I pride myself on my theories. In fact, I’m known for my theories. I’m the Einstein of dumb theories, you might say. Need a theory about the unknown human diarrhea sac? I’ve got it for you. Longing for a theory about how the internet is a passing fad? Come at me, bro. Desire a theory about how test tube babies are really made in a lab and fed with fish food until they are ready to be “born” and then are popped out of their test tubes into a crib? There it is.
My latest theory: I believe that most people don’t emotionally mature past the age of 16.
My therapist once told me that people don’t truly “know themselves” until their mid-70s. That we are spending our whole lives getting to know this human brain and soul we were given, and then reach some Maya Angelou-esque enlightenment when we head on up to our seventh decade. While Dr. “Madde stopped going to you after you gave her a lecture about dating comedians” might have been convincing in his argument, I believe a certain percentage of people just decide to stop evolving and getting to know themselves after they’ve gotten their driver’s license and smoked pot in the back of their parent’s caravan.
Take for example Bravo’s “Real Housewives” franchise. King Andy Cohen has made millions of dollars off of filming grown ass women who agree that screaming at each other in restaurants, pulling out the weaves of their neighbor, and coining phrases like “I’m Gone with the Wind fabulous, bitch!!” are appropriate and suitable ways to handle human interactions with their peers. And America watches. Well--I watch...And my mom...And most people I trust. We all watch and say, “Can you believe it? Can you believe these women? How juvenile!” and convince ourselves that we don’t partake in the some version of this in our lives--albeit with less diamond rings and our own lines of Pinot Grigio.
When I was 16, I had a high tolerance and thirst for petty arguments about boys, gossip rings about who did what to who’s what, and most things 16 year olds spend their days chatting away about. At 27, my tolerance has evolved. Now I silently feel rage when girl in women’s clothing steals a man from my clutches. I still gossip* about who did what to who’s what, but now in closed circles with my gal pals over someone else’s line of Pinot Grigio, we have a laugh, and then move on.
(*A side note on gossip: anyone who says they don’t gossip is a filthy liar. We all share stories and are interested in what is going on in the beds, homes, cars, side cars, and mopeds of the people around us. It is a matter of whether you share this information KNOWING it will hurt someone’s feelings (BAD GOSSIP..don’t do it!!), or whether you are being a human being who observes out loud (STILL NOT GREAT GOSSIP...but we’ve all done it! So don’t try and cast stones at others when you have done it yourself, toots. Mmmmk?). Ok. Gossip tangent over.)
What I DO NOT have tolerance for is the thoughtless and unkind behavior that one might forgive a 16 year old for, but in your mid 20s-90s is unacceptable. I recently had an experience in which someone was incredibly unkind to me. As an adult woman, I thought that surely this was an unintentional act of unkindness that I could honestly and earnestly come to this person about, we would chat it over, they would apologize, there might even be a hug or two, and we could move on. Oh, no, no, no, no...no. I was shocked to hear that all of the unkind behavior had actually been calculated, they did not feel badly for what they had done, and they weren’t planning on being kind any time soon. Cooooooool.
This situation got me thinking. If someone ever approached me and asked me to be kind to them, what would my answer be? Well, turns out my answer would never be NO. Great news! This might be the sign that I’m on my way to emotionally evolving past the age of 16.
Do I gossip? Yes, I do. It’s not vicious gossip. I never set out to hurt people, but I do observe humanity out loud, which would be put into the category of “gossip.” So ya, I do it. Stone me. Think the worst of me, if you’d like...
Do I spend an unusual amount of time staring at my nose pores? Sure.
Do I still struggle with parallel parking? Of course. It’s an inhumane activity to ask me to do while I’m holding my Cappuccino.
Do I have crushes on boys, and weirdly giggle if they are around, then lose capacity to work my mouth when talking is required? Kind of, and I promise I’ll see a doctor about it soon.
Does my mother still pay my cell phone bill? .....no comment..(..but I will say that we are on a family plan, and Mama Gibba has invited me many times to pay my share, and my schedule has made me unavailable for negotiations on this. No further comments will be offered at this time).
My point? I’m in my mid-to-late-20s and yes, I certainly behave like a teenage girl sometimes, but I am proud to say that emotionally, I might have gained perspective on how to treat others with respect, kindness, love, and thoughtfulness. I’m certainly not at Maya Angelou status, but I am proud to say I want to be better and I have gained a perspective on my capacity for compassion.
When I’m treated poorly as an adult, I try to figure out why my first instinct is to feel compassion for the shit head who shit all over my head. I was never bullied as a teenager, but, like most teenagers, I certainly didn’t always feel like I fit in. It didn’t feel great, it made me second guess who I was, why I was, and if I was worth it. And you know what that experience taught me? I am me, I was put on this Earth to be the best version of me, I am good enough, and I am more than worth it.
Strangely enough, it wasn’t until I became an adult that I faced actual bullying. People who are perceived me in a certain way and think negatively of me for whatever that reason is. People who believe if they break me, it will give them strength. Or, you know, just some assholes who don’t feel too great about themselves. I don’t think these things are reserved just for teenagers. People don’t always grow out of feeling shitty about themselves. The teenage bully becomes the 27 year old bully who calculates how to make their peers feel sadness. The bullied 16 year old becomes the 32 year old with a superiority complex and alarming high self-esteem that is really masking the damage they endured in their teens by talking down to others and making you feel less. They resort to their tactics they used as a youth, or the tactics that were used against them when they were younger to make them feel less than. We don’t grow out of that unless we make a conscious choice to want to be better.
So this is what I’m asking. Let’s all try to do better. Gossiping about boys, smoking weed in vans, and stuffing our bras is in good fun. That stuff can stay, but what if we all try to show kindness and compassion to those around us? After all, wasn’t being a teenager hard enough? Nobody wants to go through round two, we’ll all just get acne again.