I had to buy a new fridge this week and as always happens when I dip a toe into the world of grown-ups (where people expect you to know details like the measurements of the space available and whether you need a freezer section) I found myself flummoxed and feeling totally inadequate.
Before you ask – no I’m not a teenager or even a delayed twenty something. I’m a woman in her fifties who can’t seem to successfully navigate the path into adulthood. I suppose before we continue we need to ascertain some definition of adulthood. According to my mother it’s all about maintaining a home that doesn’t look like you’ve permanently been burgled.
Only last week when her washing machine was on the blink, I offered to step into the breach and help her out. My offer was met by abject horror and the rather dubious comment, “You’ve got to be joking, I’ve seen what you do to your whites!” I don’t do anything to my whites other than bung them into the machine with a bit of detergent but it seems that’s where it’s all going wrong as my mother bored me almost to death with a litany of products designed to keep your whites ‘white’.
My mother enjoys any opportunity to attack my domestic know-how primarily because she sees it as the root cause of my inability to bag myself a husband. Her lack of grandchildren has long been a thorn in her side. Ironically it’s no doubt my lack of progeny that has to a large extent facilitated my lack of maturity. Having never had to care for anyone other than myself has meant I can do pretty much what I please when I please, which doesn’t engender a sense of responsibility. Frankly I’ve never even had a pet.
Surely though being a grown-up is not just about not being a slattern. There must be non-house proud adults out there who can assume control when things get hairy. Despite spending most of my adult life with 30 plus children in my care at any given time, I’m definitely not the one to look to in an emergency. There are eleven year olds more able to cope in a crisis than me. My instinct the second there is an aberration from the norm is to look around for the nearest adult or in the absence of one a small child will do. To be honest I’ve found that some children are actually fifty year olds trapped in small bodies, probably just waiting for their physical beings to catch up with their personalities. Tragically I’m more Benjamin Button and suffer from the opposite.
I’ve been on many residential school trips both at home and abroad but only ever had to take a position of responsibility for one and let’s just say never again. It was a week in London and involved, in no particular order: hospital visits, children lost on the tube, irate parents, no sleep, alcohol and Italian boys. By the end of the week my nerves were quite literally shredded and I needed complete bed rest. If that’s what it’s like being a responsible adult then I’d rather have arrested development.
How much of being a middle-aged teen is circumstance and how much is personality? There’s no doubt in my mind that my lack of dependents has allowed me to wallow in my own sense of misplaced youth. My diet consists of mainly sugar and the occasional jacket potato. I can’t even remember the last time I bothered to attempt cooking a meal. Clearly unless I wanted to be responsible for malnourished off-spring I wouldn’t have this luxury had I chosen to reproduce.
The personality bit must come into the mix somewhere though as I’ve never had any desire to reproduce. I’ve always known that I’m far too selfish to want to put anyone else’s needs above my own. I like to spend my time reading quietly and watching Netflix, helping children with homework or indeed having to listen to their tedious prattling would get right on my nerves. Don’t even get me started on toddlers who evoke in me an intolerance that would put Mussolini to shame. I am a person who should definitely not be inflicted on others, a joy-snuffing, curmudgeon best left to my own quirks and failings.
My only consolation is I’m not the only Peter Pan in existence. I suppose it used to be a condition more associated with men who couldn’t grow up because, coddled by their mothers and wives, they didn’t have to. Gender equality however means that these days we are all free to be adult children. In fact I know quite a few of them.