Let’s start with what growing up mean to me when I was younger. I don’t think I haver ever actually assessed what it meant to me then, and what it means to me now. Which I think is the purpose of this story and exercise. To evaluate what it means to me as I approach fifty, but built on the foundation of where I came from–here is what my 15 year old self would think growing up means:
That is a short list of what I perceived as a teenager. I definitely did not possess the world view I have now, and most of what I perceived being grow up meant centered around the things I did not like doing as a child, but also what I saw as being grown up on television and in the movies. Before I contrast this with my older views of being grown up, I wanted to take a little detour through what I believe my conservative friends and family mean by “growing up”.
Obviously this is going to be skewed by my twisted liberal brain, but I wanted to put on the shoes of the conservative folks in my life and spend some time trying to understand what they meant by telling me, and other family members to “grow up”, or more specifically “grow the fuck up”. Personally, I don’t think should ever say that someone should grow up because it means so many different things to different people, but I do think someone choosing to say this to someone else speaks volumes about their position, and I’m looking to understand more about that position with this exploration.
I did not interview any conservatives to build this list, I just put myself into the mind of a mix of conservative folks I know very well. I think the most important part of this for me is that wielding the phrase “grow up” is something you do to belittle others. It is less about the state you are in, and more about the state you wish to put others into. Being vulnerable is something that children do, and not something that tough mature grown ups do. Being grown up is relative to your position of power, and something you wield to maintain your standing.
As I approach fifty it is interesting to be told to grow up. Honestly, I’m pretty sure it was directed at the other person I was supporting in this discussion, even though I was the one who originally suggested that we have professional mediation. However, I still love the idea of me thinking about whether I am grown up, or I need to grow up more, or maybe I have grow up too much. Making for perfect material here on the blog to help me think through who I am and help me continue to make sense of the world around me.
Growing up is a journey and not a destination. Ultimately I feel the phrase is bullshit, and mostly wielded by folks looking to control others. So I am not really even interested in using it back against the folks who used it against me. Approaching fifty I simultaneously feel like I don’t want to grow up and I have grown up so much in the last few years. For me, the key is the “growing” portion of the phrase, which is rendered completely meaningless when you say “grow the fuck up”, because in that use case there really isn’t any growing going on. I feel like the phrase is just relative to whoever is using it, and whether they are applying it to themselves or to other people.
This was an interesting exercise. Ultimately I think the usage of “grow up” and “grow the fuck up” recently were less about me and more about the folks you wielded the phrase. My state of being grown up is relative to me and my view of the world, so I am going to stick with applying this line of thinking to their usage of it. It is more about them than it is about me. I feel like in conservative circles it is being wielded in a way that suggests they have the wisdom and knowledge, and us liberals, or individuals who aren’t in lock step with their view of the world are someone just more uninformed, aware, and mature enough to have access to the “right” ideas they possess. Really, in the end, it doesn’t bother me to be told to grow up. At my age it just doesn’t carry any weight. The way it was used to cause me to take notice of the overall toxicity and tone of the conversation, and prompted me to step back from the engagement. Ultimately, for the same reasons I suggested there be a professional mediator in the mix in the first place, I just don’t feel like it was a safe and healthy space to be, and in 2020 I am hyper aware of the need to take care of myself, which means avoiding toxic situations-—they just aren’t worth it in this moment. I am more important. Which feels like a very “grown up” thing for me to do. ;-)