I don’t want to stop being a kid myself.
Lately, people have started calling me “ma’am” more than usual. I’m 22, and I’m not ready for this. Maybe it’s because I started wearing glasses. Maybe it’s because I’ve tried to stop wearing jeans and sneakers all the time in my own reluctant attempt to start dressing like an adult woman. Maybe it’s because I seem more mature now than I did pre-student loan and car loan, pre-heartbreaks and real, adult failures. Maybe it’s just because I look tired.
Whatever cachet or air of sophistication that comes with being a “ma’am,” I’m pretty sure it’s something I’m willing to sacrifice forever. To me, being a ma’am feels like I’ve morphed into an adult in the most conventional sense of the word, and it’s a little soul-sucking. I’m not ready to go Benjamin Button backward, but I’d like life to tone down a notch.
Particularly in our post-college twenties, we, as humans, are often fixated on developing a list of our exploits, ones that can be easily rattled off when we bump into old teachers or have lunch with the grandparents. That’s about where I am now, and it’s work teetering between the blissfully silly, happy-go-lucky human I want to be and savvy, judicious adult I’m trying to be.
I remember — much to my mother’s horror — my friends and me stuffing socks into the crests of our T-shirts as little girls, proudly strutting around with arched backs. Once these “things” came to us, it seemed, so would everything else — the skill of perfectly applying eyeliner, a cool job, a cute boyfriend, a car, cell phone.
These all felt synonymous with “adulthood” and, as a child, I lumped those impressions together to create a terribly false packaged idea of what it means to grow up.
I’ve had all of these things at the same time (except the eyeliner thing — I’ve given up), and, unsurprisingly, it doesn’t come anywhere close to feeling like that cohesive block of defined success and happiness I imagined years before I’d ever come close to needing a real training bra filled with something other than dirty laundry.
I’m not pining for some idyllic mirage of the halcyon days of youth — there are lots of things I love about being an adult, one who’s slowly learning to be self-sufficient and confident and goal-oriented. I just want to remember how to be a kid more often than I am now. I want everyone to remember.
I mean, I want us to be kids in the sense that I want to start a food fight with you and wipe Nutella across your face and not be preoccupied with cleaning up afterward or whether or not you’ll yell at me for sullying your collared shirt.
I want to say yes next time you ask me to go out at 10 p.m. on a Tuesday, even if maybe I’ll stay up too late and be groggy at work the next morning.
I want rainbow sprinkles every time I get frozen yogurt so I can stir up the colors and make creamy, churned rainbows before I take the first bite.
I want us to scrape our knees more often, and have someone ask us if we’re OK and need a Band-Aid when we do.
It’s not that we lose our inner child, but we haphazardly let it get buried underneath responsibility and calculated worry, and that’s understandable. I’m a different Hannah than 7-year-old Hannah and 16-year-old Hannah, but neither of those versions of myself have totally disappeared, either. I don’t want them to.
I wonder all the time what those Hannahs would think about the human being I’ve become and am becoming. Would she be proud? Disappointed? Would she wish I was different?
Part of me wants to have kids one day so I watch and experience, firsthand, those untethered, visceral moments of absolute life highs — like the cackles when dad picked me up off the ground and swung me around like a helicopter or getting genuinely excited over shitty airplane food with my brother.
Adults are emotive, too, but we’re also bound by the things we’ve felt, loved, lost, learned, by our failures and shortcomings. Ignorance sort of is bliss.
And I don’t want kids because I also don’t want to watch that fade and disappear.
CONTACT HANNAH MCCARTNEY: firstname.lastname@example.org