On Saturday my friend came over and we ate pizza and watched The Muppets. We are 35. I can honestly say it was one of the most fun evenings I’ve had in a while. So what if the movie’s not a patch on the ‘turn left at the fork in the road’ brilliance of the original, it stayed true to the characters and message of the Muppets and it transported us to a simpler, safer time in our lives, free of drama and responsibility.
Having said that, the life I live now is actually not hugely dramatic or responsible compared to most of my friends and I have recently been worrying that I am being left behind – the only one of my group who is not yet, and may never be, a grown up. All around me people are buying houses, getting married, having children, things which traditionally give definition to the concept of ‘grown up’ and here I am renting from a friend, single, transitory, with not a plan in sight. I am stubbornly clinging to the conceit of youth, to the vain imaginings of Neverland, to the dim hope that I never have to change my life because I’m quite content as it is, actually.
I’m blessed with an incredible group of girlfriends, many of whom have been friends for over 20 years. We grew up together, we have so much history together that when I look at them I see the best parts of myself reflected in their eyes and their smiles, memories of all the love, advice and laughter we have shared over the years. We have always spoken candidly with each other and dinner the other night was no exception…only (and this has been happening a lot lately) I had nothing to contribute, no advice to impart, nothing to say. Of course this didn’t stop me and I ended up saying a lot of things, but everything that came out of my mouth felt asinine and irrelevant, juvenile and self centred. My drunken dating stories lost their lustre among their stories of trying to start a family, of being newly married, of planning for the future. After so many years of growing up at the same pace, I am finding it difficult to adjust to the differences between us and am having to ask myself if it’s time for me to keep up, to grow up, to settle down.
I’m not entirely sure why these two concepts – growing up and settling down – are so intertwined in my mind. I know many people who are proper grown ups who have never settled down, and plenty of people who have settled down and are as far from grown up as it is possible to be. But if they are not the same thing they are definitely related and I just don’t feel ready to do either, it feels too much like facing reality, like hard work. I know my friends don’t expect me to keep up with them – they would probably insist that they like my drunken dating stories, it allows them to live vicariously through me but I really don’t want to be that person. I want to be in their gang again, to understand what they are going through and share in their successes and failures, like I always have, but I am at such a different place in my life that for the time being I have to accept our differences and support them in other ways. One day I’m sure, my priorities will change and I will forget the name of the boy they gave a blowjob to behind the skate park and be able to remember the name of their firstborn child. One day. After all it’s not a race and I’m sure they are blindly negotiating the complexities of real life just like I am blindly avoiding them in my bubble of irresponsibility. We are all still growing, if not growing up.
So maybe I’ll grow up and maybe I won’t, maybe I’ll settle down and maybe I won’t but for now the differences between my friends and I will remain, but so will the honesty and so will the support, of that I am sure. Our paths may have diverged – I may have turned left at the fork in the road and they may have turned right but we will meet again because no matter how grown up you become, the friends you made when you were 12 will always remember who you were before life got in the way.