The song on the radio
makes you shiver
and want to curl into a ball.
Makes you want to be 17
and forget the future shrinking.
Life was so open then,
now it's closing in.
--Trembling Blue Stars, "Idyllwild"
"I'm 28. I'm too young to wear a suit to work everyday."
I guess it's inevitable that "growing up" would become one theme in this blog. Part of it is my own situation, being 24 and having been at a transitional time in my life for the past few years. The other part is that asexuals are often accused of being childlike, of being late bloomers or immature. Of course, this warrants an exploration of what "immature" even means. The Beauty Myth got me thinking about “normal” things (ie, complaining about cellulite) that actually function as forms of social control (in the case of cellulite, distracting uppity women from their potential power). This made me think of our common notions of being “grown-up”, which Edge of Everywhere also wrote about somewhat recently.
When I think of growing up in the typical way, two things come to mind: Self-denial and independence. Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth, would definitely agree about self-denial as it relates to adult women. Mature women, we are told, watch what we eat, wear shoes that hurt our feet, spend our hard-earned cash on cosmetics, and aren't allowed to relax and accept that we have a few wrinkles. More universally, we're supposed to acquiesce to jobs that range from uninspiring to expolitative, because that's what adults do. We strive for money and prestige out of some vague idea that we're just supposed to. We're supposed to give up our own dreams for the benefit of children and spouses, which usually doesn't end up benefitting anyone.
And then there's independence. As adults, we're supposed to support ourselves fully with no help from anyone else. (Of course, our employers are extremely fickle forms of support.) However, is this ideal something that's actually good? Independence can also mean isolation, which might be the last thing we need. As always, my heartily asexual passion for community is coming through. Independence is personal power, but community is political power. Guess what the "world order" wants and doesn't want us little people to have?
I'm not just making this up. Independence hasn't been important to all times and places. For example, Joanna Macy writes about Buddhism, "The Buddha called our interconnectedness paticca samuppada, dependent co-arising...perceiving all existence as a dynamic, self-sustaining web of relations..."
Don't get me wrong, independence can be good. Independent music and movies are (often) good. Energy independence is definitely good. And the Independent is a good concert venue here in San Francisco. Independence can feel really good. But I think that sometimes, all the emphasis on it can unnecessarily drive people apart.
The more I think about it, the more it seems like our ideals of "growing up" are just another way to funnel youthful rebellion into existing social norms. If that's maturity, I don't want any part of it. We all had different childhoods, so I don't see why we can't all define adulthood in our own ways. Of course, the world order doesn't want that, but obviously, I really don't care what it wants.