I just recalled, the other day, the old (possibly current) Toys 'R' Us slogan, "I don't wanna grow up..." None of us do, and it didn't originate with the toy store, but perhaps with the story of Peter Pan and his world where boys never grow up. Now, approaching my 28th birthday - still young in the eyes of my elders, and a grown man to children - I'm wondering if somewhere along the line, I grew up and just didn't notice. Few people, I think, recall various milestones of aging such as growing out of diapers, eating solid foods, first day of school - maybe even the start of puberty (more obvious and memorable to the girls, of course). And I'm not one of them. The first milestone I really remember (though not the year) is stating my resolve to give up cartoons by my next birthday. My parents had divorced, and it was in the short time (six months at the most) that my father was staying with my paternal grandmother (his mom) before getting back on his feet and getting his own place again. Or maybe we were visiting, but I think he was living there. I mostly kept my word, but naturally I slipped a few times, and that resolve went away later. I won't watch cartoons for the sake of doing so, but I enjoy some animated movies (Shrek and Over the Hedge, Cars for instance) and don't mind seeing cartoons when they're on. (Though I don't get Pokemon and Spongebob - I still respect the classics, like Looney Toons, Tom & Jerry, etc.)
Then, as I became a teenager, it became "I'll always listen to heavy metal music and so will my kids" (as my parents played for me "their" music, classic rock). As I got online, I talked with people who were raising kids on Korn and Disturbed, with little critique even from the conservatives. But before that, I was a huge Metallica fan. Now - mostly following the lawsuits against the fans stemming from Napster downloads in 1999, but also a big part because of how my tastes changed, as well as their style - I don't even listen to them. If I hear Enter Sandman, or One, or The Unforgiven on the radio, I listen to it and even enjoy it some. But you won't catch me listening to their albums all the way through or intentionally. After I got out of metal, I rediscovered classic rock, and discovered Enya's "A Day Without Rain" album. I'd still go back to metal from time to time, but it was different bands. Metallica, then Disturbed, and then Nightwish (if you haven't heard of them, don't worry - they're from Finland - northern Europe - very few Americans know of them). Now I find myself listening to more country music than anything else. I've gone from liking angry and loud music to preferring soothing sounds with honest and straightforward lyrics. The metal bands I've loved will always hold some place in my heart, I just don't actively listen to them.
In high school, I think we were required to vote in Government class, or at least encouraged to. When asked the difference between Democrats and Republicans, I was instead given the definitions of a democracy (basically, everyone has a say) and a republic (elected officials make the rules, individuals don't have a say). The democracy sounded better, so that's what I registered as. Clinton was a hero, and Bush (father and son) were the Devil and the Antichrist. I actually found myself liking Clinton and disliking the Bushes on their positions on certain issues, but I still found myself prejudiced. Now that I've moved, I haven't even registered to vote. I don't know what I'd choose if I did, but lately I haven't been impressed with Democrats. I still haven't found a Republican I like, but there are other choices I wasn't really given in school. The Green party is interesting, but I disagree with them on a few key points I won't go into. Then there's the Liberitarians, who seem to fit my ideals - from what I've heard they believe the government should regulate less - the old, "if you don't want an abortion don't have one", "if you don't like gay marriage don't marry someone of the same gender", and "if you don't like guns don't own one". But it sounds too good to be true, there's got to be something they have that I disagree with. The point is, I'll definitely learn more before selecting a party to stand behind.
Then there's teenagers. I raised a little hell in my 15th summer, but not much. I hadn't had a single romantic or even sexual experience until I was in my mid-20s. My mom says I've got my dad beat by 6-7 years, so I guess I can take comfort in that, but it seemed like every guy I knew had girls left and right, and the few girls I knew had at least one guy. Talking to some of these guys now, they downplay it - and perhaps exxagerated it then - but I still felt behind. However, I did my share of cursing. I listened to the bands and watched the movies I wasn't supposed to. (Back then, there weren't games like Grand Theft Auto that kids aren't supposed to play. Nintendo was still committed to families, Sega was dying, the Playstation wasn't out yet, and the Xbox was a long way off. Video games were innocent, for the most part.) Thus, the peak of my rebellion was hanging out with a friend my mother hated, and general delinquincy. Mall loitering and the most minor of vandalisms were my greatest offenses. Oh, and I started reading Dean Koontz, starting with the book Lightning, because a friend told me it had profanity in it, in so many words. And then I pretty much became a nerd. So now I see how today's teenagers are - and more recently and specifically, my favorite cousin - and my first reaction is of shock, followed quickly by a small amount of disappointment - and then, once I've had a moment or two to think, understanding that I was part of that (even if just on the outside looking in) a little over 10 years ago.
Yeah, I guess I grew up. I didn't realize it when I moved out of my mother's house. I didn't realize it when I married my best friend, and I didn't even realize it on our first anniversary; I still considered myself a "guy" (that stage between boy and man). I'm still a guy in some ways, still a boy in others (still play Nintendo games, love my Game Boy DS) but for the most part, I've found myself grown up, by learning that kids I've known since they were babies, are themselves in the process of growing up - so I must have at some point before, as I'm 11 or 13 years older.