A generation ago, the biggest signifier of adulthood was marriage. Twenty years ago, it was buying a house together. But 21 years into the 21st century, with renting and singlehood more popular than ever, there are no clear-cut signs that you’re officially “adulting” anymore. Instead, we must rely on more nascent symbols, such as being tired all the time, and signing off using the word “best” on your emails.
But for those fully immersed in adulthood; the ones who’ve been at it for a while, clearer signs may become visible, not in the purchase of a home, but what is inside it. If you have any of the following in your place of residence, then, congratulations, you’ve hit peak grown-up.
A motivational quote
If you’re a properly grown-up person, you recognise that frameless posters have no place in your house any longer, but phrases, slogans and words somehow mean more than ever.
Do you have “Live, Laugh, Love” etched in repurposed wood above your lounge? Does a cushion read “Save the drama for your llama” when you smooth the sequins a certain way? Do you have a small, framed phrase in your kitchen saying “It’s wine o’clock” or “Coffee is always a good idea” or “Anything is possible”? Then you probably remember the ring of your landline telephone.
When you’re living in a share-house as a younger person, it’s natural to pick up the detritus of one another’s decor. Maybe you end up with a cushion or a cheese knife you never actually bought yourself. But, if you’re an adult, you will have an entire collection of these types of things, with no memory of how you came to acquire them – despite the fact that you bought them yourself.
Nobody can tell you when it will happen, but one day, you’ll look around and realise you have 20 cushions, or four cheese knives or 50 different mugs. It will remain an unsolved mystery, because, as an adult, you’re just lurching from one administrative task to the next, your only mode of distraction – home decor sales. You go into these things entranced. Who even knows how many mohair blankets you bought? You were too busy trying to download the app that lets you know how much homework your kids aren’t doing to notice.
Unused exercise equipment
There was a time, in your youth, when you could break those health promises you made to yourself without consequence. But if you’re a grown human, things such as “blood pressure”, “lung capacity” and “changing metabolism” begin to take on a new, urgent meaning. You’re not about to debase yourself by exercising in public – that’s for people under 40 who have spent enough time online to acquire a healthy body image. Instead, you get yourself an exercise bike, or a rowing machine, or one of those stair masters and you use it – for a few weeks. But then, lockdown hit or something, and life became too hectic. And so, the equipment remains in the garage or the “office”; a black and brushed-steel reminder that it’s just not going to happen this year. Oh well, maybe when this COVID thing blows over you’ll get back into running. At night.
More than one photo frame on any given surface
Gen Z might post their entire lives on TikTok and those younger Millennials throw it all over Instagram, but if you’re serious about adulthood you have photos that have been printed out and framed. Lots of them. And not just on the wall, but the mantle and the side bench and the top of your chest of drawers, in your bedroom, too.
Handy stuff nobody thinks of – until they need to borrow it
Kids today think they can get by without a top sheet, a step ladder or a full, 12-piece dinner set. That is, until they need it and come running to us. Sure, that overpriced luxury candle smells nice, Maddy but you won’t be able to light it in a blackout if you don’t also have a torch! Yes, Jordan, cocktail parties are “super fun”, but without proper champagne glasses, you’re really just playing house. And so, we hang onto our ageing symbols of adulthood, smug in the knowledge that though we may not always know how they got here, we’re certain they’ll come in handy for something and we’ll be damned if we have to throw them away.