So I turn 40 in a few months, which is decidedly ancient and whilst I feel like my body is slowly decaying and ageing in an endless pursuit towards old age and inevitable death, I also am still wondering, when will I actually feel like a real grown up?
I can say with certainty that in the past 6 years since having kids I have aged several decades but I don’t really feel any more mature.
Yeah, I am more responsible than I was, I am managing to keep little humans alive after all, but inside my actual head I still kind of feel like an imposter, playing a grown up.
Once upon a time I would play chicken with the morning alarm, and snooze it over and over until I had 20 minutes in which to get ready and leave. I would forgo eating or drinking for the sake of 5 more sweet minutes of semi slumber. Now I am awake appropriately every 2 hours dealing with some kind of annoying small human problem (pissed the bed, scared of the dark, wanting to know the meaning of life, you know, the usual).
It’s not that I’m not tired anymore because I am bloody broken most of the time and I would love a good sleep but the choice is removed. And it’s not because I am a more responsible adult than before, It’s because if I don’t, Si isn’t waking, he would sleep through the blitz, and then the kids would wake the neighbourhood.
Friday nights I used to get home from Uni or work and have drinks with flat mates and drink until 10:30 at night and then LEAVE THE HOUSE! Yup. Heading out after my current bedtime. That was the actual night out start time. We’d turn up to a club at 11:30pm and stay until the lights came on at 3am.
Back then it was also standard practice to go on a magical mystery tour of London on the night bus route, going from one depot at the end of the line to the other, because you had fallen asleep and the driver couldn’t be arsed to wake you.
I’d get home at 5am, have a cuppa, a shower and a power nap then head to work in retail for 9am, grabbing Mc D’s on the way.
These days if it’s past 8pm you can be fucked if you think I’m watching a film on the telly, oh no it’s way too late. If anyone dared invite me to an event starting at 7pm onwards I will get a nervous eye twitch.
I haven’t been on a night bus for nearly a decade. I feel uneasy walking back home on the school run in winter when it gets dark at 4pm.
When I was in my 20’s my idea of a meal was super noodles or a mountain of cheesy fries with beans mixed in. I now cook nearly everything from scratch but I saw Jamie Oliver’s preteen kid cooking gourmet meals on TV a while back so I know the cooking of proper food is not the key to adulthood (and I will not deny the taste sensation that is cheesy chips and beans)!
Of course I am in fact a fully fledged adult now, but being a boring oldie doesn’t mean you FEEL like you’re grown up.
In many ways the way I feel emotionally has definitely changed. The idea of someone not liking me or being on my own used to terrify me. The world would fall apart if I thought a friend was mad with me or if I had an argument with a partner. There used to be no middle ground between normal and devastation. Everything was super highly charged.
It is quite different now. I’m quite ok with people not being a fan of me and where I once would have stomped off slamming the door as I left in full swing diva style, knowing full well I had an absolute 100% expectation for them to come running after me, I am now much more likely to want to just agree to disagree and go to bed.
There was a time when I would hide the tampons on the conveyor belt between other random objects out of embarrassment or never leave the house without make up. As I have got older, and perhaps more notably since having kids I couldn’t give a flying fuck.
Once you’ve opened the door to the postie not realising you have a tit entirely hanging out from breastfeeding, you kind of stop giving a damn.
Despite all this I could be surrounded by younger people, older people or even people the same age as me and think to myself, “all these people have their shit together, why am I still feeling like a big kid?”.
Is it because of the way I look and that I am essentially a walking rainbow, constantly changing my hair colour and wearing outrageously bright clothes?
Is it because I don’t own an ironing board and I only own trainers?
Perhaps it’s that my hobbies are in line with a preschooler and I’m all about the arts and crafts?
In reality I think it’s not so much about when I will feel like an adult, because I am one of course, but rather, when will I feel like a woman?
I don’t know what makes a woman but growing up I remember looking at my mum, teachers and generally most adult women and thinking that they were women.
The faces in magazines, on the TV; they are women.
When I was a child I thought when I turned 21 I would be a woman, and 21 came and I was a student, living one big party. I was far from my expectation of womanhood.
I thought there were life milestones I would reach that would make me a woman. Complete my masters degree, have a career, settle down and have kids.
I did all the ‘proper grown up shit’ I was supposed to and still don’t feel like a woman.
I don’t know what feeling like a woman means but this isn’t it. No amount of baking cakes or school runs is changing that.
Perhaps I feel womanhood is a look that I just don’t have? The absence of a hairstyle, a proper handbag and real lady shoes and having zero nails due to all the biting kind of keeps me in a special corner of grown up females that aren’t quite ladies? I have never worn a lipstick as I look like a clown.
I think it’s all bullshit really and no doubt like all problems that befall the female of the species, a problem likely created by men.
It’s the patriarchy that has shovelled media perfect woman ideals down our throats our whole lives. That pump out magazines that tell us the important issues we should be considering are what’s hot and what’s not and if indeed we are hot or not.
Are the men having similar crises of adulthood? Likely no, because you are inherently already called a man when you become an adolescent. They actually go from being a ‘Master’ to a ‘Mr’ overnight, having done zero to gain the title. And there is of course the narrative around men basically being big kids anyway, thus absolving them any pressure to be so. Which is hugely insulting to the intellect of men of course but also totally accepting of however they are.
The fact that at nearly 40 I am still a ‘Miss’ cannot help in this surely, even if just on a subconscious level? My partner and I decided to stick the finger to the traditional patriarchal ideals of marriage having no affinity with the concept of husband or wife and opted for a civil partnership. The virtue of Mrs is to be owned and changed by the partnership with a man. We opted therefore for no name change. Fundamentally if you do not Marry or change your name you never get the grown up title. Miss is fantastic whilst is is a proclamation of youth but once you age it is a symbol of remaining upon the shelf.
You can choose to move to Ms but that often has less favourable connotations associated with it such as the assumption of being a divorcee, despite its roots being very much in feminism and the strive for a title to allow women to move to an adult title without the need to marry. Men of course get to stay a Mister, regardless of circumstance.
Since becoming a mother It has really got me thinking differently about the notion of womanhood and what it means. Firstly a mother of a son and now also a daughter I want to smash this notion of ‘becoming a woman’. You don’t become anything. It’s a totally made up construct. By virtue of entering adulthood you are a man or a woman. There is no special ideal you need to reach to be worthy.
For me it’s clearer now more than ever that despite not feeling like I have it all together or that I fit the image of womanhood I gazed upon as a child, that actually nobody ever does. We just all look outwards to others, seeing them look like they know what they are doing and compare ourselves. When in reality we are all pretty much just winging it, regardless of the amount of stilettos or manicures we have.