[Ed. note: hey y’all, remember Austin’s Allison from Ask A Texan? She wrote another thing for us.]
As a kid, and even as a teen, I never wanted to grow up. Being an adult, as far as I could tell, looked like no fun at all. You had to go to work, and worry about money, and you had horrible taste in movies and music, and you said stupid shit like, “Wow, this year has just flown by.” I could see that being a kid was a pretty sweet deal.
As an adult, I’m pleased to find that it’s not so bad. In fact, it’s a pretty sweet deal. I really like being a grownup. But most of what makes it such a sweet deal is choice — I decide how to spend my time and money, I decide what I want to do. As long as I have my shit together, I get to decide what adulthood looks like for me.
Julie Klausner’s Don’t Fear The Dowager: A Valentine to Maturity is about what it means to be an adult. The specific kind of adult Julie Klausner approves of.
She lists any number of things she feels are not appropriately indicative of adulthood, including: kittens, whoopie pies, rompers, bunny rabbits, craft fairs, and laughing a lot. She feels that we women are acting too much like little girls, and we’re doing it to attract men:
“And despite the facade of cliqueishness, and female friendship, and the Romy & Michelle’ness of gal-pal fun times, let’s be real. We all know these manic pixie Muppet Babies are really just in it for the peen. And instead of acting like a woman who might remind a skittish bro more of his teacher or his mother, we’re going for the pubeless, twee, Anime-eyed version of whatever dream girl we assume they want or need.”
Instead of being girls, we should be women, Klausner argues. We should be Kathleen Turner, on the floor, in lingerie. Because that is definitely not about what men want; I lay in that position naturally all the time! (Or we should be Michelle Obama, and believe me, I’d love that, but I’m awful at the Dougie.)
But how are things like whoopie pies and buying jewelry on Etsy indicative of immaturity? What is inherently juvenile about that? Does your average child really like craft fairs? And if bunny rabbits and laughing a lot are childish, my God, your version of adulthood must suck.
I admit that some of my defensiveness is because I like an awful lot of the things she rails against. I’m pro-kitten. I own a lot of jewelry from Etsy, and yes, I basically know Clueless by heart. But I don’t know Clueless by heart because I think it will make me more attractive to guys; if I had to guess, I’d assume it might be a turnoff, especially if the dude finds out I want him to be able to discuss its merits as an update of Emma while we watch. I don’t like the things I like because I assume they make me attractive to men. I like them because that’s what I like, and why anyone likes anything is a constellation of ideas and inspirations and influences that would be pretty difficult to map. It’s ridiculous to assume that all the trends you don’t like exist solely because the women participating in them are trying to attract guys. Nobody’s taste is that good.
There’s definitely something to be said about, and an eyebrow to be raised at, the popularity of rompers for grown women, or lacy anklet socks, or Katy Perry thinking being a teenager is the hottest. I’m not denying the trend exists, but Klausner is pushing a lot of stuff under the umbrella of “overly juvenile” that I don’t think belongs there. What she’s hating on is preciousness. I don’t much care for preciousness either, but I don’t think florals and bunny rabbits are inherently precious.
Klausner wants us to behave like grownups because “the larger issue is that it is a lot easier for men—or even guys or bros—to demean us, if we’re girls. It’s much harder to bring down a woman, or to call her a moron, when she’s not in pigtails and Ring Pops.” And she’s right, in a way. It is easier for men to demean girls than women. But it’s hardest to demean a woman who knows herself and her taste, and who owns that. That’s being a grownup.