How to be an adult

January 20, 2014
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When I turned 18, everyone congratulated me on entering adulthood. My birthday cards were a plethora of daggy “now that you’re an adult” jokes, my monthly one-page bank statement transformed into a 38-page instructional booklet on credit and interest, and I made a new penpal in the Australian Electoral Committee. It was an exciting day.

Reaching the age of 18 is often a cause for celebration, especially if you’ve been a rebellious teenager pining for the day you can finally be treated like an adult; but for the Holden Caulfields of the world, it's pretty much the most frightening feeling in the world. One year on, I still didn't  feel any more adult, nor did I know how to truly become one.

So I embarked on an extensive research mission, observing adults upfront and from afar, documenting what it was, exactly, that helps a kid graduate into adulthood, because it sure as hell wasn’t about age. What resulted was a collection of scientifically-proven tips dedicated to those post-18-year-old kids who feel perpetually stuck in childhood, and those that experience symptoms of violent nostalgia and irrational anxiety when booking appointments.

Fellow Peter Pans, I understand your suffering. But despite what Allison Reynolds would have you believe, your heart doesn’t have to die when you grow up, it simply needs to cut its hair and start wearing darker colours. Here are my six subtle and simple lifestyle adjustments that are guaranteed to transform you in the eyes of society from almost-adult to grown-up guru. I hope these tips may help you fool everyone around you into believing you are every bit as adult as the law expects you to be.   

Tip 1. Think carefully about your favourites

Once you turn 18, your favourite book, film, song and food all need to be exchanged for more sophisticated, cultured alternatives. No self-respecting adult’s favourite film is going to be Zoolander, and telling others your favourite food is mac and cheese will only leave you stranded in Neverland while your peers sail off, shaking their adult heads in exasperation.

Consider trading in your beloved Harry Potter series for a copy of On The Road to carry around at all times, and remove any songs on your iPod that are currently on The Hot Hits music chart. Also, lest the adult-points you earned while getting your license get negated, make sure to also switch your car radio dial from Nova to FBi Radio, Triple R, or something else hyper-cultured.

Being an adult also requires knowing shitloads about the past – because you were there, right? – so naturally your favourite song will have been released before 1994. Talk loudly about Nirvana, Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones and their “early stuff” amongst your peers and exaggerate those eye rolls every time Jason Derulo sings his own name. Extra points if you can rock a band t-shirt printed in the '80s.    

Tip 2. Stop caring about the colour of everyday items

You will never hear a proper adult squeal “Oh I want the pink one” when reaching for a loofah in the shower aisle of Priceline. Never. Adults don’t care what colour lolly they get from the packet, or whether their toothbrush is a nicer shade to their sister’s. No, adults simply do not have time for that.

When selecting everyday items, practise arranging your face into a picture of indifference. In fact, the uglier the colour, the more it will seem like you have too many adult responsibilities to afford a thought for the colour of your inanimate object of choice.

Sadly, this colour rule also means you will need to stop caring about rainbows, glow sticks or light prisms (unless on a Pink Floyd t-shirt, see Tip 1). Most importantly, you'll need to stick to a strictly monochromatic wardrobe, regardless of how cool you think those Day Glo t-shirts that change colour depending on temperature are.

Tip 3. Re-evaluate your coffee choice

Everyone knows that drinking coffee is the first signpost on a teenager’s way to adulthood; it falls somewhere between drinking Red Bull and drinking alcohol. But now that you are at the final roadblock before becoming a proper adult, it’s time to re-evaluate your choice of coffee.

None of this mint-caramel-mocha-frappachino-with-whipped-cream bullshit. You're an adult now, which means you have serious, adult business to get to. You no longer have time for these delicious semi-caffeine delicacies; from now on it’s strictly coffees with names under four syllables. 

Tip 4. Upgrade your voicemail

We all remember the day we recorded our first outgoing message. Some kids opted for the classic “You know what to do”, while the cheekier types sung, rapped or impersonated their own renditions of popular songs and catch-phrases. Erase all of these. Immediately. This is exactly the kind of imprudence that will prevent everybody from taking you as a serious adult.

From now on, answer each call with a formal “Hello, speaking”. You never know who might be calling you, and you don’t want their first impression of you to be one of immaturity. Even if you have caller ID, answer phone calls from your partner, your best friend, even your own Mother, in the same fashion. It is important to perpetuate an aura of adulthood at all times, especially to those who’ve known you as a child, in order to shake that juvenile reputation. 

Tip 5. Acquaint yourself with the kitchen

Contrary to popular misogynistic beliefs, it's actually adults who belong in the kitchen. Children have no business in the room of fire and knives, so knowing your way around the kitchen is an infallible way of dispelling any rumours regarding your perpetually-childlike persona.

Subtly slipping obscure cooking ingredients, methods or equipments into conversation may help activate your adult-levels. My personal favourites include “Will you please fetch the condiment forks for the hors d’oeuvres?” and “I simply blanched the beans before tossing them into the salad”. Other words that you may consider enlisting into your adult vocabulary include: decanter, zucchini flower, pinot noir, napery and mandolin slicer.  

Tip 6. Fangirl no more

Have you ever realised that, aside from Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah, there aren’t a lot of people or things that adults scream over? That’s because adults aren't in the business of overzealously admiring the personalities and products of other people. If you bump into a celebrity on the streets, even it’s your favourite artist, actor or writer, remain outwardly indifferent.

Gone are the days of lining up for five hours to get front-row tickets to your favourite band’s concert, or spending $50 on a Heisenberg t-shirt. Being an adult means letting go of unrestrained adoration to make room for cold-hard reality. So change that screensaver of young Johnny Depp making grilled cheese with an iron, the Windows logos is just as attractive... with the same chiselled cheekbones... you’ll be fine. Get your adultness together, damn it!

Baya Ou Yang

Baya Ou Yang is a 19-year-old almost-adult studying Arts at The University of Melbourne, majoring in Media & Communications with a minor in Film & Culture. She blogs at A Girl Named Boy.

Photo: Natasha Foster, University of Technology, Sydney