Adulthood

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.

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34 thoughts on “Adulthood

  1. I like your long posts! One thing I’d like to add: It also helps to have adult supervision (and guidance) when you’re growing up. We learn by observing. Either boys haven’t been paying attention or they’re being molly-coddled too much.

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    • haan yes definitely. this is why i say we don’t raise our boys right in this country! maybe in the world but deffy the country. have i not made a long rambly post about how my mother was treated has made me who i am? it might have been an interview heh.

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  2. I really do like that article, but going by those definitions, the vast majority of people over 30 aren’t adults either (which admittedly shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone interacting with the human species at any length), as you did mention in your note at the end. And I agree about the numbers being higher for women on either end, not because there’s anything intrinsic, I think, but because society tends to push a lot more of the elements of adulthood onto women and disapprove more if they overtly deviate from them (whereas men, especially young men, do get more of a free pass).

    I would disagree about maturity/adulthood in one area necessarily translating to adulthood in others, however. Human beings are just incredibly good at compartmentalizing and separating out various elements of their lives from others, which is why someone can be utterly smart in one area and a dunderhead in others, or progressive here and conservative there, or totally reliable in one sphere and utterly not in another. And that shifts from day to day, and based on mood, context, level of health, weather, etc. Humans are just not that consistent. Life would be much easier if they were! (And people wouldn’t go “Yah, cyborg!” to me, but that’s another story :p)

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    • haan this is true re the translation. i thought my doubts about that were expressed in the line about ‘don the appearance of adulthood’ but i should have been clearer

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  3. Can I also add that most “Young men” (read younger than 30) are looking for different things in life and I often find that, it’s one of the hardest things to reconcile with later. “I was just looking for someone to hang on my arm at parties” vs something more long term. #morningmusings ofcourse

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    • hmm this is interesting. i wouldn’t say it’s just men though. i think we are all taught to act like we aren’t interested in commitment and even tell ourselves that and then we’re 30 and don’t know how to date or how to communicate. i used to read a lot of blogs by english twenty and thirty somethings 15 years ago (eep) and they all loved their cray single lives until one day they all suddenly became lonely and headfucked thirty and forty something who couldn’t relate to other people emotionally

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    • be still my throbbing ladybits? no actually i disagree. selfawareness with the desire to act on it is the sexiest trait. enough and more people are like i’m like this yo #dealwithit.

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      • The problem with most of the “I’m like this yo” people is that they’re precisely opposite to what they claim they are. I’ve not met many who can see themselves for the fucked up, contradictory messes they are (let alone take responsibility for the same). True self-awareness is very, very rare. And yeah, throb-inducing every time :D

        The “desire to act on it” bit is the cherry, shall we say?

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    • The self-awareness thing (works pretty well for dudebits too!), as well as the maturity deal mentioned previously, is one reason why I find someone’s ability (or lack thereof) to live happily on their own is often a good marker for me. It’s nowhere close to 100%, of course, but the ability to survive cheerfully in a solitary state requires a fair amount of self-sufficiency. And doing so at least creates the possibility for self-awareness, since enough time without other people as a distraction means you’re going to have to think about yourself at least some of the time. People who get along with other people are easy to find. People who really get along with themselves? That’s a lot rarer.

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      • Heh! I finished typing that comment and then thought, “Of course, there’s a fair chance the person’s a serial killer instead, but those are the breaks!”

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      • What does my misanthropy about the species in general have to do with you finding someone conducive in specific? There are lots of individual decent people. They’re just outnumbered by the dipshits–and heavily so. Plus, your standards are quite different from mine, I think.

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      • But I don’t believe in perfection in human form. Just people who are conducive enough (emphasis on ‘enough’) for someone. None of that soulmate shit. And, considering the vast, vast number of people on the planet, it’s incredibly likely that there are a whole bunch of people who would work well for you. Running into any of them isn’t certain, of course, but the more you date the better your chances get.

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      • Amen to that! Add in a heightened sense of the absurd and a robust sense of humour, and you have the perfect mix.

        I need an Igor, qvick!

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  4. Interesting read, albeit not exactly shocking reveals! :D
    But it is nice to have rare occasion like this where such basic problems are articulated in a reasonable fashion without cliche finger pointing – in fact I think a lot of what you raise here as lack-of-maturity is something that transcends national borders and all. It’s socio-culturally endemic.
    I was quite happy to see that most of it I seemed to fall on the reasonable side of things – except the staying awake late and always late in the morning thing, that’s one that I can’t deny! …though partying and getting hammered has little to do with it 90+% of the time.

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    • heheh fair enough. the staying up late thing is ok if you can handle your life, im referring to peopl who can’t/ like a flatmate i had whose alarm used to ring from 830 to 10 at ten minute intervals and still would only wake up when i shook him.

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      • Makes sense – when I used to have friends crashing or on road tripes who were like that, I’d throw things at them from across the room until they had no choice but to wake up. Whatever was within reach.
        You are clearly kinder than me in this regard.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes this blog is teaching me that I’m the kindest person on the world :D I also can’t throw so that wouldn’t work for me

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    • Now I’m really curious what sam’s comment is supposed to mean in the context of the original post. Also, the country (by which I mean its citizenry) is actually getting older, not younger, thanks to growing life expectancy.

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  5. I had heard of the blog but only started reading it last night from the beginning and am up to speed as of now. It really is an interesting premise and sometimes, I could relate to your writing so much, I felt like I was there. I haven’t tried OKC but Tinder has left me rather disillusioned. I’m attempting to write something on similar lines but also because I was involuntarily sucked into the arranged marriage conundrum and somehow, I have a belief that writing will help me make sense of it, deal with it and help in pursuing my dream of writing. Coming back to your blog, it is an entertaining read and had me hooked! I do hope you find someone to go on many dates with. :)

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