Monday, December 06, 2004

We're all grownups here.

The discussion on Natalie Portman's role in Garden State has spun off into a debate about what makes someone an adult. Daniel Moore seems to make the following contentions:

-College-aged people are not adults, even if they are not in college. Neither are most grad students.
-People with a youthful appearance are considered non-adult unless something distinguishes them as particularly mature (a career as a stripper would appear to apply).
-People without responsibilities are not adults. It's not clear what this means; having a job is evidently not sufficient. Having children might qualify, but not always (teen mothers like the lead in Where the Heart Is are probably not adults). Living on your own doesn't cut it, either; many grad students do that. I guess an obligation to repay tens of thousands of dollars of educational debt doesn't count as responsibility.

This pile of mush doesn't really tell us who is an adult, and it can't even tell us who isn't. Are the four leads on Sex & the City adults? Was my school friend Richelle an adult at 17 (she was a gainfully employed divorcee with a baby)? Is a disabled person ever an adult if he lives on Social Security?

This refusal to cease extending adolescence is troubling. To say that Mr. Moore and I are not adults somehow demeans the accomplishments we make now and needlessly blurs the line between mature individuals and immature teens. Infantilizing vast swaths of the voting public needlessly trivializes their experiences. Surely there's some middle ground between adult=biologically mature and adult=person who has the 1950s markers of maturity.
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