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16 February 2010 @ 09:29 pm
"What is a grown-up?"  
One of my grad students came in this morning and said, "This question came up in class [Adult Ed] last night, and no one could satisfactorily define it. 'What is a grown-up?'"

My first question was, "Grown-up or adult?" and my second was, "If grad students who study this sort of thing can't answer it, why are you asking me?"

Anyway, my answer was, "A grown-up is someone who assesses risks and rewards before taking action, and acts to minimize the risks and maximize the rewards, while doing as little harm to others as possible."

So, for example, it's acceptably grown-up to put your best foot forward when applying for and interviewing for a job, even though it's almost certain that if you are hired, someone else will be harmed by not being hired. It's not acceptable or grown-up to actively sabotage another candidate. By my definition.

However, I don't study these things, and so I'm probably wrong, and so I would be interested in how you would define a grown-up.
Adrian Turtleadrian_turtle on February 17th, 2010 08:34 pm (UTC)
I have a lot of problems with defining "grown up" in terms of style. I think it's wrong, regardless of the specific style markers one uses for "grown up" or "not grown up." If you treat children and adults with respect, it might not be harmful...but it would still be wrong.

Whether you like DisneyWorld, or Vegas, or both, or neither, doesn't have anything to do with being a grown-up. They're both designed to get people to forget their usual responsibilities for an exciting vacation where they spend too much money...being a grown-up would mean things like saving up to afford it, and coming home from vacation and going back to work on time.

How fashionable your clothes are is beside the point. (So is the kind of music you like, and the kind of movies you watch, and the kind of books you read, btw.) I'm not sure what it means for a car to be "practical," beyond the fact that it should not break down.* It's very easy to confuse personal style, lifestyle, and maturity. I don't mean "lifestyle" as a code for sexual orientation. I'm talking about living in a walkable community or driving everywhere, having kids or not, traveling (often? where?), doing or watching sports (what kind?) ... you know--the style of a person's LIFE.

is a person who takes their children to DisneyWorld because the kids would like rather than go to Vegas because they would like it.

I also have a problem with the idea that acting for somebody else's happiness is always more grown-up (or better) than acting for your own. I agree with Starcat Jewel about the need for grownups to recognize when their own needs have to take priority. There's nothing childish about: Secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.

*Just last month, didn't we all think of those Prius owners as being so practical and sensible? When hybrid technology was brand-new, and geeks and environmentalists were all excited about buying them, were those purchases less grown-up? And do Prius owners become less practical as we discover the problems at Toyota?