The Village Idiot

Adulting 101

I saw a news report that some educational venue is offering a course in “adulting” to 20-somethings, because it seems that there are a bunch of 29-year-olds out there who don’t know how to run a dishwasher or make a cup of coffee.

Someone thinks that if they can learn how to do those things, then they are “adulting.” It would be pretty hard to set the bar any lower for being a grown-up. It’s right out of “The Wizard of Oz” -- the scarecrow doesn’t need a brain, all he needs is a diploma.

But being an adult isn’t about knowing how to balance a checkbook. It’s about having your heart broken, your dreams crushed and your expectations lowered, and not letting it make you cranky and bitter.

It would be easy to make fun of millennials and Gen Z for being so helpless, yet many of them can text with their thumbs, make money playing video games and bend smartphones to their will -- all things that I, a certified, card-carrying grown-up, will never be able to do. I would gladly teach a millennial how to vacuum a living room if they could teach me how to text while walking down a crowded street.

Still, the question is: How could anyone get that far in life without knowing how to fry an egg or unclog a toilet? If memory serves, there used to be people whose job it was to make sure we were ready to deal with everyday challenges and disappointments when we went out into the world. There used to be a word for those people. Oh yeah, I remember now: “parents.” Are they not a thing anymore? And if they are, do they not teach children this stuff?

Times have changed, and it’s not unusual for children to live at home for much longer than the baby boomers did. But if Mom’s still doing your laundry at 29, there’s no reason for you to learn how to do it. It’s the new normal -- though “normal” is such a terrible way to describe things. I have a friend who says, “If you know someone who’s normal, you must not know them very well.”

Each generation has its own peculiarities. I don’t expect anyone born after 1980 to be able to change a tire, drive a stick-shift or write a check any more than I would expect them to know how to joust or darn a sock. But they know how to Instagram and Snapchat and Shopify because that’s where they live now.

It’s OK; real life will catch up with them soon. If they think adulting is hard at 29, wait until they hit 60.

Does the adulting class teach you how to find an assisted-living home for your elderly parents, while your grown children are underemployed and struggling, while also dealing with your own health issues? Now that’s adulting. Does the class teach you that one day, you’ll start to worry which one of you will die first -- you or your spouse? That’s adulting. Does it teach you how to deal with an uncertain future, problem bosses, factory closings, random disasters? That’s adulting. Or is it all about how to use an Instant Pot?

That’s the trouble with adulting: It’s just not much fun. You don’t get to hang out with your friends every night and sleep till noon. Someone else doesn’t pay for your clothes and food. You have to make payments on your car, not to mention insurance and maintenance for it. Suddenly it’s getting harder and harder to make the minimum payments on your credit cards.

You’re jealous of your friends who have time to binge-watch entire seasons of TV shows you haven’t even seen one episode of yet. Your side hustle needs a side hustle. You’re starting to wonder how TV characters with your same job can afford to live in such wonderful apartments. You wonder if you’ll ever pay off that college loan.

The good news is that you might just get a new, better job. Teaching “adulting.”

(Contact Jim Mullen at mullen.jim@gmail.com.)

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