Friday, 21 February 2014

21/02/14 - Growing Up

Realising that you’ve become a grown-up without noticing is somewhat unnerving. When I look in the mirror, I still see the teenage me; admittedly, this reflection has become somewhat squidgier and crinklier in recent years, but I don’t see a sensible person. This is perhaps misguided, given the whole being married/having a baby/doing two jobs scenario, but hey, that’s real life for you. You know that scene in Peep Show where Jeremy is panicking about having the plumber round because ‘he might realise I’m not proper’? That’s pretty much my outlook on life – it’s one long stream of charlatan acts, with the Sword of Damocles hanging over me, waiting to strike down when somebody spots that I’m just pretending to be a grown-up. I actually have no idea what being an adult entails, and it seems like everybody else knows what they’re doing, so I just keep my head down. Shhh. It’s our secret.

Still, there are signs of adulthood here. Little things that creep into reality that, when you step back and take a broader view, you realise that you’ve been doing for some time. Things that your parents did when you were a kid, and you were convinced that you’d never have any interest in. For example:

Gin & tonic
I remember the first time I tasted a gin & tonic. We were on holiday in France, and I took a sip of my mum’s drink thinking it was my glass of lemonade. I was wrong. It was not. It was, in fact, an evil beverage of unfathomable bitterness. Why on earth would anybody choose to drink such a repulsive thing?
I was flabbergasted. I questioned the validity of a number of my mother’s decisions at that point. I mean, come on – if she’s unhinged enough to drink something as godawful as that for pleasure, what else could she have been wrong about?
No, obviously it was me who was wrong. Never question your mother, she’s almost certainly right.
My teen years saw a dawning realisation of the merits of gin, largely born of that teenage necessity to get drunk on whatever’s nearby, regardless of provenance. The more you drink gin, the more you grow to like it. I’m a big fan now. It was worth persevering with it.

(These won’t all be beverage-related, these are just the first things that come to mind.)
Much like with gin, I found it hard to understand why grown-ups should wish to drink something so tongue-curlingly bitter. Sure, coffee smells delicious, but it tastes awful and makes your breath stink. What’s the point?
They were my initial thoughts, at least. I drink coffee every day now. The increasing prevalence of high street coffee chains suggests I’m not alone in this. And the fact that my bus to work in the mornings is generally full of schoolkids who’ve picked up a McCoffee on the way tells me that today’s youth have leapfrogged the ‘urgh, it’s so bitter!’ step entirely, bless ’em.

Watching the evening news
Oh, boring. Who cares about that, when there’s a repeat of Whose Line Is It Anyway on Channel 4? Why are we watching this, dad? I’m eleven, I don’t care about the AIDS crisis or an embassy siege, I want to watch Greg Proops improvising with a suggestively-shaped piece of foam.
Actually, the ten o’clock news is pretty well-timed for me these days. I watch it before I go to bed, it neatly rounds off the evening. Yes, I’m 31 and I go to bed at 10:30 on weekdays. Shut up, I’ve got a toddler.

Grocery shopping
When you’re at school, you spend the whole week counting down the hours until it’s the weekend – a time of no obligations or commitments, when you can just do what the hell you want and enjoy being young and carefree. So when a parent informs you that you’re going to spend a whole hour of your weekend at the local supermarket, your heart sinks. No, not sinks, plummets. How incredibly, mind-numbingly tedious. There is literally no joy whatsoever to be derived from tramping around a slightly cold shop when you could be climbing trees, building model kits or watching cartoons. Even the momentary amusement of putting random grocery items in the trolley is quashed by the inevitability of said items being spotted and discarded. Yawn. Grump.
…but of course, as a grown-up, you have to buy food or you’ll die. Thankfully it’s the twenty-first century, so you don’t actually have to go out into the real world and interact with the public, you can just get Ocado to bring it to your door. So that actually doesn’t feel particularly grown up at all.

Buying things with no discernible element of fun
Light bulbs. Toothpaste. Fuses. Cling film. Being an adult means you have to spend your money on things that will bring you no tangible pleasure whatsoever. Sticky plasters? Smoke alarms? Contents insurance? Growing up sucks. You can’t play with any of those things.

Buying cheap clothes, even though you don’t have to
Clothes seem pretty important when you’re a child. Part of this is down to our school uniform culture. When you have a non-uniform day, it’s like a fashion parade.
As an aside, here’s a story. Until the age of eight, I attended a tiny little primary school in Greatham, Hampshire where my dad was the headmaster. It was a fun place with a strong community spirit, and a couple of times a year we’d have something called ‘silly clothes day’, where instead of wearing your uniform (which was pretty cool in itself – the jumpers said ‘Greatham is Great’ in big red letters) you’d come to school in as silly an outfit as possible.
We moved to Herne Bay in 1990, and my new primary school was rather grittier. The first non-uniform day they had, I turned up in the silliest outfit I could cobble together. Everyone else was flaunting their Air Max and their Adidas shellsuits. I was a laughing stock. But hey, I’m largely over it now.
The point is, I grew into a bit of a trainer geek in my teenage years and, being a basketball fan, always coveted the latest Air Jordans. I knew that I’d be able to buy them one day; I kept pointlessly asking for a pair, always expecting the answer to be ‘no’, in the knowledge that when I was an adult I’d be able to buy all the Air Jordans I wanted.
I’ve still never owned any. What’s the point of paying £130 for a pair of trainers? That can pay the Sky bill for two months and still leave enough for a takeaway.

Choosing cheese over dessert

This, to a child, seems utterly barmy. You’re in a restaurant, poring over the dessert menu, torn between the banoffee pie and the chocolate fudge sundae, trying to figure out some kind of bargaining tactic so that you can get both. Your saliva glands are going into overdrive at the prospect of that sweet, sugary mass of goop that will soon be gumming your lips together and filling your belly like a sucrose football.
…and then your dad opts for the cheeseboard. Er, what the fuck? You want to eat cheese instead of having a pudding? What’s wrong with you? I’m starting to question your choices too now, dad.
Kids are dumb, aren’t they? Cheese is amazing.

Christ, it seems I really am a grown-up. That enchanted portrait in the attic is doing fuck all.

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