5 Things People Mistake for Being Grown-Up
Aging is inevitable, but maturity isn't. Some people go their whole lives and never gain any of the attributes of age: a polished skill set, wisdom, perspective. But even worse than all the people tearing through their existences without learning a thing are those who believe, wrongly, they've found the key to being grown-ups.
Rather than actually learning or growing, these people feign the act with simple tricks that have as little to do with maturity as Cracked's Felix Clay not getting off sexually to roadkill. Sure, there are always exceptions to any list, but here are five lame tactics that people mistake for signs of maturity.
Refusing to Argue
When people think of bratty children, the image of a petulant, disagreeable kid arguing about everything comes to mind. Maybe that's why some people come to see any form of debate as immature. To be sure, throwing a hissy fit and screaming, "No, no, no!" when someone disagrees with you is definitely the mark of an immature asshole, but when conflicts arise, silence is not the behavior of a grown-up.
If someone is silent in the face of a disagreement or a potential disagreement, there are several possibilities: they are frightened and incapable of dealing with conflict; they have absolutely no respect for the person they disagree with and feel the contrary opinion is unworthy of debate; or they lack the ability to articulate the superiority of their own opinion. Those are the reasons for silence: fear, arrogance, or stupidity. Did you see how maturity is nowhere on that list?
"Perhaps I didn't, but I'm not going to argue about it with you."
"I don't like conflict," people say. I get it. No one but the worst people in the world enjoys conflict, but if we're talking about growing emotionally, becoming better people, then we have to try. And if you're patting yourself on the back for being mature when you're just enabling your disability, you'll never grow. Some people also get hung up on the word "argument," because arguing can mean petty bickering. Sure it can mean that, but it can also refer to theoretical or logical arguments -- debate.
There is one limited exception to this rule, and that is when you are dealing with wholly unreasonable people. Y'know, the old axiom about not feeding trolls can be true. But, again, if personal growth is the goal, and it should be, you have to be sure you're not calling everyone a troll simply because you're too uncomfortable, arrogant, or inarticulate to defend your point of view. You have to be sure every debate you're avoiding is not a mere petty argument. If you're doing that, great! But odds are you've taken too much comfort in your silence, claiming a high road you never earned.
Playing Devil's Advocate All the Time
"Wait a second," you say. "First you want us to engage in debate and now you're saying we're immature for playing devil's advocate? What the fuck is wrong with you?"
To you, I reply, "Aha! I knew you never loved me, mother!"
Anyway, I understand the reaction, but there is a difference. Point #5 was about being willing and able to articulate your contrary point of view, which is admirable. The refusal to try is not a sign of being old and wise. It is a sign of being jaded. Not the same thing. But playing devil's advocate is not about articulating your feelings; it's about expressing any contrary opinion. It's reveling in your ability to simply provide the other side of the argument.
"Yes, but have you considered ... THE OPPOSITE OF THAT?"
Too many times people play devil's advocate simply because they can, not for the proper reason of helping another see a problem more completely. You will see this in any comment thread, Facebook posting, or Reddit discussion. People putting forth the other side, simply for the purpose of putting forth the other side, in a false belief that being contrarian is inherently wise. It's not. It can be. It depends. But it's not a shortcut to convincing others how mature you are.
A person who is actually mature can arrive at the truth of a matter without reflexively gainsaying everything put before them. You don't get points just for understanding the other side of the argument; you prove yourself a grown-up by knowing whether or not there is validity to discussing alternative points of view.
At some point, people tell you growing up is about being quiet. About keeping an even temper. About going through life at a steady pace. Someone, somewhere spread a nasty rumor that being mature means using your inside voice all the time.
I think it was this guy.
Anyway, I'm here to tell you that is a lie. Being calm and quiet makes you boring, not mature. You get your thumb caught in a drawer, you scream, "Motherfucker!" You see your co-worker slip on an actual banana peel and throw his feet into the air, going full parallel to the ground before falling on his head, you laugh your ass off. That is not immaturity; that's being alive.
And maybe those are the extreme examples. Maybe that was never your style, so let's go with finding out your wife is pregnant, having your boyfriend propose, getting that promotion, getting that scholarship. There are extreme wonderful and terrible things in life, and absolutely nothing about being a grown-up requires you to take those events and mute your response. Reflect on all the events of your day. When big things happen, you can be big. There is no award for absorbing all the energy of the day's events and compressing it into a tiny smile or grimace.
Drinking the Right Beverages the Right Way
There are many things that make us big boys and girls, but what we put in our glasses and how we drink it isn't one of them. Have you ever seen people bragging about drinking their coffee black? "Oh, no, no milk and sugar for me. I went through puberty!"
As I got older, I stopped putting sugar in my coffee. It wasn't because I was a wiser, more sophisticated person. It was because I didn't want to get fat. It's not a sign of anything other than my commitment to being the sexiest columnist I can be for you, the Cracked reader. So go ahead, drink your coffee any way you want knowing that the only thing drinking coffee black gets you is the setup to make that Airplane! joke about taking your coffee like your men.
You find a lot of Scotch drinkers bragging about their refined tastes too, as if sucking back Glenlivet comes with grayed temples and a smoking jacket. Indeed, I think I might have even done that on Twitter years ago in reply to Soren Bowie saying he hated Scotch. It was fun to call Soren a silly boy, too immature to understand the complexities of a smoky beverage, but of course that's bullshit. Maturity is earned by the passing of time and the willingness to grow. You can't bottle it.
Giving Up Childhood Joys
This is a classic mistake, and it's easy to understand. If the simplest definition of being a grown-up is that it's the opposite of being a child, then the simplest shortcut to maturity is to do everything differently from when you were a child. And that wrong-headed notion has people suddenly refusing to do all sorts of things, like seeing Disney movies, skipping, singing out loud, or drinking through a Krazy Straw.
Make no mistake, being a grown-up sucks. You have fears you never had. You have obligations you never wanted. You often don't have time to do all the stupid shit you loved doing as a child. But how much needlessly sadder is adulthood if you willingly deprive yourself of all the things you used to enjoy? Whom are you trying to impress? Who told you grown-ups couldn't have action figures? That's not the symbol of maturity.
No, maturity is measured by the proper use of "who" and "whom." THANK YOU!
I'm not saying you need to go out of your way to be an infantile child. People grow and change. I don't play with my Star Wars figures anymore, but I didn't stop because I was trying to impress anyone. And as I think about it now, I'm not sure why I stopped drinking with a Krazy Straw, because those things were fucking awesome and I miss it. I have literally just decided I'm going to buy one and start using it again, because while I'm being mature by arguing -- but not needlessly playing devil's advocate -- and laughing at people who slip on banana peels, I'll be drinking my Macallan with a Krazy Straw, because I'm a mature adult, motherfuckers.
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