When I was a kid, I imagined what might be like at 30. That was the definition of an adult age in my mind, because that was the age my Dad was when I was born. I was a very analytical kid, and I thought that having a child was a very obvious stage of adulthood. So for me, 30 was the definition of being an adult. I looked at my Dad and thought, “What did he have at 30?” He was married, owned a house, had a job, bought a car, and had a kid.
So where am I on my adult-o-meter? Well, I’m married, and my marriage, to say nothing of my romantic relationship with my husband, has lasted far longer than my parents’ relationship. I own my own home. I have a job that I’ve held down for almost 15 years. I’ve bought cars before, and, last week, I bought my first brand new car. I haven’t had a kid, but that’s essentially biologically impossible for me. I do have a dog, which is painfully similar at times, partly because my dog is so danged smart.
Having said all that, however, I often don’t feel like an adult at all. In fact, I think a commonality of the “geek culture” I’m a part of is a rather child-like nature. I hang out with my friends a lot. I go to movies. I travel. I read comic books. I play Role-Playing Games and computer games. I dress up in Medieval costumes to sing at Renaissance Faires and play Live-Action RPGs.
So am I a kid-like adult, or an adult-like kid? I find myself pondering over this concept often, and I thought I’d share my thoughts.
Ruling Out the Obvious
Before I really delve into this concept, I want to explain that I immediately discarded chronological age as a factor. My Dad, despite chronologically older than me, was often less mature than I was. He would buy a toy (for example a big-screen TV), then be dissatisfied and discard it for another toy (an even bigger screen HD TV). On the flip-side, I’ve known kids younger than myself who’re far more mature and responsible than I was at the time. My husband is 7 years my junior, but I cheerfully let him handle matters of fiscal responsibility for us. He’s just better at it than I am.
I also think it’s obvious that maturity and responsibility are the true heart of adulthood. If one acts with responsibility, that’s really being a “grown up”. I’ve known some wonderful people who’re simply not very mature. I have a dear friend who used to keep his parents in the dark a great deal about his life. I can recall being in New York with him, or at Disney, and having him speak to his parents on his cel phone, pretending he was still back in the Boston area. I tried to tell him that he should be more mature and just stand up to his folks, to get them to accept that he had to live his life and was responsible enough to make decisions as to when he was in a position, fiscally, to travel. He’s much more open with his family now, and you can see the change in his maturity level.
The Play’s the Thing
I think one reason the line between adulthood and childhood is so blurry for me is because I’ve never stopped playing. Instead of buying action figures and play-sets, I buy tabletop RPGs. Instead of dress up costumes for backyard cops and robbers, I have garb for Ren Faires and LARPing. I still like to go camping, just like I used to go camping when I was a kid. And what’s my favorite vacation destination? Hello! Walt Disney World, of course.
One thing I’ve always thought was sad was that some of the most avid gamers I’ve ever known have given up their opportunities to play, usually because they were having a kid, or getting married, or something equally grown-up. My husband, bless him, loves RPGs, and two of my best friends are a married couple who are both LARPers. They have one kid and are having a second, and believe me, it hasn’t stopped them from LARPing, playing tabletop games, and so on.
I’ll share a sad story with you. I was at the wedding of two LARPing friends of mine (a different pair than the ones I mention) and enjoying the heck out of myself. Their cake had a dragon and a castle on it. The groom was challenged by three swordsmen as he approached the altar. We were all in our garb, and my buddy Rourkie and I were part of the entertainment, singing a love song that the couple enjoyed.
In an unusual twist, only certain tables were specifically seating assigned. My husband Steve and I, along with our friend Jay, wanted to sit together, and we could find almost no empty seats by the time we came in. We ended up sitting with a couple we’d never met before. We introduced ourselves, and they did likewise. As we were talking, I looked over the couple. They were almost the only people present who weren’t dressed in LARPing garb; they were wearing a fairly standard suit and dress.
“Are you friends with the bride or the groom?” we asked, curiously.
The man smiled. “I used to game with the groom.”
The woman frowned. “Yeah, he used to play those ridiculous games. But I put a stop to that. I made him grow up.”
I was actively shocked. Did she not see the ceremony with the three swordsmen? Did she not see how we were all dressed? She went on to gleefully talk about how she’d made him get rid of all his gaming books, how he’d used to waste hours of time in gaming. And as she talked, I watched him look so sad over everything she said. In Changeling terms, she was a total Autumn Person, and she had completely eclipsed his Glamour.
Maybe he had been excessive in his gaming. Maybe she’d actually done him a favor by curbing his gaming activities. But it’s hard to imagine that someone who loved him could’ve been so oblivious to how much not gaming was depressing him.
A Matter of Sophistication
I think one thing that actually does mark the line between adulthood and childhood is a level of sophistication. There comes a point when you realize that you’re not willing to settle for lesser things. Or you’re willing to settle, but you understand the difference between something good and something wonderful.
I can enjoy a McDonalds Cheeseburger as well as the next man, but I know it’s a McDonalds cheeseburger. Offer me a chance to have the seared carpaccio of Yellowtail at Morimoto’s or the seared foie gras sushi at o-ya, and there’s very little chance I’ll go for the McDonalds cheeseburger as an alternative.
This sophistication slowly creeps into all aspects of your life. I run a sort of beer and pretzels D&D game I run on Wednesday nights for one group of friends, and I certainly enjoy it. But if I had the chance, instead, to run a game like my Seowyn’s Crossing D&D game, where there’s a huge emphasis on roleplaying and powerful arching themes of betrayal, loyalty, faith, and madness…well…sorry, Jacob. I’ll pick the roleplaying heavy game every time.
To Sum Up
The true cusp of adulthood isn’t a matter of age, and it’s not demarcated by playing or not playing. Adulthood isn’t about giving things up, or at least it doesn’t have to be. Adulthood is a time when you take responsibility and find a level of sophistication in your taste than lets you enjoy something simple, even while knowing that there’s better to be had.
Are you an adult, or still a kid? Do you agree with my thoughts on what makes the difference, or do you have your own definition of the dividing line? Let us all know.