How becoming an adult turned into a constant competition

Of all my deep and dark secrets, the one I'm most afraid of is this: I am not really a dog person. 

I don't dislike them, but I'm also not rendered powerless before any dog I meet. Unlike my pal, Bridget, who turns a five-minute walk into a twenty-five-minute expedition, stopping every ten metres to yell "DOGGO!" 

She then crouches to have a long-winded, one-sided conversation with the dog and I'm left lingering with the owner, who can probably tell I'm not really a dog person by the questions I ask. "So what is it?"

It's not a competition, but...

Anyway, it was this pooch-related apathy that sparked a more serious realisation. 

Last week, friends of mine bought a puppy, and in my wider social circle, this was cause for celebration. Because of the whole 'not really a dog person' vibe I mentioned earlier, my reaction was much the same as if they had purchased a stapler. I was aware it existed but not fussed either way. 

However my lack of enthusiasm prompted a loaded comment from one of the owners: "You don't get it, owning a dog is a big responsibility. We're adults now." 

And it was this last bit that stuck with me. I'd recently noticed that for those in their late twenties, early thirties claiming 'adulthood' had snowballed into a kind of competition.

What kind of adult are you?

Presumably, this desire to win the game of growing up comes from the fact we're doing everything later - buying houses, having kids, getting married. So we're desperate to prove we're on the right track in other ways. 

Now not everyone I know is guilty of this adult one upmanship. Like most people, my group of friends is split into two distinct parties. 

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There are the early adopters who already have kids and instantly get their adult card stamped.. These are the friends you see every so often, the ones who always leave everything early. Then there's the rest of us, 'the others.' Married, single, mortgaged, renting, it's a real mixed bag. This is the crew you spend most of your time with, and it's here that adult-shaming is rife. 

Game on

A quick mental checklist shows that adult shaming has infiltrated all my favourite activities. 

Dining

Once upon a time a dinner party was an excuse to put a decent spread on, get boozed and talk about people you don't like. Now it's an exercise in culinary athletics. 

Wining

It's not enough to simply enjoy wine, you have to pretend to care where it comes from. 

Orange, organic, preservative-free. Whatever. If it costs more than $14, I will drink it. 

Television

If you can't name the Monday night lineup on ABC, beginning with 7:30 Report and pushing through to Q&A you're a disgrace.

But for me, the bigger question remains: Why do we feel the need to prove it? 

Isn't it possible to be an adult, while also nursing a full-blown Peter Pan complex? As they say in  Spain: ¿Porque No Los Dos?..Why can't we have both? 

Who moved the goalposts?

Yes, yes, this is from the Old El Paso ad, but the point stands. (Admittedly, quoting a famous taco ad doesn't do much for my case.)

The worst part of this exhausting game is that rules seem to change constantly. Sure, we all want to be adults, but we're not sure how. In the name of research, I decided to blast my contact list to find out.

Do you consider yourself an adult? Why/why not?

Amy: Single, lives at home and doesn't own a dog.

"Yes. I think it's because I genuinely care about homewares now." 

Kate: Engaged (to me!) lives in the suburbs. 

"I am, but you're not hahaha. Nah we're def not." Guilty.

Stefan: In a relationship, owns his home, has a cat.

"Yes because I like slow cooking and all my furniture matches but isn't from IKEA." 

A race to the bottom

All valid and yet I'm more confused than ever. I prefer how it used to work when we were "pre-adult". Back then it was a race to the bottom, the messier your life, the more credit you had. During our early twenties, "I am SO broke," was basically a badge of honour in my share house, each declaration dissolving into a fierce debate as to who was genuinely the most broke.  

Eventually, that title went to my mate Tom who was once diagnosed with scurvy, after living off couscous for a month. First Fleet broke trumps all.

Ultimately, the way I see it, the best way of proving your adulthood is by not worrying about it at all. Now, where's that cheap wine?

After continually being told to "use his words" as a young boy, Thomas Mitchell took that advice on board and never looked back. Since then his words appeared all over the place, including in the Sydney Morning Herald, Time Out, The Huffington Post and GQ. Thomas spends his days observing the unique behaviour of the Australian male, while trying not to overstay his welcome at the local cafe.

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