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China Martens
P.O. Box 4803 Baltimore MD 21211

The Future Generation #71

Some thoughts on anti-authoritarian adulthood
    Who wants to be a grown-up? Besides little kids that is. I have a mom friend who doesn’t want to get married to her partner because that will be like the final straw to make her feel like a total grown up. And being a grown up is a drag right? Once I asked my friend Georgia, what is it about me that makes everyone think I am so much younger than I am. She said, its because I’m not an old grumpy grown-up. I took that as a complement. But I am here today, to reclaim the word grown-up. At 36 years old (and I was mistaken as 23 just yesterday, so nanny nanny boo boo), I have decided I am a grown up.
    I am not saying that I am done growing, changing or learning stuff. That goes on your whole life. I am just saying I am not going anywhere in my height but down (when I get old), and I have been at a kinda plateau where I am not changing as rapidly as children do. And I like it. I like being this old. Its great. I’m not old enough to ache or pain or anything.
    I’m trying to formulate some thoughts on adulthood. I think of adulthood as a stage where you become more in control of the moving and shaking of this world. More authority? What does this mean for an anti-authoritarian to come into more of authority positions? I would say it would mean trying to figure out how to be who they want to be and create stuff in this world and interact with others without being anyone’s slave or master. I would also say it means being confused sometimes. We don’t believe in the system we have so we can’t blindly take up societies roles for us.
    I am excited to be interviewing an old friend of mine whom I haven’t seen for a while, about her experiences of working in a co-operatively owned café for the last 6 years. Some of the questions I have asked her are questions I really can ask myself, having been a mother for almost 14 years now. We are both deep in creative endeavors that began with a similar and distinct set of pre-thought ideals.
    The first question I asked her is if her experiences have changed her ideas on anarchy. This may be because I know my experiences have soured me on humanity some, and loosened me up. But I don’t really care. I feel optimistic despite my real life worn-out-ness. As my friend Faith so wonderfully put, our ideals are in the middle of a circle, a circle that we travel around as we experience more years on this planet, so we see our ideals from different directions, see how our beliefs affect and are effected. And so I am excited to see what my old roommate Miki will share with me, of her life. I know dealing with bullshit humanity (at times so lovable at times so disgusting) has to be interesting; that of our own peer group and that of the outside authority she had to battle for the last two years that wanted to shut down the café. I know she has stuck with this endeavor through good and bad, through the inspiration and the shit work, which I can relate to as a parent. I believe Miki is the kind of grown up I am, with responsibility, but with wonder and joy in that responsibility. When she tells me of her obsession with making fantastic cakes and pies: lemon meringue pies with 7 inch meringue which intimidates people to order it, and servers to cut it. I crack up laughing, these are the little joys of life that I can get into. My crazy Japanese strawberry shortcake friend, who is only trying to have fun with making creations, that to her regret, people fear to cut into.  She also is considering baking while wearing roller-skates. When her friend tells me of how she will throw down her bike to run off looking for the perfect red in the fall leaves – I know she is the kind of grown up I am. For we have childlike qualities too, as well as mature qualities. We defy stereotypes. We weren’t ageist when we were younger – saying kids had rights too and equality for all – and we are not ageist now that we are older, treating those younger and those older than us with respect as individuals although with differences too. We are still a bit punk. Ah fuck it. Too much responsibility can kill. We want to share the load. The responsibility of freedom.. Life’s too mysterious and everything has its role to play, foolishness, chaos, destruction. We can still dance despite our well, whateverness. But we can bitch like any old grown up. Being responsible and the ensuing stress can bring that out of one.
    I find I do still believe in the ideals I have started with. I just have grown less attached to the results. Do what you do, out of your heart, because that is who you are. Question yourself and others, research and inquire – settle with what your gut tells you, or simply do the best you can at the time. But life will unfold as it will.
    In the end, the café is what the café is, not the workers nor the people who hang out there nor anyone alone, but all of us, chaos and order. Letting go is a good thing.

    My daughter was quite angry with me when she was 11, 12, and the beginning of 13. She was angry with me for us being poor, for not having what other people had, for being different. Still to this day, we discuss bizarre things like her desire to go to public school over the alternative school she is in now that is into experiential learning and stuff like planting trees,  making a park bench by scratch for an outdoor classroom and going on a 8th grade trip to Holland. When we discuss this, I understand her need to meet local kids and more cute boys is a valid one but I express my concerns that public school is like a jail and breeds a jail climate. A lot of how I raise her might sound good to you. But the good a child has, one generally takes for granted. It is what a child is missing, that the child seeks, as it should be.
    And so I had a crashing understanding of how my Dad felt. He felt like me. I was angry for my daughter throwing back in my face, all that I had gained in my life--my wisdom; my emotional togetherness; the freedom and the well balancedness I thought I gave her—instead wanted only material things: money, clothes at the mall, and a mom who looked like other moms.
    My Dad grew up in Brooklyn, poor, with high-water jeans for he grew too fast and ate left over school cafeteria food where his mom worked. He worked to gain financial security and because of that he raised me with never a day lacking in security of a home nor food nor a needed item. Yet I was neither spoiled nor materialistic in the outcome. Indeed I threw back all his middle class security in his face and challenged it all as soul dead and not worth the sacrifice.
    I see now, I could not appreciate the money because we always had it, and that I have not given my daughter enough economic security. There is a Balance to this life.
    A child makes you see outside yourself, a child can be the truth and a child can be righter than you. But a child can be wrong too. And I defend myself and will not change in some ways. In other ways I will change. I have worked for economic stability in the last five years, I went to college because I was desperate and would do things in the socially approved ways because I needed more support. These things have rounded out my personality.
    These days when I buy my daughter a coat she needs (not that I still don’t believe in dumpster diving, getting peoples hand me downs and generally not spending a lot of money on stuff like that) I feel like a grown up. When I look on my body and see I bought myself every stitch on me, I marvel. In the end, it was having a steady job (as a desktop publisher’s assistant) that made me feel like I had gained adulthood and I liked it.

    I read this article once, in some magazine like Mademoiselle or something – that was profound to me. It talked about being a Grown Up. Does our generation ever grow up? We sure look younger and take longer to “grow up” than the previous generation did. And what makes a grown up? Having sex, a child, living on your own, paying bills? We pass certain signposts and still don’t feel grown. The article declared that it is not something that happens all at once exactly. But it did list some things that make up a grown up. It said part of being a grown up is having had a few relationships under ones belt and having learned and improved from that. Being an adult means getting deeper into your interests and having more committed long lasting relationship be that with a partner, child, or profession. Being a grown up is have worked out ones childhood issues and being more at peace with who one is and ones relationship with ones parents. Being a grown up is no longer seeing issues in the black and white way one tends to in youth and generally being more easy going and forgiving of people. I felt like I had achieved all the aspects of adulthood it named except financial independence at the time. I had been struggling with that.
    Talking to Miki when she came to visit, she told me something that I could totally agree with and something it said in the article too. She had learned over time, how to regulate her emotions better. For when you are happy it seems like only the happy world exists and when you are sad it seems like sad is all that ever can be – but you can help yourself when you realize you have these states of mind that fluctuate up and down and teach yourself little tricks to deal with it. We tell ourselves, remember, life has ups and downs, things will change. We understand ourselves better and develop coping strategies. This is one of the things that have made life get better, as I get older.
    I am in shocked by  those who do forget their childhood, how it felt and don’t stay moderately true to childhood realizations. In front of my building at work, I engaged in a conversation with a bunch of adult parents of teenagers like myself. They all laughed at their children. “They think they can get away with that? Like I didn’t try that when I was their age! Like I don’t know what they are up to!” These were parents of the rock and roll generation who were rebels without a cause in there day and part of the status quo today. They simply forbid their children the activities they were forbade and punished them as the kids snuck around them. What had changed? They had simply become their parents. What lesson had been learned?
    While I so desperately needed to talk to a parent who was in my peer group, a previous rebel, now parent of teen, to figure out some issues – how does one be a good parent and protect as only a parent can, while letting them grow, take risks and be respectful of them? I had the open dialogue, listening and talking part down – but my child was acting stupider than I had expected her to act. I feared now–Sex and Drugs. Eek, how conventional of me. But at 12 years old she spoke rap lyrics and obsessed over boys had low self-esteem, wore “hootchie mama” clothes, looked more like a 16 year old than a 12 year old, and already had a dangerous drug experience already under her belt. She also told me No and left the house and ran away, over night, for the first time. Had I raised her too permissive? Ayun said in her review of my zine, that I was ‘feeling ill-equipped to do the right thing by her rebellious attachment baby”. Pretty true. I wanted to be a good parent. I questioned my values in raising her.. I tried to become more disciplined and disciplining, I have never been good at that. I don’t know if I am now, but I don’t want to be a chump mama.  I thought I might have to take control completely until I won, like it was a war situation.  But that approach has never worked for me, not in diaper changes and not with runaways. I actually did find a good book with a cheesy title: Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall?: A Parents Guide to the New Teenager – that helped me to chill and cope.
    In the end I saw the teen years are typically, a hard time between child and parent. We both wrestled with this time and came through it for the better, grew from it. I think the open honest nature of our relationship and respect has gone far. When I look at the woman my daughter is becoming at 14, I feel really happy. We get along much better now.
    Brian was telling me how Miki has done lots of work at the café, she had worked there the second longest time. Some people think she is “the bitch of the café”. I guess cuz she would call someone on their shit and is a strong woman. Or worse, they treat her like a boss and resent her but do not come and talk to her or discuss the issue. That is so terrible to me, that even in a free situation; someone would make a boss out of some one else. I work in an office environment, which is rife with resentment of the boss and full of morally superior underlings that just do what the boss says and never question, discuss or bring up a point of view. People want to blame everything on the boss, talk behind their backs, and take no responsibility themselves. I feel, I treat people with respect, no matter what their position and am used to a co-operative attitude. I feel anarchy is a natural give and take. I tell my boss what I think, with tact, but I am not afraid to voice a differing opinion and to back up my opinion with reasons. I try to do a good job and I have respect for myself and for her.
    I also, have not raised my daughter to take orders, with blind obedience. I have raised her to have responsibility, which she gladly takes, to running our own household, in amounts she is ready for at her age. If there is anything I hate, it is having to be too much the responsible adult while others play, laugh and wreck things.  My daughter had a friend that turned me into an adult and I resented it. She was used to being bossed around and therefore learned to be being sneaky and conniving. I don’t really condemn lying in children for I feel they are forced to lie when they do, more often than not out of a need for privacy, or lack of power, or immaturity to deal with the situation. I try to be the kind of person,  with whom one can be honest. I feel honesty is a very adult quality, and a wonderful quality, for you have the power to be who you are without someone stopping you. What I offer kids, is freedom: the freedom to talk things over;  to compromise; to have a part in running your life and to have a part in the responsibility. Sometimes kids think this is chaos styled anarchy – when they find an adult they can express disrespect to, disagree with, whose will isn’t law. An adult whom you can agree to disagree with. But there are things I will not accept too. My way is simply a different way then they are used to. I use my words to explain as opposed to command. Its not like Anything goes with me. I see we cop out when we act powerless. Speak up, have an opinion, make a move. Learn by the consequences of your actions.
    I know I have More responsibility as an adult than as a child. Therefore I do also have some more rights to do what I think is for the greater good. Some of my authority is natural authority, through knowing stuff, by having more experience and natural respect, being respected for my merits not just because I am an adult. I’ve had to develop a tougher skin as an adult, but I am not the boss. I don’t always get my way. Pick your battles. We are not in a power struggle. We are a family. Nobody wants to be a bitter old adult. Nobody wants to be a powerless scared child. We are learning from each other, weaving around, winding up to trade places, learning as we go, different but equal, respect for each other. Take responsibility for yourself and keep working on those communication skills. “Freedom without Responsibility is Stealing”–  quoted from Redneck Heaven: Portrait of a Vanishing Culture
    Being a grown up isn’t as mighty as it seems to be when you are a child.  There are still limits to your power and people or situations that control you. It might seem that being adult doesn’t mean you are that free at all, there is just a whole other set of shit to deal with. Well whatever. It is time to take responsibility for ourselves. We can’t keep bitching and moaning, complaining how the government, our parents, and our bosses are ruining everything. There are always choices we can make, and mentalities we can break. Who can Really control the world? Haven’t we all inherited this mess? Isn’t the best we can do is try to be in control of our Selves and not pass along too much madness to others.
    You try to do some stuff in a better way than all those stupid grown ups before you. Before long, life humbles your ass. When you get good and humbled, well then, welcome to adulthood. As we age in years, we still feel kind of the same inside—kind of lost and silly. To think of ourselves as grown-ups, just doesn’t seem correct sometime. Yesterdays grown-ups seemed to know the answer to everything and they would tell you what to do.
    So nah, I don’t really want to reclaim the word “grown-up” for myself. But I’m not afraid of that word, either. I just am who I am, a person with many qualities, some young and some old.