Michael Battalio


Friday, June 06, 2014

Serious conversations (part 55): Adulthood

        This series is a continuation of my conversations with an atheist friend of mine. These are my edited responses from that conversation. The fifty-fifth – fifty-seventh entries deal with adulthood.

        Because I still look like I am a teenager, my adulthood is often questioned. I frequently fear (and have for years) that I’m not taken seriously simply because I look so young. When I bought a house, countless people including my own realtor, lender, home inspector, and others questioned whether I was old enough to own a house. It is almost palpable to me the disdain I receive when I’m asked if I am old enough for something. When the utility serviceman came by the house to first turn on the gas he asked me quite sincerely if the owners of the house were around. I told him I was; whereby he replied, “You, are the owner?!” I could just read his mind: “Certainly you, little child, are not old enough to be doing adult things like this. And if you are old enough, how dare you still look so young.” I can’t help but grimace when thinking back on it.
        In fact whenever I have to go perform some errand that involves me interacting with professionals of some sort or anyone of an older generation, I become anxious that they will question, well, my adultness. Which leads me to, what is adulthood? Is it maturity, as in physical development?  Is it education (knowledge), wisdom, morality, having children, self sustainability, age alone? Looking like an adult certainly isn’t enough, but that is definitely how I’m frequently judged.
        Let’s start with education. That’s clearly not what makes someone an adult. I can think of several professors and other “adults” that have plenty of education but act like fools most of the time. Conversely, I know there are plenty of people who have never even graduated high school but are very adult-like. So perhaps education can cultivate adulthood, but it is not a necessary condition.
        Maturity is a bit of a nebulous thing. I look immature. I’ll probably never be able to actually grow a beard. I’m not going to be getting any taller. I assume I’ll develop wrinkles eventually, but I’m rather baby-faced now. My mom is still mistaken to be my sister at times, and I’m confident in saying my mom in an adult. Thusly, maturity is not the defining characteristic.
        Biologically having offspring can begin as a preteen, so simply being able to bring about a child can’t be the definition of adultness. Perhaps being capable of rearing children should be the better definition, and that age ranges widely from person to person. I’m 28 presently, and I still don’t think I am capable of raising children. Yet, my mother was 20 when I was born, and I have to say she did an excellent job of rearing me. I think most people would consider me an adult, so the ability to raise a child can’t be the only criterion, though simply because I don’t think I can raise a child does not mean I would not be able to do so. However, this also begs the question are mentally disabled people adults.  Some cannot raise children, but we consider them adults.

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