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Adulthood and Other Nightmares

By Corinne E. Funk

Friday afternoon, I had the opportunity to visit everyone's favorite inaccessible shrine to fashion, the CambridgeSide Galleria, to run a few errands. As I was leaving, I stopped by a food vendor to pick up a treat for my roommate.

Beforehand, she and I had agreed that this visit's souvenir of choice would be a Cinnabon--a sticky, sweet cinnamon roll that is sinful, cheap, and wildly popular.

The coveted bun is so popular, in fact, that as I approached the vendor, I found myself at the back of an enormous line. As much as I hate standing in line, I knew that the pay-off would be worth it, and I decided to stay. In front of me were about ten Cambridge high school students, who seemed to be getting an after-school snack. I smiled, remembering how much I liked to stop at the mall after school when I was in high school.

Just then, the man behind the Cinnabon counter caught my eye. "You can come forward, ma'am," he said, "These kids can wait."

At first I was just happy that I got to take my Cinnabon and be on my merry way much sooner. However, something about the incident kept bothering me, and I began to reply it over and over in my mind on the way home. Finally, it struck me: I was no longer one of them. They were kids. I was ma'am. I was a grown-up.

If I think about it logically, I should be rejoicing at this moment. I have wanted to be an adult for as long as I remember. However, now that I am one, things are not quite the way I expected them to be. I had images of an adulthood that was some cross between the fast-paced corporate life on L.A. Law and the steamy underworld of the soap operas. I would be successful. I would be passionate. There would never be a dull moment.

And now, here I am, an adult. In line for a Cinnabon.

Of course, I'm a little bit in denial about this harsh reality. I tell myself that in six short weeks, I will not only be an Adult, but a Real World Adult. Maybe that will be more enchanting. However, the few tastes I have had so far of the real world have not been so promising.

Finding an apartment is a good example. In high school, I fantasized about having an apartment of my own, and I decorated it in my mind down to the last detail. Throughout college, I have complained about dorm life. Now it comes time to find that much-awaited apartment, and I come to three harsh realizations--I have to find it, I have to pay for it, and I have to maintain it. My apartment search is only a few weeks old, and already I'm looking at my little room in Winthrop in a new light. Perhaps I will try to claim squatters rights to the property come June.

The apartment, though, is just the tip of the iceberg. This is also the time for Serious Life Decisions. I had initially counted myself among the lucky that I do not have the looming decision about whether to break off a long-term relationship at graduation. Without that complexity in my life, I thought that the transition to the Real World would be simple: all I would have to do is show up at my job and do what I am told.

I made this comment to a couple of Corporate Spouses with whom I had the opportunity to have lunch at the Institute of Politics last week. They were in town with their husbands, who were at a conference for CEQs. Most of these women have spent their lives as full-time moms, and now that their children have left home, they do extensive volunteer work in the community. As soon as I told them how much I was looking forward to work, they began to raise the issues that I had been trying to ignore. "Working those hours will be fine for two years, dear," one said, "But what happens when the babies come?" I cringed.

Slowly but surely, adulthood is seeming less and less glamorous.

In the first few weeks of my Social Analysis course "Children and their Social Worlds," I learned that at age three, children begin to become entranced with the idea of becoming an adult. What the professor neglected to mention is that the novelty wears off at about age 22, just when it needs to kick in.

Corinne E. Funk's column appears on alternate Mondays.

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