Give me independence

I’ve had a series of realizations about independence and adulthood that began last year when I woke up clutching a half-eaten turkey leg.

I had been out with several friends last Thanksgiving night seeing a local band and we decided to go back to my apartment for some turkey sandwiches and wine. In a scene worthy of Animal Planet, we discarded the whole sandwich idea and ripped into the bird like vultures on a carcass. The song “Illegal Alien” by Genesis began playing on the radio and we started dancing in a circle around the coffee table. “The sun is shining so I head for the park with a bottle of Tequila and a new pack of cigarettes.” Soon, turkey parts became instruments — legs were maracas, breasts became guitars, a thigh was a triangle.

“It’s no wonder I was seated at the kid’s table today,” my friend said, drumming the air with a turkey leg.

Little clusters of “no shits” erupted around the room and people began sharing their we moved out, rented those tiny city apartments that always seem to reek of potatoes, paid our bills, and still managed to go out four-to-five nights a week experiences as the renegade diners at the holiday table. As I was having a flashback of a four-year-old passing me the cranberry sauce that afternoon, one of my friends launched into a horrific story of how she was accosted during dessert after talking about the trip she’d just taken to Spain.

“I guess that’s what you can do when you wait so long to have children,” a smarmy cousin slurred.

Similar insolence had befallen the others.

When another friend began talking about her plans to see a local band that night, she was assaulted with sighs. “When are you going to get it out of your system?”

A family member asked my 33-year-old male friend if he were planning on getting engaged to his long-time girlfriend. When he informed his fellow diners they’d recently broken up, he was met with eye rolls and groans. “When are you going to grow up and settle down?”

Realization #1 I realized my friends — men and women in their 20s and 30s, all of different personalities and energies — shared a common trait. While they all owned their own homes, had fantastic careers and social lives, they were somehow not perceived as fully-evolved adults.

In an age when we’re supposedly oh-so-enlightened, it’s appalling that certain stigmas are still attached to people – both single and married — who don’t conform to a certain lifestyle. We’re all on the “birth, school, work, death” path the Godfathers so eloquently sang about, but there are unlimited ways to fill the spaces in between. The only theory we could derive from some of our relatives’ comments was that in order to be viewed as true adults, we needed to develop an aversion to live music, move to a pre-fab neighborhood in the suburbs and abandon all sense of fashion.

Are people who finish college and move in to Greg Brady-esque hideaways in their parents’ homes “more adult” than those who have lived on their own? You know the type – they are the secret squirrels that hide their co-dependence behind separate phone lines but actually live in pimped-up versions of their childhood bedrooms until they get married.

Realization #2 Marriage isn’t necessarily Miracle Gro for maturity. Just because someone walks down the aisle earlier in life, he/she doesn’t suddenly develop clearer judgment, accept criticism more gracefully, or become more accountable for his/her mistakes.

An old co-worker of mine got married at 23 and had three children by 30. For years, I envied him for knowing exactly what he wanted at such a young age. When I spotted him recently at a bar downtown, sitting on a stool and relieving himself into a pint glass, the awe seeped away and things became clearer. Still, I am sure this genius scores a place at the adult table every year.

Realization #3 The price of independence is indeed high. Tackling the responsibilities and challenges of living on your own are indeed a measure of maturity that should be lauded, not disparaged.

To me, adulthood is all about self-reliance. Most of my friends and I have lived on our own since we were 21. During the recession of the early 90s, we supported My friend came bursting into a party last week declaring she’d “hit the mother load” and began tossing out Bonne Bell watermelon lip gloss. It was a great night ourselves and our bad habits with temp jobs – some of which were truly ghastly. One particularly heinous assignment involved dressing up like the CopyCop in a royal blue leotard, a red cape and a giant British policeman’s hat, and handing out coupons in downtown Boston.

Despite some of the horrors, we moved out, rented those tiny city apartments that always seem to reek of potatoes, paid our bills, and still managed to go out four-to-five nights a week, make it to work (almost) every day, and rent a house on Nantucket each summer. Of course, everyone was looking for love but nobody was sitting around making gimp bracelets waiting for their spouses to arrive before their lives could begin.

Realization #4 It is possible to grow up and retain your spirit. There’s something to be said for spreading out milestones and letting the phases of life flow into one another. I’m not saying you should blare the Ghetto Boys or spark one up in the baby’s room, but you get the picture.

Let’s face it, there are some people — a blur of Jagermeister and most pits behind them — who today spend their Friday nights at Pampered Chef parties. Some would call this “growing up.” But, of course, we all know that is complete bullshit. It’s a matter of taste, not maturity. The people who would rather die than miss Radiohead are not any less mature than their Pampered Chef counterparts. One person may have a penchant for bathroom tile and topiaries and another may prefer to decorate her home with Star Wars PEZ dispensers — Neither should be considered any less of an adult for the way she chooses to live her life.

My friend Kelley came bursting into a party last week declaring she’d “hit the mother load” and began tossing out Bonne Bell watermelon lip gloss (ages six and up) to all of her friends. It was a great night.

When I got married, some spooky Stepfords that used to work in my building were shocked that I didn’t begin hurtling toward housecoats and stop staying out past 9 p.m. My husband and I enjoy ourselves immensely but people instantly labeled us DINKS (double-income-no-kids) because they figured we must have been dancing around with lampshades on our heads five nights a week since we didn’t have children. WTF.

Realization #5 There will always be judgmental sourpusses who live to dish out their disapproval. Most of us would just as soon leap into the bathtub with a curling iron than change places with these miserable folks.

I recently mastered houseplants and have moved on to wildflowers and a pug. I revel in the fact that I have a lot to look forward to. In the meantime, I plan to expend my energy seeing bands twice a week, going for tapas and cocktails after work, and occasionally stumbling in at 3 a.m. And if I happen to wake up with a piece of poultry in my hand again, I’ll deal with it – like an adult — and keep it to myself.

Kate Jackson See all posts by this author
is a freelance writer based in Boston, Mass.
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