So, here's the thing...

meanderings on life and other semi-important stuff

When Did THAT Happen?
Bill Bilodeau

"...power tools..."

Let's examine the evidence:

Wife? Check.

Kids? Two.

House? Needs some work, but yeah, got the house.

Two cars (one's a minivan); mortgage; pets; stressful job; power tools; sex any time neither of us is too exhausted; lawnmower; accountant (THERE'S one I never expected); will; home office; grown-up furniture; gray hair -- no, grayING hair -- let's not jump the gun, here; and... let's see...

..there's the credit cards, the health supplements, the I'm-through-fooling-around look (for the aforementioned kids), the video camera, the 32-foot extension ladder, the gift certificate to the theater (the REAL theater, not the movies), and the shirt and tie, five days a week. Okay, four days a week (casual Friday).

Verdict: Grown-up.



That's me, all over -- 37 years old and all grown up. Except...

Sometimes... a lot of the time, actually, I look at other men, some much younger than me, and I think, "he's an adult."

But look in a mirror and all I see is this college guy who's gotten a little fuller of face (and hips).

Why is that?

My wife, who's known me since I was 23 and still in college, tells me I look the same. She means it as a compliment, but the thing is, I agree, yet don't see it as all that positive. I think I look like a kid. Some of it, I know, is self image. Since I don't tend to think of myself as in control of things around me (like life), I feel unsure of myself a lot, like a child.

I realize growing older is a gradual thing, but somehow I expected there'd be more delineation -- a line you cross, a test you pass. Something like that Bar Mitzvah, "Today you are a man" deal, though even a 13-year-old knows he's not a man just because he chants the Haftorah and opens gifts.

When I was younger, I thought there were clearly things that separated grown-ups from the rest of us: marriage; having kids, a real job, being 30. Well, been there, done those. No dice. I know plenty of married people who aren't mature enough to call adults. Ditto for the 30+ crowd. I know plenty of people in responsible jobs who've yet to grow up. And Christ, don't get me started on the yahoos who shouldn't have kids.

So what's left?

"...a series of uniquely adult experiences..."

What is the mysterious thing that makes someone appear grown up where others just age? Is it just the cut of the jaw? The graying of hair? A look in the eyes? Attire? Facial hair?

What got me started thinking about this was a series of uniquely adult experiences I've had in recent months, including relationship issues of a level not seen by any lust-ridden teeny-bopper, talks with my doctor about my family's history of heart disease, having to rush my son to the hospital for the first time for stitches and looking at my company and wondering where I fit into their plans (as opposed to where they fit into mine, which seems to me the young man's outlook).

Despite this overwhelming evidence of adulthood, if not maturity, I can't help feeling much of the time as if I haven't yet reached that point we all recognize from our youth as defining adulthood: being in control of everything.

Isn't that it? Isn't that what being a grown-up is? I remember as a kid wanting nothing more than to be an adult because then you had all the answers, then life was easy because you got to make all the decisions. You were in control. Even now, I look at people I deem grown-ups and I think it's because they seem in control. They know what to do in every situation. Or seem to.

I remember a guy I worked for once pointing out how he'd had a problem with someone who'd screwed up, how he'd really chewed him out over it. Publicly. "Of course," he said to me, matter-of-factly, "I had to apologize." Wow, I thought. Talk about adult. It seemed to me at the time that I'd never have even thought about apologizing. It amazed me. Now, I realize I wouldn't think about apologizing. I'd just do it, automatically, because he was right. Of course you do that. It's just wrong to scream at someone over a simple mistake. Any adult knows that.



What happened? When did that come to me? Where was the blazing light, the thunderous roar? Where was the telegram telling me I'd arrived? Because it never came, I still don't quite believe I'm there.

I recently visited a friend I've known practically since he graduated from college. We were colleagues, which is a presumptuous way of saying we were both young reporters on our first real jobs out of school, working the low end of the journalistic food chain. At some point in the visit, between the time we went out at 11:30 at night for subs and the point at which we were standing, soaking wet, in Central Park praying for a meteorological miracle that would allow us to play just a few innings of softball, I realized this was pretty much normal life for this 33-year-old man. On the surface, it appears he's pretty much living life one softball game at a time.

That's not a bad thing in and of itself. He works hard, he's thoughtful, informed, has career goals and in a lot of ways is more mature than I am.

But although I know there's much more to his life than I see, what I did see led me to conclude that he's not yet a grown-up. And because a more adventurous me would be doing the same if not for a few different choices, I make the same judgment about myself.

You see, I looked at him and saw essentially the same guy I knew 12 years ago. I look at myself, and see I have the same tastes, the same likes and dislikes I had when I was 20. Still, my most ardent interests are sports, sex, humor and music, though not necessarily in that -- or any particular -- order.

Don't real grown-ups, deep down, have more serious pursuits? Aren't they just a bit more concerned with the stock market, retirement or keeping up with the mortgage than with the fate of the Celtics or whether Scary Movie is really funny or just a collection of lame gross-out jokes?

Somehow, I've gotten the idea that grown-ups are more serious about life than my friend or me. If that's true -- and there's certainly room to debate the point --then perhaps I'm right. Maybe I'm not yet grown up.

But the more I think about it, the less it bothers me. So I eat Good 'N Plenties by the boxful. So I stay up later than I should to hear the end of the Red Sox game on the West Coast (now, THAT'S something to be bothered about). So I'd rather see Ghostbusters for the 25th time than anything Tom Hanks has done since Bosom Buddies, and my very first thought upon meeting any woman at all begins, "If I had the chance, would I...?"

"...up the yin-yang..."






So what? If that's being stuck in a puerile state, so be it. I've got grown-up credentials, as listed above. I got responsibilities up the yin-yang (I've never understood that phrase). Maybe I'll always have a youthful perspective. Maybe I'll be 75 some day and look in the mirror to see the same 20-year-old I see now, more or less (mostly more).

It could be worse. I could have looked in the mirror 17 years ago and seen a 37-year-old.



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