I just figured out the ultimate secret of figuring out at which point you transition from being a “child” in the eyes of your elders, into being an “adult”. There are many others I am sure, which different people figure, but in my life, I’ve just nailed it. Allow me to elaborate.
When I was a teenager, sex education consisted primarily of a basic biology lesson, a condom use lesson, and two Very Scary, Very Special Lessons. One was about sexually transmitted infections that involved graphic pictures of genitalia that looked more like they’d been bitten by a necrosis-inducing spider than any actual STIs I’ve now encountered at health clinics where I volunteer. The other was about pregnancy, or specifically, motherhood.*
Going through pregnancy and childbirth, changing smelly, soiled diapers, losing all of your free time because you have to care for the baby, midnight feedings, washing baby clothes, using all your extra money for buying stuff for the baby, wiping poop, spit-up, vomit, and who knows what off your clothes and hair… The list of baby related horrors went on forever. I didn’t need any convincing in the first place, but I was more readily assurred in my assertion that I wasn’t ready for motherhood. At that point, I wasn’t even interested in having sex ** so it wasn’t on my radar.
Nowadays, I’m hearing the same stories about poop, vomit, stretch marks, buying diapers, lost sleep, and no privacy, only it’s not being told to scare me, it’s being told with laughter and more than a hint of fondness in the voice of the storytellers, with a smiling conclusion of “Just wait until you have kids! You’ll laugh too!”
What the hell makes people think that tactics which were previously used to scare the crap out of me doing something in high school are going to make me feel enthusiastic and ecstatically eager to do the same thing as an adult? I don’t get it. But I think that is the marker right there of the big transition.
It’s enough to make me suspect that these are meant as a tactic mixing the horror stories with reverse psychology, so all of my friends with kids will still have adult friends who are child-free and therefore can still interact with them outside of a playdate setting. Unlikely, yes, but that’s almost more rational than this being a way of encouraging me to join them in having crotch dumplings*** of my own.
* Fatherhood responsibilities were not given much of a mention, except for a warning about paying child support. In the slides and films we were shown, it was mainly a teen mother doing all the work. I made a fuss about this, but to be honest, we were lucky to be taught anything about condoms, since this was in the full swing of the abstinence-only movement. My sex-ed teacher (also the biology teacher) was already putting his neck on the line, so retrospectively, I cut him some slack, but this needs to change.
** I was interested in sex and sexual pleasure. But I was not interested in having sex with anyone at my school. I am an odd type of person who has to have some sort of intellectual or emotional connection with someone to have sex with them, even a little one, and none of my classmates fulfilled that criteria. None of the ones I could get away with having sex with without outing myself as queer, anyways, and they couldn’t get me pregnant.
*** Hat tip to the Nostalgia Chick for that particular euphemism for children. Yes, it is kind of rude, but useful in some situations.