We’re not very good at being ‘grown-ups’. But that’s probably ok. Maybe.
Someone recently described my bedroom as being “a teenager’s bedroom”.
It’s been really bothering me ever since.
Granted, it was a particularly messy day. A day when I had thrown a lot of my belongings around in a sort of very modern dance routine aided by my stage partners Gin and Tonic, and yes, I’ve written on here before about my constant need to hoard and be surrounded by crap. A few things that happened in the days that followed the “teenager’s bedroom” analysis made me feel like I am being a bit of a rubbish ‘grown-up’ at the moment. And always.
I’ve done some relatively grown-up-ish things recently. I attempted to deal with fifteen years of disturbing WWII-themed nightmares by photographing an educational trip to Poland with some holocaust survivors. That’s pretty grown-up. Except that my mum was also there. And I didn’t cry much because I was too busy taking photos. And there were some people on the trip I had known since I was 11. Which made me feel 11 a bit. And definitely made me act like I was 11 a bit. But then I had to do some grown-up things like deal with newspaper people to get the photos published. That was fun. But it was pretty stressful. I don’t really enjoy having to deal with admin or staying up late working or speaking to important people on the telephone.
(The nightmares haven’t gone, incidentally. But they are now in colour rather than black and white. No, YOU need therapy)
I have been applying for jobs. I quite like my job but working for a charity means I have approximately £12 to survive on each week. I’d quite like to do something else, and have started doing Actual Writing In An Actual Newspaper. I like that. But I did that as a student and as a graduate so it doesn’t feel very grown-up, really. I sit in an office all day, which is something grown-ups do. I sit in the corner at the back though, so no one can see how much time I spend on twitter, or bidding for old copies of Smash Hits or original Tintin postcards on ebay.
I’ve been spending a lot of time with my youngest godson recently. He is cute and brilliant and it is always a pleasure to, well, to be able to give him back after twenty minutes, much as I love him. Mainly because despite being almost 1 and being able to stand up for long enough to throw everything off of my bookshelves, he refuses to say my name. RUDE. But for a brief minute, about two weeks ago, I thought OH MY ACHING OVARIES I WANT TO HAVE BABIES REALLY SOON.
I don’t though. I really like the pub and gin and not making it home and sleeping in late and not having anyone to answer to.
My life isn’t massively different from the way it was at 17. I like a lot of the same music. I’m still not friends with my mum. At family dinners, I still blow raspberries to my brother across the table. I still can’t keep quiet enough in museums or exhibitions. I am amazing at hide and seek. I still prefer reading Tintin books to learning about the Russian revolution. I’ll always reach for my scruffy trainers to go with a pretty dress instead of a pair of smart shoes. I make up silly nicknames for people. I spent 89% of my time daydreaming. I still don’t know what I really want to do with my life and I’m still not particularly good at any one particular thing.
I’m not one for comparing people, but everyone in my family had reached certain ‘life goals’ by my age that I’m not even really that interested in yet. I remember my mum’s 30th birthday really clearly, and now it’ll be mine in a few months.
What makes you feel like a grown-up? How do you know? How can you tell? I’ve already got all of the hair so I know it isn’t that.
Is it Paying bills? Having babies? Having a job? You can do those things and still act like a childish idiot with the bedroom of a teenager and the mind of a teenager and the wardrobe of a teenager and the income of a teenager and the view of the world of… you get it.
I owned a house once. (With a boy. Mistake. Break-up. Uni. etc etc). I was definitely not a grown-up then. I was 21 and didn’t even own a hairbrush but I owned a bit of a house.
I’ve upped sticks and moved to other cities and even the other side of the world.
I’ve been on holiday all by myself and didn’t even cry until right near the end of it but that was mainly because of a moth.
I don’t feel like a grown-up. I met a really nice man the other day who was like a proper sensible smartly-dressed grown-up man with a career and ambition and nice clothes and I just thought – you’re lovely but I can’t really imagine playing on the swings with you.
When I was five my Nan bought me a toy sweet shop, it was AMAZING. Not only did it contain a real working till with toy money, it also had rows and rows of little jars containing real sweets REAL SWEETS!! Suddenly I wasn’t just ‘Nina Tame 5 year old from Dagenham’ I was ‘Nina Tame works in a sweet shop! (in Dagenham)’ This was a big deal. I mean it still didn’t make up for the fact that I didn’t get the Mr Frosty that I actually wanted but it was good. I felt like a grown up, I had responsibilities now, there would be imaginary customers to serve. My moment had come.
I ate all the sweets.
I ATE THEM ALL. Feverishly I tipped each one of those tiny jars into my greedy little mouth and I ate them all up. I ate all my own stock. In about 60 seconds. Quickly realising I had fucked up my budding new business I burst into tears.
That’s pretty much how I’ve been ever since.
Nowadays though I think I have more grown up moments with fleeting kid moments in between. I’m not being all smug saying I’m a grown up though, I actually think it’s a bit rubbish and I’d like to be a kid more. I think some of it’s to do with being a Mum (I’m gonna do that thing that all Mums do when they’re about to slag off being a parent which is to say ‘I bloody love being a Mummy, best most rewarding job EVER’) I really really do BUT it’s hard, I’m responsible for two real human beings. I have to make sure they eat more than just sausages and biscuits. I have to make sure they’re happy and content and warm and dry. They get to school on time, they haven’t shoved anything in their nose/mouth/ears/bum. That they don’t talk to strangers, don’t play with fire, don’t strangle themselves on anything, don’t stroke dogs they don’t know. Keep them clean, entertained and make sure to give equal amounts of attention to both or they get pissy. The list is endless!! It was hard enough being responsible for a couple of guinea pigs when I was 9. I killed my first ever Goldfish. Kids though, IMAGINE THE RESPONSIBILITY! Also I’m so annoyingly Mum like now, sometimes I’ll launch into a massive long lecture, flap my arms around a bit and sigh and say something about how unappreciated I am and would they like a new Mummy. Five year old me would think I’m a right annoying bore.
Of course there’s a flip side to this though, sometimes I’m a brilliant grown up. I give big cuddles and sing silly made up bed time songs. I give magic kisses that make everything better and I always let them lick the bowl. I listen to them, I tell them how brilliant they are and how they can be whatever they want to be. We watch films snuggled up under blankets and sing our heads off in the car. We go out for milkshakes. We all share a deep love for Jim Henson. We tell each other we love each other ‘all the numbers in the world’ every day. Five year old me would think I was ace.
I guess the same contrast applies to the kid side of me as well. I’d say I’m a brilliant big kid sometimes. Whether that’s playing with the boys and dressing up as Batgirl or being silly and free and that whole thing about dancing like no ones watching. Corny yes but totally true. Myself and my friend found ourselves dancing like absolute crazies in our kitchen to some god awful song the other day because two four-year olds asked us to. It was wicked. Whenever I take myself out of my normal routine and do something different I get that same excitement I did when I was a kid. There’s nothing I love more than going off on crazy adventures and switching off from the real world for a bit.
Then there’s the other side of being a kid, the being sulky and stroppy, feeling insecure and a bit needy. Taking things personally and having a little pout and a cry. I’m a horror if I fall asleep on the sofa at night and have to be woken up. I moan and whine ‘I DON’T WANNA GET UP. JUST LEEEAVE ME HERE!’ It’s quite pathetic. I still haven’t managed to get a hold of my finances and I eat way too much cake.
I think during an average day I probably slip into each of these roles at some point, some more than others. Most days I’m definitely ruled by my grown up side, good and bad. I think for a really good life though I should spend less time in moany grumpy adult and more time being a carefree kid. Life would be utterly boring for me if I was a grown up all the time, if I lost that sense of magic and awe. As with most things in life it’s all about finding that balance, being a grown up when you need to be but also letting yourself go sometimes and being a big kid and having all the fun and adventures.