in someone else’s life

So on my trip to work this morning, I picked up a copy of our local free newspaper, Red Eye, and found myself reading this article.  I didn’t finish it before I got to work due mostly to the need to walk without running into things (a daily challenge), but it’s been a very slow day, so I got to finish it this afternoon.  It’s a quick read and pretty well-written, so feel free to check it out.  But there was something in that article that really, really bothered me.

The first woman interviewed, a 25-year old wife and mother of three, is quoted as saying the following:  ‘I love my life.  I love my kids.  I love living like a grown-up.’


As I’ve written before, I know a lot of people in my age group who are getting married and having kids (not necessarily in that order or related to one another).  And, honestly?  That’s fine.  It’s your life, do what you want to with it.  Personally, I am WAY too young to get married and nowhere near a point in my life where I have any interest in procreation.  My cousin has a nine-month-old Winston Churchill impersonator and I am currently scheduled to attend five weddings this year.  I don’t need to go do this myself; there’s just not enough time.  But if you are in a time and place in your life where you believe you should get married and have kids, that’s just great.  Please don’t think this is me taking an issue with marriage.  I’m much less opposed to the idea now that I’m not anyone’s maid-of-honour.

Rather, what I take issue with is this woman’s assertion that her way of life is the ‘grown-up’ way.  A ring, children, and a house payment are what constitute adulthood.  I’m calling bull-hockey.

Let me tell you something, chick from newspaper article.

I could have gotten married right out of high school.  It’s true.  My high school girlfriend was planning on proposing to me.  And if I had known about this, I would’ve said yes because of the fact that I cared about her and wanted to make her happy.  I didn’t know about her proposal because, as fate would have it, I broke up with her a few days before she was planning to do the deed.  She was shocked to say the least.

Since that ill-fated almost-proposal six years ago, there have been a lot of things that have happened to me.  I moved away from home.  I got two BAs in four years.  I went into therapy…three times.  I got my heart broken five times.  I held my mother’s hand while she cried.  I picked up and moved to a city I couldn’t afford with little more than a suitcase full of clothes.  I lost two jobs and kept going, finally landing something full-time.  I talked a friend through another’s suicide.  I counselled marriages.  I saw concerts and world-premiere plays.  I risked things.  I figured stuff out.

I pay my own rent.  I buy my own groceries.  I support myself, albeit barely.  I donate to charities.  I help people out.  I do the best I can.

How is your life more ‘grown-up’ than mine?

Everyone’s path is different.  You can plan and scheme and do whatever you can to make life go the way you want it to, but you will never succeed.  You got engaged when you were nineteen.  At nineteen I was studying Medieval German.  No one’s accomplishments are better or more ‘adult’:  they’re just different. 

I used to judge people my age who got married.  I think I was just angered by the undeserved superiority — by the assumption that I wasn’t ready to grow up because I didn’t have a long-term boyfriend or girlfriend and I didn’t see this as a problem; that my lack of interest in buying a home was because I didn’t want to commit; I didn’t want to take care of anything other than myself.  I’ve made a commitment not to judge your life and your choices.  How dare you judge mine?

I really do want to get married someday.  I want to own my own place.  Probably not a house; they’re too expensive in the city.  But I’d like a condo at least, something with a lot of windows and its own washer and dryer.  I’d like to grow old with someone and get sick of them sometimes and tell them all of my secrets.  Maybe I’ll even have kids.  Who knows?  I’ve got most of 75 years to figure that stuff out.  But I’m not there yet.  And there is nothing wrong with that.

So you can keep your house in the suburbs, your husband, your two-and-a-half kids.  You can keep the Labrador Retriever that I’m sure you plan to have.  And your opinions of how I choose to be an adult?  You can keep those to yourself.


life’s like a movie:  write your own ending/keep believing, keep pretending/we’ve done just what we set out to do


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Chad
    Feb 02, 2012 @ 03:11:36

    Thank you for writing this. Perfectly fits my thoughts on the article in redeye today. I’m 25, not married with no mortgage. I have, however accomplished a lot on my own without those two “grown up” things. Although the thought of kids, marriage, and a surburb house makes me want to vomit….it’s their life. Not mine.


  2. Tim O.
    Feb 02, 2012 @ 15:57:56

    This is another well written piece. It brings up conflicts in me because my own life was so completely off the grid of expectations. When I was your age, 23(?), I was married the first time and had an almost 3 year old. Then I spent the next 8 years living with a woman who was 13 years older than me and who had two children who sometimes lived with us but often didn’t. My twenties were utterly bohemian, and pretty much most of the people I knew were bohos, too. But it was the 70s and people that were living life on the edge also went ahead and had kids, sometimes got married sometimes didn’t and all lived quite precariously, money-wise. In my 20s nobody I knew who were in their 20s were buying a house, but I was friends with lots of people who were 30, 40, 50 and one very good friend, the poet Jane Morrel who was 69 when I met her in 1972. She used to come to most of my parties in them days. We stayed up far too late, even those of us with kids and dogs and mortgages, talking literature and philosophy, drinking and smoking and having affairs in and out of our relationships. It just never occurred to me during those years that it was at all odd to be so far off the grid. I had been something of a radical in the sixties, so I feared the official government and did not have a drivers license until 1979.

    I will say this about having children: It’s a really good thing to do if it works for you in your life. I have plenty of friends who will go childless on to the next life and they have not been harmed by this at all. I will also say that having children is not for the faint of heart. Both of my daughters’ mothers were 31 when those kids were born. It was a conscious decision and once you have a child that should take precedence over everything else in your life. So, having kids should be something you want to do when you do it.

    As for buying a house: I bought my first (of two) houses in 1986 when I was 36 and BB was 29. We did that because at the time it was a cheaper alternative to renting (in spfld). That said, owning a house means spending money and labor keeping it up. I’ve rented too and that has its own pitfalls.

    What really offended you in the statement about being an adult is the implication that having those responsibilities makes you a “mature” person. But it isn’t those responsibities, is it? You have plenty of responsibilities. Tons of married couples with children are absolutely irresponsible. I know, I lived with someone who worked for Children and Family Services for 18 years and then I lived with someone who worked for Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Way too many so-called adults abdicate their responsibilities.

    So you know you’re a responsible human being. You know what you want from your life now. I wonder why you got pissed off about this. Lots of people think like that, that taking on responsibilities make them grown up. They haven’t figured out that what makes any of us mature is going through the pain of living and managing to stay optimistic and committed to the truths that you have discovered.

    When I was in high school being cool meant being above the judgements of one’s peer group. Those who just went their own way were perceived as being the cool ones. That has morphed over the years. Now being cool represents being a certain way, depending on your peer group. I like it the way it was: doing what you thought was right and not giving a good goddamn what anyone else thought. Being who you wanted to be. Finding your own way. That’s what I tried to do, and maybe I am a failure in terms of the general public, but I respect my life, its triumphs and its failures, my mistakes and my successes. You should too.


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