What does being a grown up actually mean? And what does a grown up actually do while they are busy being a “grown up”? I used to think, way back when the most important thing on my mind was what colour socks to wear, that being a grown up was very exotic, very glamourous and ultimately something that should be achieved as soon as physically (and emotionally) possibly. I have vivid memories of the coming home ritual my parents had when we were little. Mum would be dishing out dinner (or tea as it was known – dinner is what the “grown ups” would eat later) at the kitchen table covered with a wipe clean cloth (the table, not us – although that might have been wise). We were very lucky kids – Mum didn’t work, Dad did and we had proper food, never ready meals and never microwaved anything that I can remember. Occasionally there would be jam tarts, fairy cakes or jelly for pudding but mainly yogurts. We’d hear Dad’s car switch off and the excitement would hit us. The key in the lock, the briefcase being set down, hearing the paper rustle and put on the sofa for later. The door opening and him – my dad. I remember the smell of him more than anything. A combination of printing ink, solvent, paper dust and general “grown up”ness.I remember him enveloping us in hugs and I use to bury my nose in his hair, working out where he’d been that day. If it was solvent he’d have been in the factory, if it was smoke and dust he had been in London. I have a nose like a blood hound – only less wet.
Mum and Dad would kiss hello, exchange pleasantries and small talk that made no sense to me. All I knew was I was safe and loved and I had parents who were very grown up – turns out at the time I can remember Mum was 29, nearly 30. My age. But looking back on that memory she seemed much older than I am now. By comparison, I have no children, no marriage, no mortgage and no business. The most responsibilty I have is remembering to put the bin out on a Sunday night and deciding what colour toilet paper to buy. I’ve resisted getting any sort of pet because I never thought I was a “grown up” despite having a job, living alone, driving and voting. Turning 29 got me thinking about all those life events that I thought I should be doing, but quite clearly aren’t. This was swiftly followed by what being a grown up means to me now, in my grand almost old age of not quite 30 – I’m thinking of renaming the blog “Hurtling towards 30” but that needs further consideration.
As I wobble towards my 30’s and eek out the last ounce of my reckless 20’s with my bottle of Chablis (£6 at ASDA at the moment – stock up, it’s better than a fuel shortage) I am aware that I appear to some (maybe not my parents) a grown up. I have a job, a flat, a life with friends and such like. I shop for grown up things like washing up liquid, bread, cheese and baking ingredients. I pay my council tax and my gas bill, not always on time but they get paid. I recycle. I switch the heating off when I’m not in for more than 48 hours, make sure the water is off when I brush my teeth and I try to remember to moisturise. For try, read when my elbows become cheese graters. My floors are hoovered and my laundry is done on a weekly basis – I even use fabric softener. I read the meter and report issues to my landlady when they happen and make nice with the neighbour kids. My mantle piece of the fire place I am not allowed to use has family pictures in frames and flowers given by friends in a vase (thanks Em – they are just magnificent). I am allowed to light my own candles and handle sharp knives, can switch on the gas and operate the dishwasher. So many things I used to think made being a grown up the best thing ever. Now, I take these things (other than my flowers – never take flowers for granted) for granted.
My grown up ramblings came to a head tonight on my rainy walk home after a horrible day and many hours of fantasising about a curry and a glass of wine. Bearing in mind I am more likely to crave a cup of tea than a glass of white it was an indication of just how bad a day I was having. Veering from planning a pub visit vs. a bottle of white helped break up the day – as did the curry fantasy. Turns out some fantasies can come true…buy the wine, make the curry and hey presto! Fantasy becomes reality. I can’t comment on my other fantasies however – nor would you want me to. I used to think that being a grown up meant always having ice cream in the freezer and being able to eat the aforementioned ice cream for breakfast if one felt so moved. Turns out being an actual grown up involves more than ice cream (although I do now make a point of having ice cream in my freezer). It means buying more than ice cream and a pint of milk. The curry was fabulous, the Chablis in lieu of a pint was divine (although I’m not sure an entire bottle to oneself was entirely sensible). I’ll know about that in the morning – I’ll spare you the results however.
Being a grown up? It has it’s perks. And I’m not talking about the colour of the toilet roll either. Being a grown up means you can eat what you want when you want. It means if you want to make small talk with your wife/husband/dog you can – whatever floats your boat. It means that you only have yourself to blame when you are hungover on a Thursday morning. That you can wear jamas all weekend if so desired. It means you can do whatever the heck you (and whoever) you want. When you want. How you want. With who you want. And it also means that after a crappy day slogging through audit reports, you are completely allowed to drink wine, cook amazing curry and kick back. Welcome to grown up land. Even if it’s not what you thought it should or could be.