You know when you're a kid and you think: I wish I was an adult so I could be in charge? What a stupid thing to think. Adulthood is actually a prison, and its bars are Responsibility.
Lots of things about being an adult are great, and just as you would have imagined them as a kid. You can drink wine and go to bed whenever you want and have ice cream for dinner and stay in bed ALL DAY on Sunday even if the sun is shining (I am, for instance, writing this from bed).
But if you really think about it, these are just tiny, conciliatory freedoms we grant ourselves in order to mask the fact that growing up means shackling ourselves to Duty.
Duty is an unsympathetic, unrelenting master. You say, but I want to do this; it says, but you NEED to do that. A kid would say, so what? An adult says, okay, master. And postpones pleasure for the sake of paying the bills, and stifles desire for the sake of Doing What's Expected.
Something happens to our brains, usually somewhere between the ages of 18 and 30; an injection of Maturity while we sleep, perhaps; we wake up one morning and things we didn't realise could matter MATTER. Money. Rent. Groceries. Schedules. Dentistry. Who the hell knew that you could feel so dutiful about the need to have a man scrape plaque off your teeth with a metal instrument and tell you that you're still not flossing properly, you need to do it like this? Going to the dentist seems to me like the epitome of adult conscientiousness; I have never felt quite so grown up as I did the first time I shelled out £50 for the hygienist to peer skeptically at my never-had-braces never-had-a-cavity teeth and suggest that I buy an electric toothbrush.
Speaking of electric toothbrushes: owning stuff becomes important, too. Like we need an inventory to validate us, or a litany of THINGS to ground us. For instance: I don't own any furniture (well, I co-own a bed with the Man; someone gave it to us, the mattress is too big and hangs off the sides, it's not really very dignified), and as I live in a furnished house I don't see any need to buy furniture, but I'm conscious of the fact that I'm not a very good grownup because I don't own an Ikea dining table or an antique sideboard. If we don't own THINGS (by the way, I don't count books as THINGS, they're much too beautiful and necessary), it's too easy to do the thing we're not supposed to do, which is - Quit, Get Up and Leave, Change Things. Be In Charge.
I know it's not as theoretical as I'm making it. We really do have to pay the bills and feed ourselves and make sure our teeth don't fall out, and part of being a grownup is acceptance of the fact that nobody else is going to do these things for you. But I wish we'd stop thinking of the transition to adulthood as some sort of emancipation; it's just a different sort of dependency. I wish I didn't think about money so often or make choices based on what I think I should do instead of what I want to do. I wish we really would decide what grown-up means and have sex in apartments full of plastic balls and to hell with responsibility.