40licious Relationships: Embracing Your Accidental Adult

Author Colin Sokolowski. Cute, right?

We’ll go into our weekend with some deep insights about bridging the gap from being a fun kid to growing up into a boring, stuffy adult. Colin Sokolowski, can’t tell the difference between a Chianti or a Cabernet, and he really doesn’t care. He’s the author of The Accidental Adult: Essays and Advice for the Reluctantly Responsible and Marginally Mature. He lives with his wife (who must be a complete saint) in St. Paul, Minn., and gives scooter rides to their three children. You can read about his reluctant journey into adulthood here and be his Facebook friend.

1. You can put off growing up for only so long, and women at 40 and beyond have really no excuse not to be grown up. Jobs, families, retirement accounts, it’s all so much! How can we retain the irresponsibility of youth but keep it all together?

I think we all need to master the art of caring less without becoming careless. I’d never advocate blowing off life’s responsibilities – and most women wouldn’t listen if I did. Instead, go about your day’s activities (job, family, friends) but also nurture an inner monologue that continually reminds you that you may appear to be an assimilated adult, but inside you’re not really one of them. You might have to act like you really care about your child’s PTA fundraiser, but you know deep inside you’d rather be organizing a trip to wine country. And that’s OK.

And please. Never, ever slip on those super comfy Mom Jeans. And if you overhear someone referring to you as a MILF, don’t be offended. That’s a compliment. A huge compliment.

2. What advice would you give to a 40licious woman who wants to play hooky from work and home one day? How should she make the most of that 10 hours?

If you’re talking about my wife, I’m not sure I support this radical idea. But for other women, I’d say don’t do anything for anyone else – family, friends, co-workers. Women who spend their day off grocery shopping, writing invitations to a six-year-old’s birthday party or buying their husband socks aren’t really addressing their own needs. I know plenty of women who’d say, “But I enjoy doing those things for my family.” Sure. But is that really “free time?” I’d bet a good book, or a massage, or a wine-infused lunch with friends can nourish the soul just as well. Probably better. Again, that’s unless we’re talking about my wife. In which case, I could use some socks.

3. We loved the man-boy in our 20s and maybe even a little in our 30s because he was so fun and played guitar and took us cow tipping and we could go drinking at lunch together. But honestly, at 40licious, we’re a little tired of him. We don’t need an extra kid. Discuss.

No one wants to feel like they’re hitched to a slouch. But on the other hand, is your man the guy whose tools are alphabetized in the garage? He may have a better grasp of classic male adulthood than me, but if he’s forgotten the best quotes from “Caddyshack” and doesn’t remember how to tap a keg of beer, he doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun to me.

I really caution women against elevating that typically responsible, all-knowing man. Sounds more like a father than a fun life-partner. Those men are the classic assimilated adults – people who seem to breeze through life without the slightest air of uncertainty about them. They’re professional adults who have embraced all the trappings. They know what kind of mileage their car gets. They understand their credit score. That’s just never been me. No one asks me to help them install a kitchen sink. I don’t get golf invitations anymore for two reasons: I suck, and I think that it’s funny that I suck.

Accidental adults might not always inflate the tires before a roadtrip, but I guarantee you we’ll take you on a fun (and marginally responsible) ride.

4. Do you have some care and feeding tips for those of us who are lucky/unlucky enough to be partnered with a man-boy?

The worst thing you can do is expect him to buy into assimilated adulthood. That means he gets a free pass when drinking beer at the fancy dinner party or clamming up when the conversation turns to the subprime mortgage crisis. Instead congratulate him for properly answering the rarest music trivia questions correctly to the astonishment and delight of the adult guests. He’s just playing to his strength.

Same goes for women who are accidental adults. Don’t beat yourself up over sending your nine-year-old daughter to the neighbor’s house to borrow a bottle of wine. Or when you forget to leave money for the tooth fairy (two nights in a row). Or when you’re short on cash, and you “borrow” some from your grade-schooler’s piggy bank on your rush out the door.

Life’s too short to worry about projecting the perfectly adult appearance at all times.

5. What’s the cutoff point where someone needs to get a “real job” or just end up like my Uncle Seamus?

I’ve never been one of those “Let’s backpack Europe for 18 months before figuring out a career” types. So I can’t really relate to the 25-year-old dude who sleeps on the couch until noon. I’ve had fairly responsible jobs from age 22 to today, but I’ve always felt I was the youngest person in the board room. And I usually am, even now into my early 40s. That makes me feel more connected to a fun, youthful and carefree spirit. Accidental adults hold serious jobs, but they realize they’re just playing a role, and they’re not letting the job play them.


Vanessa McGrady40licious Relationships: Embracing Your Accidental Adult

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