Let’s Be Adults About This

Being an adult isn’t a matter of age. It’s a matter of responsibility.” –Jonathan Howard

For millions of Millennials, “adulting” is trending. Or maybe it isn’t anymore. I’ve been an adult for so long now that I’ve missed the novelty in regularly announcing my proficiency in being a capable and marginally responsible citizen. But apparently, Kids These Days (also known as “Millennials”) saw a need for a hip way to complain about the tragically un-hip, mundane tasks of ordinary life like paying bills, working a full-time job, or maintaining a vehicle. Enter #adulting to the rescue.

Example: “Feeling so ick. Probably should go to doc, but my mom says I have to call and make my own appointment. What the what? UGH. I hate #adulting.”

 Or: “So, you guys, that Check Engine light thing is totes for realsies. #needaride #adultingistheworst”

 Or this one: “It’s Saturday and I’m gettin’ my grocery on! Feeling so accomplished! #adultingonthedaily”

 As a long-time, card-carrying adult, I get a little annoyed by all the fuss made over people just doing what they’re supposed to do. What’s next? Participation trophies for taking out the trash? If so, I’d better clear some space for the motherlode of awards headed my way, because I am the adultiest of adults. I pay the bills on time. I clean out the refrigerator regularly. I make all my people go to the bathroom before leaving the house. I carry a light sweater in case it’s chilly. I use the word “chilly.” I have ibuprofen and lip balm at the ready at all times. For heaven’s sake, I own a garlic press. AND I USE IT. Basically, I could give a TED Talk about adulting. But I won’t because I am too busy, you know, adulting.

The irony of the term “adulting” is that the person using it is likely only scratching the surface of what adulthood really means. Which got me thinking, how does one legitimately earn adult status? Is it turning 18? 21? I don’t think so. I know plenty of 40-year-olds who have miles to go before reaching adulthood. Maybe it’s when you get the boot from your parent’s insurance plan. When you leave college, do you just automatically enter adulthood? Or does your adult card get punched when you send in that first income tax return?

After careful thought and reflection while organizing my garage this weekend (a super-adult-y activity), I’ve come to the conclusion that adulthood is a milestone reached by repeated successful completion of grudging tasks that are necessary for living a productive and hygienic life, and that generally receive no recognition whatsoever. If that last sentence was confusing to you, all it means is that being an adult is complicated, and just spending one Saturday afternoon paying bills doesn’t make you one.

One thing for sure is that once you’ve crossed over into adulthood, it’s nearly impossible to come back. You’re just in too deep. There are many experiences, large and small, memorable and forgettable that eventually earn you the rights and burdens of adulthood. For some people, adulthood is achieved on the 455th morning that they sit in the parking lot of their job, looking at the door, taking a deep breath and saying, “You have to do this. You have to go in there. Again.” For others, they know they’re an adult when they’d rather turn in early on Saturday night because they don’t want Sunday to be a total wash. It’s different for all of us.

As for me, I owe my adulthood status to a rat. I don’t like giving that much credit to a lowly rat, but I’m an adult, and I give credit where credit is due, so there you go. That fact of the matter is, only a real adult can handle a rat and live to tell that tale, without shame. Fellow adults can empathize with me here without judgment.

Do you have a dwelling for which you are solely responsible? Congratulations. You now have problems for the rest of your life. A rat will be one of many excruciating headaches you will encounter. Rats and headaches and dwellings are all very adult-y. You’re well on the way to earning your first adulting trophy.

Dealing with a rat can also earn you a badge in adult problem-solving. Your problem starts innocently enough. You might notice a jagged hole torn into your bag of $12.99/lb organic almonds. Maybe you yell at your husband that he shouldn’t tear into the snacks like some sort of rabid animal. Perhaps he snips back that he didn’t do it because what sort of wacko wants to eat raw, unsalted almonds anyway, and how much did you say those cost?? There’s a chance that when you hold up the vandalized package as evidence you notice an unusual amount of small, dark…crumbs? Those are crumbs, right? Right?

Ummm, no. Those are not crumbs. And those almonds need to go in the trash because, friend, you’ve got yourself a RAT. Not a mouse. A RAT. You see, a mouse runs through mazes while smart people in white coats write things down. A mouse sings and dances and cons you into handing over a month of your salary in exchange for 5 sleepless days in Florida. A RAT exists only to eat your food, leave droppings, and possibly kill you with the plague.

The good news is, you’ve identified the problem. Level complete! Now you need to articulate the problem and accept it. At my house, this usually involves profanity and rage cleaning. Cursing while cleaning is a very adult thing to do. Gold star.

Once you’ve accepted the fact that you’ve been unknowingly sharing your living quarters with plague-carrying vermin, it’s time to solve your problem and serve some eviction notices. An adult steadfastly defends her castle (and the almonds contained within it).

I still remember the first rat I battled. I called my mom to see what I should do. I was not an adult yet. I thought I was, but I obviously still had things to learn because I didn’t take her advice immediately. Mom offered to give me a few traps that she had for just this problem. Oh, no thank you, I said. Surely rat management had come a long way from the old days of using traps. Certainly, there was a better way. If not more humane, at least less visibly barbaric, right? Right?

Ummm, no. True, rodent extermination options are more varied now than in the days of The Pied Piper, but as with most unpleasant duties, in this case the simplest method is the most effective. In my experience, an old-school mousetrap is the way to go if you’re not interested in sharing your living quarters with a rat. Sure, you risk breaking a finger or two in the process of setting the darn thing, but that’s the kind of sacrifice a real adult is willing to make. Rats are certainly smarter than you think, but they also can’t resist the allure of a strategically placed glob of peanut butter, even if it’s sitting atop a spring-loaded platform of death. Be an adult and don’t lose your nerve here. When you start getting all soft-hearted and feeling bad about trapping the rodent, just remember that this uninvited guest has been frolicking like a schoolgirl across your food in the middle of the night, carrying disease on its tiny feet and laughing at you while it leaves souvenirs of bubonic plague confetti. The rat shows you no mercy, so don’t return the favor by being all ethical and civilized.

I am not ashamed of my truth. I fought the rat, and I WON. I am now supremely confident in my status as a bona fide adult. And for any rats out there who think they can help themselves to my almonds, BRING IT. We’re all adults here–and adults don’t play. #adultswin



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