What Do I Know?
CONSORT (Whispering): Hello?
QUINN: Hi, it’s me.
CONSORT: I know, I saw your name, otherwise I wouldn’t have picked up. Can I call you back, I’m in the middle of a...
QUINN: It’s a quick question. Do we tip our hairdresser?
CONSORT: No. She owns the shop. You don’t tip the owner.
CONSORT: Why are you whispering?
QUINN: I...don't know.
CONSORT: That’s it?
QUINN: Yeah. Bye.
At what point do I just start knowing the things adults know? I’m far into adulthood by any measure. In many cultures, I would be breathlessly awaiting my fifth grandchild by now. Actually, in many cultures, I would have died in childbirth, but you get my meaning: I should be in full possession of the things grown-ups know. And yet, I stand here in the middle of my life trying to remember how often I’m supposed to clean the air-conditioner vents. I’ve been driving for nearly a quarter of a century and I still don’t know whether a broken parking meter means “Yeah! Free parking!” or “Augh! Ticket!” The fact that no one I’ve asked knows the answer to that one either only soothes me a little.
I don’t even have to leave my house to feel inadequate to the task of being an adult. There are land-mines everywhere I look. Here are some things I don’t know:
I wash my towels every week. Is that obsessive or hygenically risky behavior?
[If you find it disgusting, I’m going to tell you a story to put things in perspective. In my early twenties, I was helping my then-boyfriend pack up for our move-in together. His current apartment had its own washer-dryer and, while boxing up the bathroom, I suggested we wash his towels there before packing them, to make things easier on the other side. He looked confused. “Why would I wash them? I never use them unless I’m clean.” Readers, he had lived there for two years and had never washed his towels. I moved in with him anyway, but I never let him make any domestic decisions. Ever. And yes, a cooler head might have stopped to consider that as a deal-breaker, but we had already signed a lease, he laughed at my jokes and he had the greenest eyes I had ever seen. Two years later, that wasn’t quite enough anymore. Consort’s eyes are also green, he also laughs at my jokes, and he washes towels. So, you know, upgrade.]
Does anyone flip their mattress? Really? I do occasionally, but it seems so overdramatic.
I have five virtually identical instruction manuals for cordless phones on file. We only own one phone which means I have manuals for phones which died up to fifteen years ago. Since I keep buying phones that look alike, and they all have names like VtechLogos 1800, I can’t determine which manual belongs to the new phone, so I have to keep them all. Eventually, I plan to auction off the world’s largest collection of obsolete cordless-phone manuals. This will pay for my medicine in old age. Is this normal?
In all the years we have been a family of three, I have never once been fully done with a load of laundry. If the washing machine is empty, it simply means there are clothes on the drying rack and half-load of moist gym clothes sprinkled throughout the house. The same goes for dishes. In the time it takes me to empty the dishwasher, Consort and Daughter will dab olive oil on their fingers and touch three water glasses each and then, for fun, lick spoons and leave them in the sink. I just know real adults don’t have this problem.
I suspect real adults know how to make a meal that becomes several different meals. The baked chicken on Monday becomes chicken salad on Tuesday, its carcass forming the base of Wednesday's chicken soup and the fat showing up as a fine moisturizer by the end of the week. I have no idea how to do that in our lives. Now, I’ll admit, it’s less straightforward when you don’t eat meat. Cooked black beans, no matter how lovingly prepared, tend to look like leftovers even on their maiden voyage and tofu three nights in a row has been known to make children hide under the house. But creative meal-planning feels like something adults do naturally, like going gray or watching 60 Minutes.
I own a vacuum cleaner. It is truly a modern marvel. It has attachments of great specificity and complexity. It longs to be used for everything up to and including at-home colonoscopy. In the three years I have owned this vacuum cleaner, I have never taken its small fiddly bits out of the sealed bag. Something tells me adults don’t fear their own appliances.
The entire financial situation of the last two weeks has left me studying like I never studied in any academic class I’ve ever taken, but I have to admit that I don’t understand a single damn thing that’s happening. I would chalk this up to my inability to grow up properly but I have yet to hear any governmental official sound too confident either.
Lately I have come to suspect that I will (please, please) grow old and (later, later) die without ever feeling adult. Now the only question is, am I alone in this feeling?
And this is where I come to you, readers. Is there anything you felt as if you would know by now?