we’ve all accepted our places in the category that falls between graduate and middle age.
Our group gets together before the sun goes down, socialising usually involves food as well as drinks and venues are now prized for being quiet enough to allow conversation, with extra points awarded for ample seating. With a growing number of small children around, late nights require military planning and the value of every invite is now weighed against the ordeal the next day if it’s involved too many glasses of bubbles. We might regularly run out of kitchen roll, but we never run out of Panadol.
The thing is, as we continue to muddle through life, bumping into challenges that make us realise we’re now responsible for ourselves (and that we can’t call our dad for help when our sink breaks), it starts to become clear that those further along the path are not any different.
Whose Time is it Anyway?
Last month, my parents visited. I was under the mistaken impression they were coming out to babysit, help paint the nursery and generally hang around acting all grandparenty. Instead, I had to resist the urge to give them a lecture when they returned from Sandance, dragging half of Atlantis beach into the house at 1.30am, raving about how Fatboy Slim (AKA Norman Cook, a 50-year-old father of two) had torn up the crowd.
But Norman and my parents aren’t the only ones ripping up the rulebook of responsibility. While a few generations ago, 50 would have been pipe and slippers territory, now Brad Pitt is redefining that decade by being the hottest motorbiking father of six the world has ever seen. George Clooney, who at 53 is renowned for his continuing commitment to hugely elaborate pranks and practical jokes, has just become engaged. He says he’s now reached the stage in life where settling down isn’t scary anymore, beautifully ignoring the fact that at his age, previous generations of men were contemplating a not-too-distant retirement to spend more time with the grandkids.
On the girls’ team, Sandra Bullock is coming into her own, professionally and personally, and looking hotter than ever mere months from her own half century, while Kate Moss is still maintaining her reputation for hedonism despite her most recent rowdy shindig being thrown to celebrate her fortieth.
What makes a grown-up grown up anyway? I for one certainly don’t know, and live in continuing hope that all will be clarified when I become one myself. Call me when I reach 60?