Monday, June 13, 2011

Small Words

When I was fifteen, I read a book titled Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein. Admittedly, I didn't understand a lot of the misogyny and ego stroking that went on behind the curtain of martians and religious questioning. Because of my naivety, I loved this book. One of my favorite topics approached was the difficulty of language. Michael Valentine remarked that the smaller words are, the more difficult they are to define. His example was "love." At this point in my life, I'm having a hard time with small words. Specifically, I have a hard time with "adult" and "peer."

I can drink, smoke, marry and vote, but I am not old enough to be considered dependent of my parents according to the FAFSA. I pay my own rent, have credit cards and utility bills. My parents haven't helped me much over the years. (They did give me $250.00 in 2007, when I overdrew my bank account and freaked out. But, what's a girl to do working part-time at a small record store while attending boring lectures on Macroeconomics.) And yet, when I want to apply to a community college for a degree in Network Administration, I am told that I need to supply not only my tax information, but also my parents. All these hoops because I was born two days shy of the cut off of July 1988.

FAFSA hoops aside, I feel like I won't be an adult until I'm married or grey-haired or a homeowner. As if I won't be fully developed until there is an "r" in my prefix and a mortgage to my name. Or better yet, if I have tiny copies of me running around driving me insane. 

My hopes and dreams of being an adult without giving birth or incurring serious lifestyle change ride solely on the statistical fact that I am not alone. More women (and men) are choosing to stay single and rent their dwellings. More homes are choosing dogs over children. I am not sure if as a nation we are building a new normal that will stick, or if this new normal will be gone once the economy picks up. For now, I don't feel quite so alone in this Peter Pan life. 

The other confusing syllable is "peer." Personally, I've always had a problem with the word "peer." Mostly, because the word is so flexible. We can choose who our peers are in context between similar age, status or ability. For instance, my peers are anyone unmarried; or twenty-something; or anyone who can draw or blog or paint or walk and chew gum; or anyone unemployed; or anyone lower class. (Or am I lower-middle class? Everyone thinks they're middle class.) So, when a friend tells me she is jealous of her peer who has the new job, should I be jealous? What if, to me anyways, that person is not my peer? And what if I haven't found myself jealous of anyone? 

I have always felt that I exist, mind and body, as a separate thing. I feel like I am not a part of a tribe or group or gander. I don't compare my life to others in a competitive way. I can make a factual statement without spin.  Or, at least, I'd like to think so. This makes it very difficult to point out my peers and, better yet, to understand competition among peers.

Then again, find me a 22 year-old woman in a large city with an art degree from a small town who struggles to find a job and lives with her slightly older, introverted, science-y boyfriend. Maybe then I will have a peer. Or maybe I'll pretend it's a social experiment and one of us can be the control. Who knows what adventures doppelgangers might have.

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