Real Life: ‘Help! I’m an Adultescent!’
“Getting a lift from your dad to the local drinking hole is a common teenage memory. Except that for me it’s a very recent memory (er, involving last night in fact) because, despite being 34 years old, it’s the only way I can go out and meet my friends. And that's because I just moved back in with my parents, I still can’t drive and cab drivers scare me.
You’re probably thinking I’m odd, a little lazy perhaps, a female Peter Pan of the modern world but experts have discovered that I’m part of a growing group, ‘Adultescents’, who are shunning traditional choices in favour of a life free of ties. And I say why not?
My teenage behaviour has conspicuously increased the further away I’ve got from teen-hood. I like to think I’m vaguely sophisticated – I own a bread-maker, take supplements and use personalised luggage. However, in other areas I seem to lack the accomplishments that, well, are thought to be expected of someone who can no longer tick the 25-30 age box when visiting the doctor.
For example, in recent years, part-time writing has replaced my full-time career so that I can shoot off to Uzbekistan on a whim. With less of a daily routine, I get the pleasure of being able to sit up with friends all night guzzling box wine and talking about the various physical merits of Christian Bale when I should be thrashing away towards a looming deadline. It could be worse; I haven’t yet had a parentally mutinous facial piercing, but I am the only woman in her 30s I know of who sleeps in a bunk bed (the parents haven’t refurbished since 1989), sniffs her bras before putting them on and, less than a week ago, arrived home at 4am and ate chocolate spread off a fish slice as I didn’t know where Mum kept the butter knives.
‘Will you ever do the kids-and-mortgage-thing?’ asked my best friend, who has a real 'grown-up’ life, indicated by her ownership of a coffee table, a lawn mower and a three-year-old who, incidentally, would like nothing more than a bed like mine. And she’s not the first person to show concern. It seems that’s all I ever hear about, as if bricks ‘n’ mortar and motherhood are the singular indicators of maturity – anything else is messing about before you start living like a bona fide adult.
So, what’s going on? Have I missed out on my moment to start channelling tan-coloured tights, cooing over bathroom tiles and seeing a visit to the garden centre as an enjoyable experience? Apparently adultescence is justifiable. “More women may be choosing to live in this way because they have more to sacrifice if they settle down and ‘conform’,” says psychotherapist and counsellor Cate Campbell (counselling-directory.org.uk). “The options of marriage and family just don’t appeal to every woman, but they’re often put under pressure to do just that.”
Thankfully, I don’t feel that kind of pressure, but admittedly, I sometimes fret that I’ll end up homeless, pension-less and alone when I browse Facebook friends’ wedding photos and mine are an adultescent’s gallery of restaurants, parties and dancing about wearing age-inappropriate fashion (think batwing tops, fluorescent watches). I just reassure myself with the fact that it certainly seems a popular enough lifestyle choice for celebrities like Cameron Diaz (39 this year), Drew Barrymore (36) and Kate Moss (37) – all of whom display notoriously adultescent behaviour. And while I may not know where I’ll be living in three months’ time, I’ve never been so confident of my own abilities to look after myself – despite living without the support of a permanent partner or the safety of a suitable job. So, I say let’s all embrace our big kid. We’ve got plenty of time to be adult about things. Life shouldn’t be lived to a criteria determined by age, but by drives and desires. I’ve found that doing what makes you happy bestows more confidence than striving to always have money in the bank.
So, from now on, I say bring on the ridiculous footwear, let’s sing loud and proud to that hair-rock 80s compilation. And while I’ll always feel a tiny bit guilty about taking Dad Cabs, Mum, I recommend that you hide the fish slice…