“…or you could grow up and get frames for your posters,” my boyfriend said to me last week. I was slightly taken aback, and just stared at him. (Comebacks are my strong suit.)

Quite frankly, I had never considered poster framing a sign of adulthood. I discovered later that when he turned 30 he decided that, as an adult, he would frame all of his art. I reminded him that I was much younger than he was, but it seemed to have no impact.

It got me wondering, what is the “coming of age” ritual for the 2o-somethings of America today?

The much discussed diploma cover of the New Yorker this past May hits on this same point.

Fifity or sixty years ago, “being an adult” meant getting married, buying a house, and having kids. In a world of 16 and Pregnant,  a crashed housing market, and …whatever this is, what constitutes adulthood?

A wise friend once told me, “There comes a time in your life where you’re either an adult or you’re not.” I’ve always added onto this quote, “…and those who are not, probably never will be.”

The rituals most of the population once went through to prove their adulthood necessitated a certain amount of maturity. Someone who was married showed that they were able to commit; one who bought a house showed they were able to manage their finances; and one who reproduced showed they were responsible enough to take care of a helpless human being.

These days, Americans have more freedom to live their lives exactly as they please. We no longer have checkpoints on the gameboard path to adulthood. Being a modern adult has less to do with accomplishments and more to do with a maturity and responsibility that is obvious to those around you.

Adulthood comes from within. Yes, it helps, in the eyes of society, to move out of your parents’ basement, and perhaps earn a salary, but adulthood is more of a western form of the first stage of enlightenment–it can only come from within ones self. So frame your posters, your diplomas, and get a soul sucking job–whatever makes you feel better, then maybe you can focus on actually growing up.

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