The age limits I put on dating are often challenged, usually by said younger people. ‘Maturity is in the mind’ ‘Age is just a number’ etc. Now, I don’t disagree with any of this, but I have found that most people I know who are 30 and younger do not qualify as adults according to me.* Notice the qualifier most! Now these definitions vary based on your relationship–as in I expect the maturity to present itself a certain way when I’m sharing a house with someone, a certain way in the workplace, a certain way on a date. However, maturity in one place can usually be expected to translate into maturity across the board. But I’m getting carried away heh.
So this morning, I saw this on the Art of Manliness (Read the article. It’s amaze!):
Atop any list of the criteria for adulthood must surely sit personal responsibility. This means owning up to one’s mistakes, and carrying out the things one has promised to do, even when – especially when – such tasks are unpleasant.
Also central to maturity is embracing the role of creator, rather than simply being a consumer. Adults contribute to the world around them, rather than passively sampling the fruits of others’ labor. Adults build things; children (of any age) use these works, or, even further removed, simply become “fans” of them.
The ability to delay gratification is another marker of maturity. Children are inherently present-minded, and want what they want, when they want it. As we grow up, we must learn how to sacrifice a smaller reward now in the service of a greater good down the line. Adults have the ability to plan for the future and set long-range goals.
Related to this trait is self-control. Children act on impulse. Adults decide how to react, rather than being the slave of circumstances. They are masters of themselves.
Critical thinking skills also assuredly bear mentioning. Children are easily duped, prone to misunderstand things that are over their heads, and prefer information in simple, black-and-white narratives. Adults are able to parse information, evaluate the evidence for truth claims, ascertain the validity of sources, make connections between ideas, and grapple with complexity.
A good degree of self-reliance is requisite to adulthood as well. We are born helpless, and thus learning to help oneself has long been a sign of transcending one’s infantile state. None of us are an island, of course, but being largely dependent on others runs counter to the kind of autonomy necessary for maturity.
Finally, independence makes possible another quality of adulthood – having dependents. This category doesn’t just include one’s own kids; any leader – be it in the military, in business, in school, and so on – has those who depend on him for guidance, for direction, for mentoring. To be grown up is to have responsibilities not only to oneself, but to others as well.
I think this is the best definition of adulthood I’ve ever seen. And it translates well into the three spheres I mentioned up there. For the sake of fidelity to the theme I’m just going to go with dating heh.
So personal responsibility: owning up to mistakes and carrying out what one has promised. This might be the least adhered to part of adulthood in dating. Everyone thinks it’s completely OK to behave badly and then be belligerent when called on it, and refuse to apologise, or to only acknowledge behaviour when forced to. And god forbid you should commit to a plan and then carry it out! #8 is shining example here, though several to most of the guys I have engaged with in a dating-ish space in the past three years have been the same way. ‘I don’t make plans’ they say as if it’s a thing to be admired. Eyeroll. Of course age has nothing to do with this particular one, because #6, who showered me with attention and made grand statements about dating a man not a boy, rarely ever actually articulated a plan and then never followed through with it, even if all it was was a phone call. He finally apologised for his behaviour, after of course telling me I didn’t understand how hard his life is, when I told him the least he could do was apologise.
Embracing the role of creator not consumer ties into two of my favourite whines: picking places to go and asking questions. It’s funny how people think they’re helping when they say ‘oh anything goes’ when really all one needs is a suggestion, a cuisine, a neighbourhood, a price range, a noise level–something!! But nope that is too much to ask. While I do love it when a guy takes charge and plans a date, obviously I like to plan dates too, so I’m not saying take over my life. But make some effort yeah? Ask some questions, make some suggestions. Younger guys tend to ask me tons of things about my sexual self, which is boring and also clearly reveals their motives.
Delayed gratification and self-control: Do not send me seventeen messages because I haven’t responded in five minutes. Seriously. Even if you really want to talk to me, remember sabr ka phal meetha hai!
Critical thinking is harder to pin down to date specific scenarios, but it definitely plays a part when you say something and I challenge you and you refuse to stop and think about it. You don’t have to agree with me, but you have to have considered what I said–you can’t dismiss it just because #Kejriwalforeva! or some such thing. There was this one chap from JNU who metaphorically turned horrified eyes upon me (we were on chat) and said in a voice of extreme loathing, ‘Don’t tell me you’re apolitical!!??’ I swear I heard a hiss before apolitical. This was because I told him I am uncomfortable with a rigid political position and I don’t like to clash with people over ‘politics’. I also told him JNU people make me uncomfortable because JNU tends to refuse to look at itself critically, and his response? ‘You tell me one point where it should be critical.’ Clearly this was not someone willing to have a conversation about anything he believed in–somewhat like talking to a devout believer in whatever religion.Critical thinking also serves as an indicator of the presence of adulthood, thereby raising the likelihood that the other things are there too.
Self-reliance and independence I think again play less of a direct role, but more of an indicating role–if I know you can cook and look after your house I’m reassured that you will likely also display personal responsibility. Also, if you are aware of the effect you can have on other people, through your actions and words, then you will be cautious with their use, and acknowledge your responsibilities to other people, even when they are strangers. So you will not drink and drive if it makes me uncomfortable, for example.
I accept that maturity is not tied to age–maybe it’s just that as we grow older we are more willing to spend time and effort on things like clean houses or sleep, because we have to have boss to dinner, or need to be rested for work. But there seems to be among the men I have met a sort of fetishized rejection of adult behaviour: If I drink I must get wasted; god ya who will keep food in the fridge; of course I stay up till 3 every night and need seven alarms to wake up and am always late for work. Why should I return calls? How can I possibly commit to a plan four days in the future? What if something better shows up? And sadly, the younger you are, the less likely you are to have been forced by circumstance to don the appearance at least of adulthood.
*OK OK, most people period. Though I think women over tend to be slightly better than men. But I have met 23 year old guys who impress me with their maturity too. Still they are an exception, not a rule. When there is the doubly whammy of boy+young the odds become infinitesimal that the person is capable of being an adult.