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You Are An Adult If …

March 2, 2011

Lately, I’ve been feeling a little stuck. Maybe I’m having a quarter-life crisis, because I feel like I’m in some sort of weird purgatory between youth and adulthood. Now that I don’t have a pending marriage or family of my own in the near future (hell, not until at least 2014 or so according to my astrology reading), I feel a little off track. It’s amazing to me how close I came to getting married, having children, maybe buying a house … and now I’m eating ice cream out of the carton for dinner (multiple nights a week) and I’m about to renew my one-bedroom apartment lease for another 18 months (note: even that commitment is giving me a slight panic attack). My biggest triumphs in adulthood have been paying the rent on time within the first three days of the month and taking out the trash consistently. Oh yeah, and making the bed. I feel like a total bad-ass adult when I make the bed. But for the most part, my life consists of going to work, working on blog stuff, saying I’m going to the gym (but never quite making it there), shopping in my parents’ pantry for food and endlessly searching for reruns of How I Met Your Mother. Oh, and a few weeks ago when I had the flu, I accidentally texted my friend, “Mommy, I don’t feel good,” intending to send the message to my mother. Not quite adult behavior.

This all got me thinking – what makes an adult? How do you know when you are officially an adult? And, a list was born (and you know I love my lists). While I don’t think you need to have all of these things to be an official adult, below are some key indicators of adulthood.  

You are an adult if …

  • You own any of the following:
    • Mini van
    • Swing set (key distinction here: you can be a teenager and get pregnant. It takes a real adult to have a child, and follow through with a swing set)

      You can't tell me this doesn't look like an adult's backyard. Photo courtesy of Mike Hickerson

    • Breast pump (again, anyone can get pregnant. Only adults invest in breast pumps)
    • Life insurance (and not just the standard insurance your employer provides, you purchase additional insurance)
    • Encyclopedias (ha, does anyone own encyclopedias anymore?)
    • House
    • Summer or winter house
    • Gravy separator
    • Gravy boat (well, you need something in which to put your recently separated gravy!)
    • Power washer
    • Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, CDs (and I don’t mean compact discs) or a money market account
    • Fine china
    • Wide assortment of antacids and stomach treatment medicines (some of which you carry with you daily)
  • You actively participate in “spring cleaning”
  • You keep a garden
  • You usually eat dinner at the table (and I do not mean your coffee table!)
  • Your favorite childhood/teenage shows are available on Nick at Nite
  • Your favorite first-run shows are on CBS
  • You have a will
  • You actually care about the stock market because of your 401(k)
  • You’ve had a garage/yard sale (and not just when you were a kid)
  • Your drink of choice is any of the following:
    • Scotch or bourbon on the rocks or neat
    • Port wine
    • Dry martini
  • You start eating for health (and not just weight loss), and monitor your blood pressure, calcium levels, fiber and protein intake
  • You eat any of the following cereals: Wheaties, Raisin Bran, Cheerios (plain) Corn Flakes or Crispix (and you actually enjoy the cereal, without any longing for Fruit Loops, Frosted Flakes, Lucky Charms, Cap’n Crunch or the like)

What do you think should be added to this list? Are you an adult? I’m not quite there yet, although I was given a gravy separator for my birthday. (Random, I know. I have a theory that it was intended as a wedding present that couldn’t be returned. Gravy anyone?!).

Thanks for Jeff and Julie for the help brainstorming this list!

59 Comments leave one →
  1. Grey Goose, Dirty permalink
    March 2, 2011 9:35 am

    Haha 🙂 Great post. Sadly I consider myself an adult (and a fairly lame one) as I actually organize my bills and then log them responsibly into Quicken files for my accountant (hmmm, I guess even having an accountant would count too). Oh, and by responsibly regarding Quicken, that pretty much translates to once a quarter. 😉

    I think you’re doing just great where you are. Things will happen when they’re supposed to (my god that sounded pithy), but I’m right there with you ……… waiting …….. to see what happens next. 🙂

    • March 2, 2011 12:28 pm

      Grey Goose,
      LOL, thanks for the comment. You are totally right – if you have an accountant (hell, or even a lawyer), you are an adult! I can’t believe that you are that organized with your bills. I believe you are absolutely an adult! I could take a page out of your book! 🙂

      Thanks for your encouragement… we’ll wait together 🙂

  2. Zak permalink
    March 2, 2011 9:41 am

    So, are you not an adult because you don’t do any of these things on the list?

    Several made me an “adult,” but I think there’s a difference between an adult who drives a mini-van and has a swingset in their backyard and an adult who enjoys CBS shows and owns stocks, money market accounts and a 401(k). I hope.

    I would add to the list:
    -If you buy a car for safety and fuel economy, and not for looks and how fast it goes/how many girls you get with it
    -Go to bed before 10pm and wake up before 6am
    -You have “backup” checks or money stuffed in your wallet (as a “youngster” I never could have backup money – it was always spending money)
    -You have a cubicle

    Great post.

    • March 2, 2011 12:25 pm

      Ha, I do have some of these on the list. But not many, that’s for sure!

      Good additions. Adults totally have cubicles, you are right. Oh and on the going to bed – I also think you are an adult if you LOOK FORWARD to going to bed early 🙂 I am totally in that category – 11 p.m. rolls around I am like Yippee! Bedtime!! 🙂

      Thanks for your comment!

  3. Jeff W. permalink
    March 2, 2011 11:01 am

    Great post. And thanks for the “shout out.” You are also an adult when you actually care about what kind of vodka they put in your drink. Grey Goose? Ketel One? Belvidere? Stoli? Absolut? Sky? etc., etc., etc.

    • March 2, 2011 12:21 pm

      Good call. Broke young adults often order well drinks, or whatever’s on happy hour 🙂 YOU must be an adult because I don’t even know all those brands of Vodka! LOL

      • March 3, 2011 12:50 pm

        Too true Jeff. I say let’s not limit it to vodka though. Have you ever had a 30 year old Jamacian rum? I’ll never order well drinks again.

  4. March 2, 2011 11:49 am

    I almost wasn’t an adult…until I got to the last one. I like Raisin Bran and plain Cheerios.

    • March 2, 2011 12:20 pm

      Haha really?! I wouldn’t peg you as a Cherios or Raisin Bran kinda gal. I guess your obsession with pop tarts threw me 😉

  5. March 2, 2011 12:24 pm

    I was getting ready to type a comment earlier when I realised it would have been really long, so I wrote a blog post inspired by what you wrote instead!

  6. March 2, 2011 12:47 pm

    Ha. By your standards, I’m barely an adult, and that’s only because I had a bowl of Crispix this morning. And loved it. Then again, even as a kid, I couldn’t stand sugary cereals. Oh, and I love How I Met Your Mother…which is on CBS.

    • March 2, 2011 1:08 pm

      Haha, Mark, you eat Crispix. You are totally an adult. LOL

      And touche on How I Met Your Mother being on CBS. I didn’t realize that – I always watch it in reruns on WGN, Lifetime and Fox! But for the most part, CBS is for old people 🙂 haha!

      PS – you better have a will. You have kids!!

  7. March 2, 2011 1:21 pm

    Great blog post… I can relate to the little comment that you said that you are barely an adult because I am also barely an adult, most of my night consist of eating in front on the computer (mind you I don’t own a dining room/kitchen table either).

    Then I saw the last point on your list, yup I eat Raisin Bran cereal in the summer and oatmeal in the winter (yes two different type of cereal for two different time of the year).

    • March 3, 2011 10:32 pm

      I say that if you enjoy Raisin Bran cereal, you are well on your way to being an adult :). I eat in front of the TV or computer most nights, so don’t feel so bad. I will say, I own a dining room table, but for the most part it gets pretty dusty! We’ll become adults someday!

  8. Just Saying permalink
    March 2, 2011 1:46 pm

    According your list I’m a friggin old lady!

    I think what classifies you as being an adult is very flexible based on your current position in life. Be prepared for you future is definately a start!!!
    But not having children etc doesn’t make you less of an adult.

    -Go to bed before 10pm and wake up before 6am
    This one is so true. I’m in bed before 10pm and up at 5-530am M-Th.

    • March 3, 2011 10:36 pm

      Just Saying,

      I agree, you don’t necessarily have to have children in order to be an adult. But, waking up before 6 a.m.? TOTAL adult behavior! I do not envy you! (I get up at 7:30…and that’s already too early!!)

  9. March 2, 2011 1:53 pm

    LOL I love that having a gravy separator and gravy boat made your list of being ‘grown up’ 😛 That’s hilarious. I definitely don’t have most of the things on your list, as an early-20-something. And I don’t feel particularly grown up yet.

    I think I’ll feel grown up once, among many things, I do my own taxes. My mom’s financial planner does them for me and I have absolutely no part in arranging it. I have no idea how taxes work. They magically just get done for me every year… a nice arrangement 😛

    • March 3, 2011 10:46 pm

      Oh yeah, if you do your own taxes or if you actually have an accountant (that is your’s, not your mom’s), then you are definitely an adult. My dad does my taxes so don’t feel bad. I sort of watch over his shoulder, and then I buy him a six pack of beer to make up for it :). It does sound like you have a nice arrangement, I say milk it as long as you can 🙂 Who needs adulthood, anyway?

  10. March 2, 2011 2:13 pm

    I laughed after reading this because I’m not sure I can tick a single item on your list, AND I recently mis-sent a text meant for my mother too! I like the idea of being young forever so I’m fine with not passing the adult test at present!

    • March 3, 2011 10:50 pm

      Matt –
      Ha! What did your text message to your mother say? Hopefully you didn’t call her “Mommy” like I did. LOL! I hear you on being OK with being young forever… no rush here!

  11. March 2, 2011 2:28 pm

    My goodness I’m not an adult by ANY of these standards! What about having a graduate degree… surely that’s got to count for something? And how about if you have students who call you “Miss-so-and-so.” According to them, I’m an adult 🙂

    • March 3, 2011 10:53 pm

      I think you get an automatic adult card simply because you work with kids. Ha 🙂 Oh, and a graduate degree definitely helps!!

  12. mom permalink
    March 2, 2011 2:58 pm

    Lets be clear here, the Gravy separator was not a wedding gift, it was a shower gift… Also If I am not mistaken didn’t you just call me the other day for beneficiary information? In addition, an adult listens to talk radio and I hate to say it but that’s you!!! One last thing adults (most anyway) think re-gifting is an acceptable practice.
    Welcome to adulthood even though you still look 12

    • March 3, 2011 11:02 pm


      LOL, thanks for the gravy separator. I KNEW it was wedding related!!! You are right, talk radio does make me a little more of an adult. But it’s usually Cosmo Radio – which doesn’t count all that much! Oh, and good call on regifting. And reuisng gift bags! You tought me that 🙂

  13. March 2, 2011 3:07 pm

    Hahahahaha! Your mom’s comment cracked me up. I called my mom really excited after reading your post. She was happy to learn that I am 32% adult now 🙂

    • March 3, 2011 11:10 pm

      Haha, congrats on your 32% percent!! Isn’t my mom a hoot 🙂

  14. March 2, 2011 4:23 pm

    Well I was pretty sure I wasn’t adult. I do drink bourbon, but I’ve had a preference for bourbon since I was, well, not really able to buy it at a bar. Don’t have a gravy separator, but do have a vast assortment of other adult-like cooking tools, but only because I alternate between making elaborate meals and eating ice cream out of the container.

    Just want to point out though, Full House is on Nick at Nite!

    • March 3, 2011 11:14 pm

      Sounds like you are a half adult, half youngin’… depending on your mood :).
      And you are right, the fact that Full House is on Nick at Nite makes all of us around the mid 20s old!

  15. eternallyemo permalink
    March 2, 2011 4:24 pm

    You eat ice cream for dinner, too? I thought I was the only one. It goes great with “not quite making it to the gym”, don’t you think?

    And other than being a huge How I Met Your Mother fan and the occasional bowl of Raisin Bran, I didn’t see anything on your list (or any of the suggestions by your readers) that applies to my life, so… I guess that means I’m not an adult yet! Yay!! Thank you Catherine! 🙂

    Wait… is that a good thing?

    • March 3, 2011 11:19 pm

      LOL…. exactly. Skip gym and reward yourself for even considering going to the gym with a bowl of ice cream. 🙂
      Congrats on not being an adult yet. I think it’s totally a good thing. Enjoy it!!

  16. March 2, 2011 7:27 pm

    Thanks for making me feel old! I miss my youth!!
    Great post

    • March 3, 2011 11:20 pm

      Aww!! You are not old! Get a bowl of Frosted Flakes or Lucky Charms and you’ll feel like a kid again 🙂

  17. March 3, 2011 6:37 am

    Well outta that list I can only relate to one point that is having dinner at table ! Apart from that I don’t think I do anything close to whatever is mentioned in that long list. This means I’m not an adult yet!!!!!!! Yiipi !
    What’s Your True Age?
    Are you as old as you feel or as what the calendar says?

    • March 3, 2011 11:24 pm

      I am 26 years old 🙂 And, I should eat at the table. So much of a better experience. But I always feel like I need to make the table and eat something fancy to sit at the table. It’s a problem!

  18. March 3, 2011 11:06 am

    LOL, great list, loved the gravy boat comment 🙂 I think I’m half adult, half child still (haha). I have a few things ticked off, but I would never own a mini van even if I had kids! AHH!

  19. March 3, 2011 12:45 pm

    I feel like I’ve been an adult longer than most adults that are older than me. Even my parents give me the ‘Young Body/Old Soul’ speech (though I think that was because growing up my favorite band was Chicago). I nearly blew the mind of a financial advisor when I went in to open some long-term mutual funds…when I was 22.

    I am VERY happy to say I do not own a breast pump.

    Not too much comes to mind on things that make us an adult:
    -You read for fun instead of because you HAVE to
    -You not only take daily vitamins but specific suppliments
    -You order basically anything but soda while dining out

    I’m a bigger fan of things we do to DENY the acceptance that we are adults.

    Such as:
    -you still watch cartoons (never too old for Scooby Doo)
    -when shopping at Toys R Us you find more things for yourself than the kids you are shopping for
    -you enjoy eating an entire bowl of cereal (like Cocoa Puffs) out of a giant bowl
    -you still get an urge to play on equipment each time you pass a playground

    • March 7, 2011 6:49 pm

      Haha, glad you don’t have a breast pump. That would be a little weird. But with stuff like that, you could have a whole new dimension to your blog…
      I totally agree with “You read for fun instead of because you HAVE to.” That is sooo true! It’s interesting to see a book review or get a book recommendation and actually be excited to read it – not that dread feeling you had in school when you were assigned something.

      As far as “you still watch cartoons” – I never really got into cartoons as a kid. Maybe I should start now? I bet that’s why shows like Family Guy and The Simpsons are so popular – people don’t want to grow up!

      Hmmmmm….nothing better than eating a huge bowl of cereal on a Sunday morning, in your jammies. Lucky Charms or Fruity Pebbles will definitely do the trick!

      Thanks for the comment and additions 🙂

  20. BeneathTheSpinLight permalink
    March 3, 2011 7:51 pm

    I make my bed every morning and I have an app for wikipedia on my iPhone. I think this means that although I’m in my 20s (j-u-s-t barely) I am most certainly not an adult… and I’m more than okay with that! 🙂

    • March 7, 2011 6:52 pm

      You have PLENTY of time to be an adult. Enjoy your just barely 20s 🙂

  21. March 3, 2011 9:44 pm

    When you occasionally read the business section of a newspaper…at least taking nominal interest in financial markets.

    Buying kitchen appliances. (I think I’m going backwards, I have less appliances. I’ve moved homes twice across Canada. So less possessions, is better.)

    You care about disability insurance as part of employer’s benefits. (Don’t buy life insurance if you’re single. What the hell for? The insurance industry is shafting you.)

    Buying property insurance.

    Paying attention to health care benefits.

    ****By the way, you don’t need to get married/be coupled with someone else to buy a home. You just need to be self-disciplined with budgeting. I know a number of single folks who have bought their own homes. ie. for instance my sister bought a home…and she has been a receptionist for many years. Not a great salary. But if she could do it, anyone can. No, she borrowed from no family member.

    I strongly feel that one can travel, buy a home, etc. and not be coupled with anyone. Because I know so many people who do it….like a friend who is visiting me now. These are happy solo folks, living meaningfully, rich lives.

    • March 7, 2011 6:55 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Jean! Kitchen appliances – good one! Especially the really expensive ones like a Kitchen Aid mixer 🙂

      I agree with you completely. You definitely don’t need to be married/coupled in order to buy a house or travel. I would be more comfortable traveling with someone…. but I am also not willing to wait until I have someone to travel with in order to do so. Good reminder, thanks!

  22. March 3, 2011 9:48 pm

    *if you have a niece, nephew. You realize you’re an adult.
    *when you want to cook your own meals at home
    *when you start saving for retirement (don’t delay this too long. That expensive purs, expesnive wardrobe….really it’s not going to save you from having enough food on table when no one is around to look after you….because they may be dead. Yes, I know I’m brutal.)

    • March 7, 2011 6:57 pm

      LOL Jean, you are a little brutal. But probably right, even though we don’t always want to admit it. So I have a nephew, and that definitely made me feel older. I don’t quite “want” to cook meals at home…I actually hate it :). And I am definitely saving for retirement – great tip!! Not fun to think about, but definitely true.

  23. March 4, 2011 10:06 am

    Hah! Brilliant!

    I too, feel stuck somewhere between adolescence and adulthood, making the bed but sleeping in clothes I can wear the next day so I can stay in bed those extra minutes… If adolescence/youth is associated with recklessness and experimenting, then adulthood/growing up is associated with obligation and responsibility. BLEH. No wonder most of us put it on hold!

    Really funny list, please keep making lists!

    • March 7, 2011 6:45 pm

      Haha, hilarious that you sleep in clothes you can wear the next day. I’ve never thought about that – what a good time saver, LOL! 🙂
      Don’t worry – the lists will continue. I have no idea why, but a good list makes me happy!

  24. March 4, 2011 11:17 am

    Another great post, Catherine! Although I’m sorry to hear you’re feeling stuck. I read an article not long ago that said quarter-life crises are becoming more and more common. I know I had one at 26! Hang in there. You might not believe this, but the 30s are actually pretty great.

    When you think of it, eating ice cream for dinner is also a tell-tale sign of adulthood. I don’t think any of us could have gotten away with that when we were kids!

    • March 7, 2011 6:44 pm

      Thanks, Maura. I have been hearing about quarter-life crises more and more lately as well. Makes me wonder if hearing other people talk about this is making me think I’m having one too! Chicken or egg sorta thing! 🙂
      Ahhh, good call on the ice cream. The fact that I am allowed to eat ice cream (or anything I want) for dinner in itself makes me an adult! LOL. I’m giving up ice cream for Lent by the way… ugh…..

  25. March 8, 2011 4:42 pm

    Well, with my blog title as Grandpa’s Diary – you decide. I guess I’ve been an adult for way too long as I probably have the greatest number of things on your list and could touch most of the additions people have given you. Seriously, adult is both a state of mind and a factor of behavior. Unfortunately I know some peole who, no matter how old they get, will never be an adult. I guess we are saying that being an adult is a good thing, but I’m not so sure. Lots of people look upon others negatively because they don’t “act like” adults. I don’t know you but one observation I believe I can have is – you may be an adult but you have that playful “child-like” side of you that shows in your postings, and I think that’s great. Please don’t ever lose that!

    • March 15, 2011 10:56 pm

      Thanks, Grandpa! I think you are right – no matter how old, or how adult, you get, you have to keep a young, playful, child-like side to you. It’s essential to enjoying life, I think.
      Thanks for your comment.

  26. March 11, 2011 10:23 am

    Let’s see…I’ve got the extra life insurance, the cereal, the spring cleaning, and the garage sale.

    I’m happy to consider myself an Old Soul. Not and adult 🙂


    • March 15, 2011 10:57 pm

      Oohhh Lucky. That sounds pretty adult-like to me. Especially the spring cleaning and the life insurance 🙂 Haha. But what I know from your writings, you are probably right. An old soul, not quite an adult. 🙂

  27. April 12, 2011 9:12 pm

    My dad still has our encyclopedias from the dinosaur age. Whenever I go over to visit he always asks if I want to take the “Funk and Wagnalls” home with me, because he doesn’t know what to do with them. Each time I kindly refuse, and go on my way pillaging biscuits, canned tuna, fizzy drink and whatever else the Smithers’ household has on offer that particular day.
    I totally feel ya on the whole ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ thing too. I’ve been going on about mine since I turned 21. I’ll be 25 later in the year and feel no different! Damn purgatory!


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