Friday, December 20, 2013


Are You a Grown Woman? An Informal Survey

Here’s the only formal announcement I’ll make: my boyfriend and I are getting a domestic partnership. There’s no milestone we’ve reached, no prying relative we want to spurn by only getting a “sort of” union. There is only the question of his health insurance, which is running out.

I’m still trying to decide whether this is a big deal or not, for our relationship and for myself. He kept stressing that we didn’t have to if I didn’t want to. I was hesitant, but realized: a person I care about has a problem, and I could provide the solution. We were thinking about doing it anyway. I bucked up, kneeled down, and asked, “Will you be my dependent?” The date is TBD.

In 2013, for the first time, I’ve become a published writer, a lipstick wearer, a full time employee with benefits, a cohabiting girlfriend, a lease signer, pap smeared, tattooed, and now, soon, a domestic partner. In 2013, I turned 22. This week, The Cut profiled two photographers who interviewed millennials around the world; I read it and answered for myself the questions that the photographers had asked of all their subjects. Where are you from? New Haven. Who do you live with? My boyfriend and two friends. Do you consider yourself an adult? No, of course not.

“I’m not an adult by any means,” I wrote. The domestic partnership makes me feel like a good girlfriend, like a provider, like a supporter; but I am still sloppy and obnoxious and sometimes late. I very rarely brush my hair. I am intimidated, a lot. I don’t feel very grown up. “But I am definitely a woman.”

So now I’m wondering the difference.

Jen Gann, 28: I feel like an adult, and, yes, I feel like a woman. I'm married, though, which I think contributes to these feelings in a negative way. My marriage itself is a very positive experience, but I DO NOT enjoy the more public and social aspects of my experience as a "married woman" thus far.

Ellen Cushing, 25: I definitely don't feel like an adult (or a woman—those two terms feel pretty analogous to me). I'm in the process of trying to find a new apartment right now and sometime in my little pitch I describe myself as a "woman," as opposed to girl, and it feels awkward and unfamiliar every time. Which is crazy, kind of: chronologically, at least, I am an adult. I have a real-person job and a real-person relationship. I support myself. I know how to change the oil in a car and buy shoes that fit and do my taxes. I am pretty empirically an adult, but yet… Maybe I refuse to call myself one because that might somehow preclude me from the (scattered, increasingly uncommon but still totally satisfying) moments when I act very much NOT like an adult? Maybe me refusing to use that language is just self-serving? I think if I were married or my parents weren't alive and still acting like parents I might feel differently.

Akilah Hughes, 24: Do I consider myself an adult? Yes. But mostly because I have to, because my student loan collectors clearly consider me as such. Can't really get around that one.

Do I consider myself a woman? Yes. Ever since Doug showed me his wee-wee when we were 5 and I was horrified and told on him, I think that's when I realized that, yeah, I'm a woman. And no, I don't have to take your crap, Doug.

Ruth Graham, 33: So, I have kind of strong pro-"woman" feelings. I have thought of myself as a woman pretty much since college. I've been financially independent since then and have felt emotionally adult since then. To me, it doesn't have to do with living a flawlessly organized life. It has to do with a sort of inner security and confidence, an emotional equilibrium, and a willingness to take on responsibilities. I don't think it's WRONG to call yourself a girl, but I think you're selling yourself short! Womanhood is awesome.

Roxane Gay, 39: It is only in the past few years, having finished graduate school (2010) and gotten a career instead of merely a job that I've really felt like an adult. Part of it has been that I'm finally in a relatively financially secure place. I have crazy student loans but I can also make the monthly payment and not only being able to do this but recognizing how lucky I am for being able to pay my bills as a writer and writing teacher is when I realized, damn, I AM grown. When it comes to my personal life, I feel like less of an adult, because I'm not "settled" yet. I date inappropriate men and often make not so great choices and I am not so great with things like grocery shopping or taking good care of myself. I want to be, though, so maybe that desire is adult, too. What I do know is that each year I get older, the more comfortable in being an adult and owning adulthood.

Megan Reynolds, 31: Grown, like I said before, is a state of mind only, for me. There are mornings when I wake up and feel grown as shit, like I have my life together, and I’ve had coffee and I’m ready to take the day. Some days are more grown than others. Right now, because I’m not working I feel less grown, but I’m still hustling and paying things on time, so it evens out.

Woman feels like the kind of thing that people say to you after sex-ed class, when you leave the room clutching those bags of deodorant and tampons that they give out. It’s a weird word.

Heather Yamada-Hosley, 23: Adulthood is built upon several experiences, such as being financially independent and taking care of others in a way you didn't before, being partially responsible for someone else's well-being. A big part of adulthood is being able to step outside your own point of view and see the needs of others around you and take action.

To me, the most basic definition of being a woman is being over the age of 18 (could be slightly younger) but having accepted adult responsibilities. It also irks me that males above age 18 aren't usually referred to as "boy" but women are referred to as “girls.” And I think that devalues women in a way, implies they aren't as adult or as mature.

Michele, 35: I began to feel like an adult when, although I don't have kids, I started having to take care of people. My brother died at the age of 32, so I was left as an only child. Then, when my dad had a stroke and was rendered speechless and partially paralyzed, I, alone, had to make the decisions regarding his brain surgeries, hospital, condo, and everything else. He and my mom were divorced and his bank account, possessions, and everything else became something I had to start controlling.

Now, right before his stroke, I was very much still his little girl in many ways. I remember I got my MacBook Pro stolen the year before and he said, "I'll send you the money to replace it." My firm was going to replace it and I told him so and he said, "I'll still send you half." Even though I was grown, we still had this relationship where he expected to take care of me and I, a grown woman trying to become a partner in a law firm, was still letting him.

Lauren, 25: Okay, so a lot of this is tied up in how much I disliked college/academics. I grew up white, suburban, middle class, lots of privilege. Nonetheless, I worked in college because I wanted to stay completely, 100% debt free and took a lot more value in my work than in my grades, despite solid As and Bs. So I have always seen myself as more of an adult and more of a worker. I never wanted to be a student; I even graduated early because I hated writing papers at my small liberal arts college in the Pacific Northwest.

As for the woman thing, if sorority girls are mandated to call themselves "women" instead of girls, why the fuck am I not a woman? I am proud to be a woman and glad to be among this bombdotcom grown-ass half of the population. I'm a super-feminist too, and lady, it's not girl's rights, it's goddamn WOMEN'S rights. I have long railed against stupid, infantilizing terms like bitch and chick, so I am a woman. Or lady.

Layla, 25: I go back and forth on considering myself an adult. I think I am because I’m out of school and in the "real world," and because I'm a mature, rational person who can talk about sex, commitment, relationships without shame or fear. At the same time, my idea of being an adult is tied to financial independence. I feel like I'll be a real adult when I have a full-time job with benefits, pay for my own phone bill, and live in a place with a washer and dryer.

I have a weird relationship with the word "woman.” It conjures up images of Chico's, Lifetime movies, and Woman's World magazine to me, so it isnt a word I often use to refer to myself. Strangely, I don't feel that way about the word "women.”

Kat Ward, 28: I don't think being an adult necessarily HAS to be tied to financial stability. I think what's essential, whether you're an heiress or you're living in your parents’ spare bedroom, is to take personal responsibility for your choices and their consequences, doing your work (whatever it may be), and engaging with the world—particularly when it challenges you. And if we're lucky, we always have family and friends who can support us and back us up, so we can engage with the challenges of the world after a three-hour strategizing conversation with your bestie, and still claim adulthood.

I think realized womanhood comes differently for people—but I think the main thing is embracing all the messy, complex elements thrust upon us by our gender. When I was in college, I was still very definitely a girl; I was squeamish about sex and asking for/pursuing what I wanted vs. just pleasing partners. I was pro-choice, but not really engaged with what it meant to be a woman in America (institutional sexism, aggressive sexism, expectations public and private about your choices/plans). My personal womanhood standard is when you're ready to say, "Well, fuck this, I'm going to make and hold to my own opinions"—and then you roll up your sleeves and figure your shit out, stake out your personal stances (even if they're Ann Coulter-levels of wrong), and get set to hold them.

Alicia Kennedy, 28: In my early twenties, I went straight from living at home into living with the boyfriend I'd been with since I was 16. Marriage wasn't on the table for political reasons; kids weren't on the agenda for personal reasons. Those things were never going to grant me the womanhood I couldn't quite grasp, but our great home, cat, and the dinner parties we threw for friends were what I thought would. When the strain of ceaseless familiarity eventually broke us up after 11 years together, I moved from Long Island to Brooklyn. There I live with a few roommates, never cook, furniture is sparse, and I'm out almost every night. In my late twenties, I'm living more like one would expect of someone younger, but the independence has given me so much confidence—and the ability to comfortably call myself an adult, a woman. Letting go of some of the trappings of what I was told was the perfect existence has freed me from a lot of anxiety, because I hadn't been happy, and when I perhaps chance upon them again, I will do so knowing that they aren't what's essential to a good, adult life.

Ellie Shechet, 23: I don't feel like an adult because I don't work out or eat salads. I don't feel like an adult because my parents still help with my rent, I don't know how to file taxes, and I spend 80% of my free time watching Vanderpump Rules. I don't feel like an adult because I don't know what I'm doing with my life. I don't feel like a woman because I don't feel like an adult—and because I don't work out or eat salads. I also don't feel like a woman because I'm still waiting for my boobs to enter the final stage of boob growth illustrated in this “Learn About Your New Woman-Body" book my mom gave me in middle school. It shows this girl brushing her teeth topless in four or five stages as she grows older and her breasts get bigger—which, first of all, who brushes their teeth topless? Does this teen live in her own apartment? Is her concern for preventing the ruination of her sleep shirt via toothpaste-spatter greater than her fear of flashing an unexpected family member? Anyway, I never really seemed to move out of stage three, boob-wise, and I imagined adult-womanhood to involve clutching lots of people to my gigantic stage-five bosom.

Nina, 31: Adult, because it's nobody's responsibility to take care of me. I have prided myself on this since I first moved away from home, and now I live on the other side of the world from my whole family and am estranged from one of my parents, so it's important to define myself like that. I don't have the luxury of behaving like a kid anymore.

Woman, because gender is important to me. I work in film, and I often find myself having to remind people I am a woman when asked why I'm not interested in seeing the latest blockbuster, or why classic canon films don’t appeal to me.

These terms aren’t the same. It's possible to be female but not see yourself as gendered. I used to feel like that, but then I discovered feminism and decided to include womanhood as an important part of my identity.

Angie Hughes, 31: I have never felt like a woman. I feel like something in-between girl and woman (Britney nailed it). Person is the term I guess I'm most comfortable calling myself. Sometimes I use “lady” but slightly in jest. The word woman makes me think of some ultra-feminine force. Or someone very serious or very sexual. I have always been a bit of a goofy tomboy, so I have never identified with the term.

I DO feel like an adult. Because of a few things: I’m financially independent. My decisions are made by me and me only. And I feel responsible for my own actions.

Jia, 25: I actively resist spending any amount of time directly thinking about self-definition, and so although I'd say yes to both calling myself an adult and calling myself a woman, I even now am having a hard time really imputing any personal meaning to either of those words as they relate to me, my behavioral mood swings, the human quest to keep getting better despite our terrible ugly flaws. I do think there's an important assertion of self-possession that can be pulled out of both "adulthood" and "womanhood," but to me, the first-run meanings of both "adult" and "woman" have been so heavily shaped by men and advertising that the words have come to seem overly performative (I think the blossoming of Pinterest fervor in the early-twenties female demographic draws on the instinctual desire to perform both adulthood and womanhood "better") and either negatively referential ("I've shed all these bad, young aspects of myself") or instinctively defensive ("I'm a grown-ass woman and I'm going to switch from coffee to wine at 4 PM if I want to do so"). I generally just squirm when asked to consider myself, perhaps not in an adult or womanly manner, and run away to gain the true psychosexual meaning of all words via the videos of Beyonsay.

Carolyn, 34: I suppose I'm an adult? I've passed all the big age milestones: driving, voting, etc. I'm married, I own a house, pay the bills, have an accountant, own a business, and dress like a professional (some days). But, I don't have kids, and I'm still a big kid myself. I have Care Bears and a squadron of pegacorn on my desk, for chrissakes. So in the sense of checkboxes ticked, I'm an adult; inside, not so much.

Woman or girl is a question I've been trying to figure out for years. I don't think of myself as a “woman” unless we're talking sexy times, and then only conceptually. But I don't really fit the “girl” category. I am always shocked at how old I am, and always think when they're talking about women on tv they're really talking about someone 10 years older than I am. I thought this in my 20s, too. I guess it's an ever-moving target.

Jennifer, 25: I do consider myself an adult, but it's far removed from the type of "adulthood" I imagined when I was younger. It's strange because being in my mid-twenties, I "should" be an adult, and I guess I "am" an adult. I pay for my own rent, and I've been financially independent for years. I've held several jobs, and I can take care of myself. I suppose I will feel like an adult when I feel like it—it will be something I have to own and really feel/come to a conclusion to, on my own, it seems.

It's a struggle to see myself as a woman, when I a) do look young for my age and b) the term "woman" seems old or matronly, for some reason, and c) I rarely hear people refer to me as a woman.

But they aren't one and the same, adult and woman. There seems to be some type of divide between the two.

Basically, I'm waiting for "adulthood" to hit me. Adulthood means being able to own a dog. That kind of stability. As for "womanhood,” I think I'm still waiting for that to hit me too in some ways. I'm waiting for all the signifiers to make me feel like a "woman"—major curves (which I don't naturally have), the ability to do "domestic" or "womanly" things (although I don't at all think that makes someone more womanly)—being able to do hair and makeup flawlessly, blahblahblah. I guess being a woman to me is being a unicorn.

Corey, 30: I definitely consider myself an adult, even if I don't feel like one sometimes. I have a job, live independently, and have tons of bills that I have to pay every month. Responsibility makes adults of us all, I guess. I also definitely consider myself a woman. I don't really understand when women shy away from calling themselves as such! Why would I want to make myself anything less than I am?

Meagan Hatcher-Mays, 31: I do consider myself a woman, I guess, in the biological and societal sense. I present as a woman. People see me as a woman. But I don't ever use that word, "woman." "Woman" just feels like a milestone or something other people have achieved but I have not and I don't personally know anyone who has. A "woman" is like someone you cast for your commercial, not a real thing that exists. To that end, I feel like I've achieved some "womanly" feats. I'm married, to a dude, I own a car, I have a couple of degrees, I have good friends, and a pair of tiny dogs. I have a job. Those seem like the things a woman in a commercial would have, so I guess I'm a woman?

But as I get older I care less and less about labeling myself, especially when it comes to gender labeling. Milestones that used to seem culturally important to me now feel more like personal choices rather than goals, you know what I mean? Pigeonholing what it means to be a woman feels awfully exclusive and unfair to those who don't stack up to those traditional definitions.

As for being an adult… fuck! No! I do not think of myself as an adult! I remember being a kid and thinking to myself (FOR REAL), "I will be an adult when I'm 27." When I was 27 I was like, "Maybe I'll be an adult when I'm 60?" I keep waiting for this moment where I wake up and I'm like, "Ah, here it is. Here is this feeling of authority and power that denotes adulthood." It hasn't happened yet. Being an adult seems so wrapped up in responsibility and control and life never feels like that for me. This is why I still don't have kids. Ideally, when you have kids, you need to be the most responsible person in the room. I am not that person. My room is messy and I have dishes in the sink from last week and I feel like I'm 9 years old every single day.

Plus I have a bunch of debt from law school now so the concept of "financial stability" feels like a hilarious joke. Like, that will literally never happen. It seems like adults are financially stable, so therefore I will never be an adult. Also I haven't been to the dentist since 2008.

My mom, 48: Yes, both, of course. I’m an adult because I suffer the consequences when I don’t follow the rules. I’m a woman because I get my period, because I have a gynecologist, because I stink sometimes. I stink like a woman. But I didn’t feel like a woman until my late 30s—I felt like an extended teen. A young adult, I guess. I had you at 25, but I still didn’t feel like an adult—I felt like a mom. Being a mom overrides a lot of things: adult, woman, everything. It doesn’t leave room for much else.

Oh, I saw you liked my bitstrips thing on Facebook! I love bitstrips, they’re so fun! Do you have bitstrips? (“No, that’s lame.”) Oh, that’s right, I forgot—you’re an adult.

Jazmine Hughes is the kind of woman the baker will let near the bread.

47 Comments / Post A Comment

hearts & strings

Is it horrible that I'm 30 and just don't feel like a woman and that the word "adult" makes me cringe? A lot of it is just feeling like I must measure up to my friends as their lives always seem more together than mine. I feel like I'm only now just starting to get it together but it still feels like immense failure.

I do things I'm supposed to but I mostly feel like a fraud-at what point does this go away???????


@hearts & strings Per my mother, it never really quite goes away. As she is in her 50s, I don't know if I find this comforting or disheartening. I'm 29 and the only reason I don't feel completely hopeless about this whole adulthood deal is that few of my close friends have lives that look super put together.

But I'm thinking that if you can step up and get things done when you need to, you probably are pretty adult, even if the trappings of your life aren't what you expected.


Are her parents still alive? If I could lay a bet with you about it, I would -- that they are. Because personally I really cannot relate anymore to the feeling of not being an adult -- I can't even remember clearly thinking that way, though I'm sure I did in my early 20s -- and I think that's why -- having the second parent die and realizing that you are it, it's all up to you, and you're next in line.


@harebell Her father died nearly 20 years ago and her mother is terminally ill. She's been handling a good chunk of her mother's affairs for some time now and recently took on more because she's the only child capable of handling it.

I don't think it's about not feeling like an adult (my mom would never say she isn't an adult) so much as feeling like you don't know what you're doing and everyone else does. And I can't believe that feeling ever really goes away completely... just maybe the way you shape it in your head changes. And going through big life changes (or accumulating enough little life changes) makes it easier to reshape that feeling, maybe.



oh, sure, I don't think that feeling of intermittent incompetence ever goes away for anyone! I just meant that competency doesn't have to be one's definition of adulthood.

I do find I am a lot less likely to credit other people's magical competency the way I used to, though -- I sort of assume we are all quite similar in that intermittency, the older I get!

condolences to you and to your mother especially on your grandmother's illness. Losing a parent can be a visceral powerful terrible event no matter how old you are when it happens.


@harebell I would definitely agree that competency doesn't have to be the definition of adulthood. I do think of myself as an adult and it doesn't really have anything to do with how good I am at the conventional markers of adulthood.

And thank you for the condolences. My grandmother is doing better than anyone expected, but it's still a rough time, especially for my mother. The adulthood thing has actually been on my mind lately because of everything that's been going on.


Amazing -_- @t


::fistbumps Ruth Graham::


@meowmischen Yeah, I think she described it really, really well. It's about recognizing you and you alone own your life and are responsible for it - the good, the bad, the ugly. Not some arbitrary markers of achievement.


I became an adult very suddenly this year in the middle of the sentence "I'll need an extra copy of that receipt for my expense report." There is no going back.


@distrighema I felt like an adult when I went out to buy an iron. Because suddenly it hit me that I my shirt shouldn't be so wrinkly.


Grown Ass Woman (or G.A.W. because I use it so much) is my primary self identifier, before mother, wife, human, activist, witch, etc. It's a great little empowering fuck you to a society that wants to define me solely by my relationships to men, for me. And it's so goddamn satisfying to use in a heated argument!

Lily Rowan

@hallelujah Grown-Ass Woman is EXACTLY what I was thinking as I read this!


I've felt like an adult ever since I embraced the fact that I'm just making everything up as I go.

Also this is a good place to talk about how much I despise the term "big-kid job." Oh, the jobs I've been working for the past four years aren't real ones because they haven't required a college degree? That's cute.


@large__marge Agree! And "real-person job" to mean professional, career job. Because non-professionals and hourly employees aren't real people.


I'm 33 and I get to shoot firearms at work - but I pretend I'm an Avenger while doing it.

I buy my own groceries - but sometimes those groceries are macaroni and cheese in farm shapes.

I sleep in a queen size bed - but it has a wrought-iron canopy on it and five stuffed animals contained within.

I own a double oven - and an Easy-Bake oven.

In short, I don't know, you tell me.


@TheMnemosyne I feel like my ability to buy all the alphabet mac & cheese I want is the cornerstone of my adultness. No one can tell me to limit myself to a mere four boxes, because I am the boss of me.


@adorable-eggplant hahahaha it's so true. I told my roommate "I'm an adult and I do what I want, and sometimes what I want is macaroni and cheese in farm shapes." She was compelled to agree via the overwhelming force of my logic.


@TheMnemosyne Bernie's farm!


@TheMnemosyne It's true, though! One of the first things my husband said to me when we met was, "I'm an adult, and I can have ice cream for breakfast if I want to." I think the flip side of that is learning how to do those things in moderation.

Now I want fun-shaped soup, though.


I would like Ellie Shechet, 23, to please become my new best friend.


@paddlepickle ME TOO! I had that exact book as a child (American Girl Body Book or something) and have harbored the exact same feelings about boob size and adulthood since reading that book.


@CRINDY Count me in as well. . . and somehow that is the only page in the book that I remember!


I'm 35, I have a 15-year-old kid and a law degree, I've bought, restored, and sold a house, been engaged, lost a parent and my best friend, etc. And I still don't feel like an adult; I feel more like a superinformed 18 year old.

I use "lady" a lot. Probably because male lawyers are just referred to as "lawyers," but oftentimes female lawyers are referred to as, well, "female lawyers," and I feel like saying "lady lawyer" or "lady attorney" highlights how ridiculous and archaic that is.


I've felt more like an adult this year than ever (I turned 26). Part of it is because I've now had 6-7 years of signing leases and paying real bills under my belt. Part of it is because I'm now paying for car insurance, and my car is finally in my name. Part of it is because I've realized the mortality of my family this last year (they're in their 60s-70s). Part of it is because when I was a child and my cousins were married or engaged at 26, I saw it as an "adult" year.

A large part of it is because I can give meaningful advice to people younger than I (although not by much!) and because I have had several work-related breakdowns in 2013 and have since polished my resume.


I'm an adult and a woman. I have a good-paying job and I just paid off my student loans and I take an absurd amount of interest in doing my taxes and I cook dinner every goddamn night because nobody else will cook it for me, unless my husband bends space and time to get home from work before 8 PM. Oh, I have a husband, too. People still treat me like I'm young sometimes (I have a young face) but those who know me, respect me. I think that's my chief measure of grown-ness.

I grew up with a stay-at-home mom who had (& still has) a lot of anxieties and insecurities, which she shared with me because I was the oldest kid and she didn't have a lot of adult friends. Probably the only good thing about that was that I learned very young, nobody has things figured out to their satisfaction. You will always feel like a bit of a mess and it has nothing to do with grown/not grown, that's just the human condition.


"Adulthood means being able to own a dog. That kind of stability." This sums it up for me! I am getting closer, but I'm not there.

Also, oddly - living alone, which I could only do when I was financially more stable, has really brought out the grungy, pants-optional, oversleeping, eating dinner in bed while watching bad reality TV kid in me.


I'm constantly amazed that I'm about to turn 35. Amazed. And horrified. But when I go through the check list it appears I might be an adult. Although I have a visceral reaction to using the word "woman" when describing myself. I'm not entirely sure what that means about myself.

I think I became a full-fledged adult after my divorce. Because, one, divorced. And then the rest of it: sole owner of home; sole owner of car; sole owner of three animals that I must take care of or they will die; sole owner of spreadsheet to track all my expenses so I can be financially independent; sole owner of law degree allowing me to be a fancy ass lawyer.

On the other hand: I have an inordinate amount of sparkly shoes; I own a skirt with cat heads depicted on them; my boyfriend gave me tickets to Beyonce this week and I squealed like a little girl; I'm still occasionally afraid to go down into the basement by myself; and I engage in internet speak on the regular. For realz. Adulthood: it's fucking complicated.


Maybe this is wrong of me, but I feel a little grumpy when people don't claim adulthood as theirs. Does that mean you don't have to take the consequences of your actions and somebody is going to swoop in and save you, and the rest of us should know that when we interact with you? I recognize, though, that this grumpiness is probably not entirely fair and it's because I am defining adulthood a little differently from other people and it's not about career success, or even stability per se, and definitely not about material trappings, working out, or salad to me -- it's about a fundamental attitude of accepting consequences and not expecting other people to take care of you.

My parents died young, and I took care of my mother for a while when she was dying, so there was never any choice about not becoming an adult. Now I'm happily married without children but can also imagine taking care of myself without my husband around, so yes, still there, an adult and prize it -- it's the price of independence and being honest with myself.


@harebell I like your definition of adulthood!

Although, I also get annoyed at people who act like their unwillingness to do mundane chores and tasks is an adorable quirk instead of just...an unwillingness to do mundane tasks. Not cleaning your apartment EVER doesn't make you an adorable woman child MPDG, for example, it just makes you messy. Which is fine! Own your messiness, if you want, but the "lol I ate a cupcake for breakfast this morning/have never cleaned my bathtub because I fail at adulthood" gets tiresome.

Gordon Bombay

Oh I love this. At 25, I feel like a grown ass woman. After years of raging insecurity, I finally feel like I own my femininity. No, I will not put up with your dating bullshit and yes, I will tell you exactly what I want. I'll put it nicely, but I've dropped the demure card. I'm subtracting .5 woman points because I'm completely unable to wear bright red lipstick without looking like I ate crayons.

But I in no way feel like an adult. My life is stable - I have matching cooking ware and I manage my bank accounts - but the future freaks me out. I think I meet all the standard definitions of adulthood but I still feel like I have more in common with 16 year old me than with me parents.


@Gordon Bombay I feel pretty good in red lipstick but I really appreciate your description "looking like I ate crayons" to describe any of my other pathetic attempts at non-red colour- like all the trendy corals and orange-y colours from this year, or weird pale pink pastels.


I am 56. I grew up and then went back again! It is fun and offers a lot for you young ones to look forward to in your futures. Here's the deal: the French have been known to define "menopause" as "the return to youth." I'm here to tell you that it really happens! But, the other news is that you have to go there in order to return. Good luck to all of you, with love!


i don't feel like an adult because for the most part i struggle with shame about who i am and feeling like "i'm not doing a good enough job." i only very rarely am able to accept who i am with my failings. i often feel like failure is inevitable and i feel pretty constantly overwhelmed by my negative emotions. i know that none of these feelings are helpful, but for the most part i feel fairly powerless to change them. oh well..guess i'm still working on it.

i don't know...to be honest i think that it's not productive to want to identify with this idea of the "adult who has their stuff together." we are all broken to some degree, we all struggle, we all need help. i'd be in favor of a definition of adulthood that reflected that acknowledgment of our own weaknesses and struggles instead of the version that i more typically hear (especially in discussions with other women) that are more like "i'm a woman and i own it. i'm invincible and i know i can do it."


I look at such terms relationally. Or, unconsciously express them relationally. Like Koreans do-ish (different terms for people older than / younger than oneself? Not that I'm Korean. But, in my casual speech:

Girls are people who are younger than / same age as I. Women / ladies are older.

When I was 22, a 35-year-old was definitely a "woman I know". Or old lady - lol!

Now a 35-year-old is a "girl" in my speech.

On a questionnaire? I'm an adult woman. But I definitely often unconsciously speak of, for example, professional women with gray hairs as 'girls' if I perceive them to be younger???

isabelle bleu

@Isabel Bower@facebook ....so, does being in the position of employer make YOU feel like an Adult?


Definitely an adult here, and definitely a woman. It's been a journey marked with signposts--you just have to read them, y'all. Like in college, when I told my professor, "I have a non-sexual crush on the doctor who removed my cyst!" And she replied, "You know, it's okay to have a sexual crush on her." Someone was acknowledging my sexual agency for the first time (I had never dated, and didn't all through college...not even a long story. It just didn't happen.) Even though I was pretty sure I was straight, I felt liberated! That was definitely one moment I can't forget on my path to womanhood.

I think coming to terms with your womanhood has to do with three things: 1. support from other women who encourage you to BE a grown woman and take responsibility for your actions and feelings, 2. embracing and respecting the body, and 3. making choices that support and encourage other coming-of-age women who still feel on the fence about moving beyond girlhood.

I think I knew I was an adult when I went to a cheerleading competition a year or two ago and I could NOT stop being cranky about those giant-ass sparkly bows they wear in their curly ponytails. They do super sexy dances, and they've got the stupid bows. It was infantilization and hyper-sexualization all in one. I have no good solution, and as a former cheerleader myself, I know how fun it is to put little stars next to your eyes and curl your hair and stunt until the cows come home, but golly, there must be a way to figure it out. Bah. I'm getting cranky all over again.

I think crankiness is the true sign of adulthood.


Jumping in late in the conversation game here, but as a 44 year old woman, just don't worry about it all, at all, don't worry! I think when you don't worry if you are a woman or an adult, then there you are. You are in control, a woman (I've seen so many women over the years, and they are always in control of any situation), and who want's to be an adult anyway? You are perfect, just the way you are! Thanks, Billy Joel.


To chime in following the bots: for me adulthood has been about being assertive and feeling empowered to set my own boundaries.

Tùng Đào@facebook

excellent. one of the best articles I have every read. the information i have been searching keep it up
giấy dán tường


We live in a society that 1) shows a very limited definition of true adulthood and 2) depicts women over a certain age in such yellow, sad florescent light. It's no wonder that we are so loathe to deem ourselves adults or proclaim womanhood.

Adulthood at its saddest stereotype means a very linear set of "achievements". We must finish school, obtain a certain type of job, meet someone, form a "family" that still really does mostly mean having children, moving to a suitable location, following traditions and losing the ability to travel, explore and imagine beyond seeing it through the eyes of a child at Disney World. We should properly accessorize a very clean home, do the right things. For many of us that is simply not a desirable life. For others, it feels unattainable. Either way, why would we want or feel worthy of claiming such an adulthood?

Outside of that, it remains a sad thing that for most younger (under 40) women, a fine insult is "she LOOKS 40" as if that is the marker of all that is frumpy, static and dead. Calling oneself an adult or even women then is akin to admitting that, yes, you too are heading in the direction of irrelevance. It's easier to keep oneself forever a girl.

But, here's the thing. Adulthood and womanhood doesn't have to mean following a path prescribed by others. It means owning who you are, controlling your life, being yourself.

As for me, I've come to learn as I've hit my 40s that we never become some other thing. We are who we are, always. I don't "feel" like I should be doing the things many of my fellow women assume I should be doing. I feel like me. I am financially secure and responsible for myself, but I will always be a huge nerd who loves finding new music, traveling places, will never want children but who loves her husband, animals and friends. I now work in the tech industry, but have multiple degrees and have done a slew of things that do not show a "proper" life trajectory. And, similar to the author, in the 90s I married my husband as he was still in undergrad and desperately needed health insurance. We had no wedding, just got an ordained friend to sign paperwork. And you know, it worked for us.


I think I will feel like I've achieved Peak Adult when I attain my mom's ability to negotiate with customer service reps and sales people. Like, when I call my cell phone provider and they're like, "No, this fee is non-negotiable," I usually make a weak protest and then cave because I hate talking to them and I'm tired. But my mom is like, "That is unacceptable. RELENT." and then she manages to get them to do whatever she wants. The ability and confidence not to immediately fall back on, "Oh, okay, sorry for asking." is my epitome of Adulthood.

Also every time I use eye cream I feel like an adult (what is it even doing?)

Tung Nguyen@facebook

I think I will feel like I've achieved Peak Adult when I attain my mom's ability to negotiate with customer service reps and sales people. Like, when I call my cell phone provider and they're like,

Tung Nguyen@facebook

To chime in following the bots: for me adulthood has been about being assertive and feeling gái xì teen empowered to set my own boundaries.

Post a Comment

You must be logged-in to post a comment.

Login To Your Account