The Five Stages of Being a Kidult


Less than a year ago, I turned 18.

It was strange. At 11:59 pm I was watching Disney’s Princess Protection Program and banging pots and pans together. Exactly one minute later, I had the legal right to vote for my nation’s leaders, to drive motor vehicles and to stay up past my bedtime.

It’s hard to believe that within a few moments I had escaped the pimply angst of adolescence and stumbled into the glamorous world of adulthood. Eagerly, I turned to the mirror to see if I’d been physically transformed in any way. Nope, I still looked the same – like a remarkably short 13-year old with a small, inconspicuous bald patch. I’d had that patch for so long I’d even given it a name. Harold.

To be honest, I even felt the same. I felt like a child. I wanted to go back to my pots and pans. I wanted to lick the icing off cupcakes and the cream off Oreos. I wanted to watch PG-13 movies with adult supervision.

But I was not a kid. And I was not an adult either. Somehow, I had found myself in that blurry no-man’s land in-between the two spheres. I had become a kidult.

And exactly three months later, they packed me off to university.

I found it all terribly unfair. For 18 years straight, I had been told to “Go to your room!”, “Eat your vegetables, young lady” and “Go to bed, now!” And all of a sudden, one fine day, I was being asked to live in a different country, to provide nourishment and sustenance for myself and Harold, and to go to bed whenever I felt like it.  I was horrified. How dare they give me the freedom to do whatever I wanted? Didn’t they know how young and dumb I was?

In the months I have been here, however, I have gradually had to come to terms with my hybrid identity as a Kidult. The process was by no means easy, and it happened in five distinct phases:

Phase 1: Denial

In the beginning, adulthood was a mere technicality. Technically, I was 18 years old, and therefore legally an adult. But this was merely an inconsequential detail. In my first month here, I pretended like nothing had changed. I’d constantly text my mother to ask her things like “It’s 11 pm. I should go to bed now, right?” Sometimes, I’d supply her with mundane details of my life, such as “I just poured some water into a glass and then drank it” and “I am going to floss.” For about two weeks, she pretended to be enthusiastic: “Yes! Stay hydrated, I’m proud of you!” or “Dental hygiene will serve you well later in life!” But as time passed, her attitude changed. First she started to respond with “K”. Then she started to seen-zone me. It felt like a bad break-up. Clearly, if I wanted Santa to bring me any presents this year, I had to grow up.

 Phase 2: Anger

Now that I’d made up my mind to be an adult, I had to act like one. What do Well-Adjusted Adults do? For one, they’re independent. They don’t rely on their parents; they take charge of their own lives. Clearly, I was not very good at this – not only did I text my mother so much that she started to consider a restraining order, I also Skyped my parents every single day. If I wanted to be a real adult, I’d have to wean myself off this destructive habit.

But I couldn’t. I kept trying to find excuses to Skype them.

“I should call; today is Dad’s half-birthday” or “A dormant volcano on the Lesser Sunda islands became active today; I should call to find out if my parents are okay”. Clearly, I was addicted – but good old Skype saved me. Somehow, it realized that I was slipping, so it compensated by freezing every 30 seconds. This meant that instead of talking to my parents, I spent most of my time making Adele proud by screaming “HELLO? HELLO?” at my laptop screen.  Skype made me so angry that I almost threw my laptop out of the window once, but luckily, I couldn’t open it. I took this as a sign: the problem was not Skype. It was me. Much like the Wi-Fi signal in my room, I was weak.

Phase 3: Bargaining

Another thing that independent adults seem to do well is money. But financial responsibility wasn’t really my thing. It took me a while to even register the fact that money has value – it is not a just a piece of paper with pictures and words on it. During our initial week on campus, they’d suggested that we download an app called “You Need a Budget”. My reaction to this was “Lol.”

It turns out that the joke was on me, because I later realized that I was not, in fact, Scrooge McDuck. I was not even a duck. I was an Adult, an Independent One at that, with Expenses.

Having realized this, I began to overcompensate. One of the toughest financial decisions I had to make was “Meal swipe or campus dirhams?” [Meal swipe: 30-unit swipes used to purchase campus meals; campus dirhams: university-specific currency, like Monopoly money, but real]. I needed to have enough campus dirhams to spend on toilet paper, but on the other hand, I also needed meal swipes, because I’m a compulsive hoarder and I liked knowing that I had 200 swipes left on my card at any point in time.

Ironically enough, my desire for financial optimization came at a cost. I’d spend so much time in the queue trying to bargain with myself that my food would often get cold. This made me sad.

Phase 4: Depression

All my efforts to become an independent adult fell through quickly the day I fell ill. It was just a mild cold, but to me, it felt like the plague. I lay in bed sniffling and patting my own head, because that’s what my mommy did when I was ill. I also tried to give myself a back massage, so in addition to suffering from the plague, I ended up mildly spraining my shoulder.

For the next three days, I was a sorry sight. I wanted hot chocolate without having to get out of bed, so I sat on a chocolate bar for a day. I wanted warmth, but the air conditioning in my room was stuck on minus 55 degrees Celsius. I wanted to sneeze, but there was no one to say “Bless you”, so I had to hold it in. And I wanted to be babied, but I was a grown-up.

Phase 5: Acceptance

Clearly, I had no choice. I had to accept the undeniable fact that I was a kidult. In an ultimate attempt to endorse this new identity, I decided to go wild and do the one thing that defines Adulthood: grocery-shopping. I am proud to announce that a few days ago, I went to the Convenience Store, and I bought my first vegetable. Then I called up my mother to inform her of my purchase. “What did you buy?” she asked me. I had no idea. I described it to her, and she scanned her Mother Portal for answers. As it turns out, I’d bought a rambutan. This was, apparently, a fruit. Darn it. My first vegetable was actually my first fruit. Never mind. It was a symbolic victory. I’d conquered my phobia of health, and I’d made a wise investment in my future.

But you know what the best part was?

When I looked into the mirror that day, I realized that I’d finally begun aging into Harold.

Originally published on The Gazelle.



Tales from the Library and Beyond

When I first started this blog, I laid down three ground rules for myself:

1. You do not talk about school.
2. You DO NOT talk about school.
3. You don’t destroy classic movies by paraphrasing illusory alter-egos in failed attempts to be humourous.

I set the first two rules because I didn’t want to return from school and then write about school. More importantly, I didn’t want to…wait. I’ve just read the sentence before last and now I’m wondering why ‘school’ is pronounced ‘skool’. I mean, if ‘Schneider’ is pronounced ‘shnai-der’, shouldn’t ‘school’ be pronounced ‘shool’? Hmm.

Anyway, I didn’t want to bore my loyal readers fans with tales about school. Well, yes, school’s fun and all, but why would you want to know what X said about Y? Or why T is angry with P? Or even why all the kids at my school seem to be named after consonants?

But then, I realized that if I chose not to write about the place where I spend half my day, then the only thing left to write about would be my glasses and my mother. Which explains why they’ve been featured so heavily in some of my recent posts.

Thus I’ve decided to break my rules.

To be fair, I broke the third rule within the first three sentences of this post itself. So I thought, ‘Oh, what the heck! Might as well break the other two…’

Total anarchy, that’s how I roll. I may have forgotten to mention this, but I am something of a rebel. For instance, you may have noticed that I’m quite liberal in my usage of the Oxford Comma.

So from now on, some of my posts will focus on some new fodder: school. One could argue that school’s nowhere near as interesting as my mother and my glasses, but I suppose I’ll have to take that risk.

So be prepared to read about tales of merciless bullying – the head-down-the-toilet kind of thing. Horror stories of vicious teenagers like me vandalizing school property and driving teachers to the edge of insanity, and sometimes over it. True stories from that dark, dark world that they call ‘school’.

Don’t set your hopes too high, because I’m kidding.

You’ll be lucky to hear my pathetic nerdy tales about test-taking and particularly difficult homework assignments. The closest I’ve come to bullying is politely asking a friend to move her chair off my foot. I once vandalized a desk by drawing a tiny star on it in pencil and then erasing it quickly before anyone noticed.

My school series begins with a true story, set in my school library.

(Cue cries of amazement and wonder).

‘Oooh.’ ‘Aaah.’

I was walking around the library looking quite gormless (that’s my permanent facial expression), in one of the breaks. Having read most of the picture books, I casually sauntered towards the Senior Fiction shelves.

I did not foresee the consequences of that simple act, but how I wish I did. The ensuing roar travelled across the entire length of the library:
“Who was that child who just walked into the Senior Fiction section?!”

Horrified, I looked around. I was the only one in that section. Was the librarian talking about me? But she said ‘child’! She couldn’t possibly mean me.

Nevertheless, I peered out from behind the shelves cautiously and watched the librarian storming towards me. So she did mean me! I hurried out.

“You aren’t allowed in that section!” She screeched. “It’s for teenagers only!”

Now people constantly underestimate my age because I’m short and well, look young, but I’d never experienced anything quite like this before. I told her that I was a teenager, and therefore old enough. She insisted that I wasn’t. Nothing could convince her. The rest of my classmates sat around and sniggered while I did everything to convince her short of asking her to call and ask my mother about my age (which may actually be a bit counter-productive, to be honest). Two seniors who felt sorry for me tried to come to my rescue. This just made her more convinced that the seniors were in on some malicious plot I had conceived in order to enter the forbidden Senior Fiction section. Finally, when she decided to believe me and let me off with a warning (yeah, I don’t get it either) I was too shaken to actually go back to the Senior Fiction section. So I sat in the kindergarten chairs and read The Big Hungry Caterpillar to calm my fragile nerves.

And this brings me to two things.

The first is the humiliation of being short enough to be mistaken for a ‘child’. More on this on another day (Read technophile9’s post on being short here).

The second is the appalling fact that children are not allowed into the Senior Fiction section. Judging by the librarian’s reaction, one would think that the Senior Fiction section was over-run by skimpily-dressed men and women just waiting to corrupt young, innocent minds with radical books like Fyodor Dostoevsky’s ‘The (insert the I-word here)’ (Children read this blog, too, you know).

Or maybe the librarians are just worried that us short people will try to pick out a book from the top shelf and then drop it on our heads. No librarian wants to deal with a concussion. Trying to not yell too loudly at the annoying children is difficult enough. Impossible, even.

So there you go. I’m not allowed to read Senior Fiction. I can’t read Junior Fiction (in public, at least). And now, I don’t think I’ll be reading much of anything.

Because after this post, I’ll probably be banned from the school library for life.

How to not cry when you lose to a six-year-old

Last week, I had cousins over. One of them was a particularly frisky six-year old whose idea of fun was turning on electrical appliances and then turning them off. Repeatedly.

Chagrined, I decided that I would introduce him to some real fun. So out came the board games. I asked my brother to set up the games while I pinned my cousin to the ground just as he was preparing to switch off the power supply to our house.

Eventually, though, we managed to set up Countdown and we managed to hold his attention for long enough to convince him that he could have fun without having to press buttons. For those of you who haven’t played, Countdown is a lot like hangman. You think of a word, use alphabet tokens to set up the word so that the opponent can’t see it, and then the opponent tries to guess the word one alphabet at a time. For every alphabet the opponent gets wrong, you turn a dial which has little diagrams of a stick figure drowning, well…progressively. We explained these rules to him, and he seemed to have understood.

I must admit, it all seemed to be going brilliantly until I realized that my six-year old cousin could spell precisely two words: ‘orange’ and ‘New York’. I have absolutely no idea what was so special about these two words, but that was all he knew. I had to spend the next two hours trying not to say ‘o’ or ‘n’ or any of the alphabets in these two words just so that he would win. Worse still, he mistook his winning streak for an actual aptitude for the game, and developed a liking for it. There’s only one thing worse than a six-year old who can’t spell: a six-year old who can’t spell but wants to play Countdown with you.

Somehow I convinced him that he should go play the game with my mother instead. These opponents seemed like a good match: a mother who had never played Countdown before, and a cousin who couldn’t spell. I watched gleefully as my cousin kept spelling out ‘orange’ and my mother kept looking apologetic every time the stick figure drowned because of her inability to guess the word. Eventually, though, my mother caught on, and proclaimed triumphantly, “Orange!” This was too much for the six-year old. He set about destroying the game set, the dial – everything. When he began throwing the alphabet tokens at us, I decided that it was time for a different game.

My mother suggested ‘snakes and ladders’, but we couldn’t possibly play that for fear of being transported back to 853 BC. Monopoly was too risky – what if my cousin landed on Oxford Street and ate all the pieces as a mark of protest against the high rent? And plus, I have no idea how to finish a game of Monopoly. We could be sitting there for days on end, waiting for a slow, painful death. Mastermind was out of the question too – I couldn’t possibly teach the nuances of probability and sequences to a six-year old who can barely spell. So finally, we settled on Jenga.

Jenga was also a bad idea because every time the Jenga tower collapsed, my cousin would start weeping. If it collapsed because of his clumsiness, he would simply weep. If it collapsed because of my carelessness, he would not only cry but would also hit me. This hypocrisy irked me and eventually I secretly began nudging the tower from the back every time it was his turn to remove a block. This would ensure that it would fall whenever he got his turn. I must admit, I had started to get a bit competitive. The game ended when he began crying and accusing me of being a ‘cheater’. Then I laughed wickedly and he started to throw the Jenga blocks at me. Everything got a bit out of control after that. Alright, I admit, it was wrong of me to throw the blocks back at him. But I was just fighting fire with fire. Or rather, with Jenga blocks.

After an hour’s time-out, we had cooled down and I offered to compete against him in a game of his choice. He chose the i-Pad classic, Fruit Ninja. Six-year olds have a short memory span. He failed to remember my kindness to him in letting him win the numerous Countdown games, and beat me hollow at Fruit Ninja. He then proceeded to laugh at me for several minutes, after which I called him a hypocrite and he called me a cheater, and then, well…it ended badly. Our shouting match was temporarily interrupted by my mother coming between us, not to stop the quarrel, as I presumed, but to save the i-Pad. At the peak of the quarrel, the six-year old did something odd with his hands, twisting them together and scrunching his fingers. I later found out that it is called ‘the Dragonfly’, and it is a six-year old’s equivalent of the Finger.

And thus I learnt an important lesson:
Never play board games with a six-year old. It will end in tears, and those tears will be yours. I speak from experience.