The other day I was in Target (by myself–I can’t remember exactly what miraculous circumstances came together to make that possible but it was a glorious occasion indeed), speed-walking like I do when I’m alone and on a mission. I edged past a woman pushing a cart, and she saw me and pulled her daughter gently out of my path.
“Watch out for that lady, honey.”
“Oh, you’re fine,” I said, flashing the pair a smile as I defaulted to my ‘extra accommodating and friendly to strangers’ persona like I do when I’m alone and in public. Something about what she had said struck me as weird but it didn’t hit me until several full seconds later.
I cocked my head to the side. (Mentally, at least. I did not in fact stop in the middle of the frozen foods aisle to tilt my head in a perplexed manner.)
I’m not ‘that lady‘! I’m that girl!
It was a small lexical swap but for some reason it niggled at me. I have spent the better part of the last 8 years being mistaken for a 16-year old. It’s ingrained into my psyche. Tell me about yourself: I look like a high schooler. People assume I’m babysitting when I’m out with my kids. I only get hit on by boys that aren’t old enough to vote. I am a girl, not a woman.
But somehow, sometime over the past decade, I became a woman. And I guess I’m just wondering when exactly it happened because I seem to have missed it.
Yesterday my mom and I went Christmas shopping. After getting distracted at Target and a shoe store we went to the mall to actually buy some gifts for other people. It was crawling with teenagers, and I realized as I observed them hanging in their groups and wearing their fashionable clothes and texting or whatever the hell else adolescents do on their nice phones these days that they were like a foreign species to me.
Wait. When did I stop being able to relate to teenagers?
I used to get teenagers, used to feel like one of them. When did I go from “HELLO, MY FELLOW ANGSTY BRETHREN!” to “Could you please explain to me the purpose of snapchat?”
I mean, I guess I am a woman. I’ve been married for five and a half years and have two kids and I pay bills and go grocery shopping and have love handles and shit like that.
But in my head I still feel like that awkward, hopeful 16-year old girl. The change happened so subtly that sometimes I still look around at my life and think, Okay, whose brilliant idea was it to give me all these adult responsibilities?
I wonder if you ever really feel grown up. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you don’t magically get everything figured out one day like I always assumed. Maybe a lot of us are still teenagers in our minds, and we’re all just winging it through adulthood.
Was there a defining moment when you suddenly felt “grown up”? Or do you, like me, have serious doubts that you’ll ever actually qualify as an adult?