We need to talk.
That whole “infancy, childhood, pre-teen, teen, adult, elderly” model they taught us in school is starting to feel like a lie.
I’m at a point in my life where I have one foot in youthful ignorance and one in adult hyper-maturity. I’m currently taking a class to become a licensed insurance broker, meanwhile I still write fan fiction and have a Marvel blanket on my bed. Sure, I’m in my own place and I have a part-time job as a teaching assistant; but does that make me a true adult?
Does anyone know what a “true adult” is anymore?
Somewhere in the past twenty years or so, the lines of distinction became blurred. It’s impossible to pinpoint exactly when things got all twisted, so I’ll use the moment I became aware of the shift as a reference point. Raise your hand if you remember when Bronies began to rise in prominence. A few of us cynics thought those fetishisizing My Little Pony online were just trying to be funny or ironic. Imagine our surprise when they made it clear how serious they were.
On April 24th, 2014, The Daily Dot reported a story of an 11-year-old girl who was stalked by a grown man at a My Little Pony convention. The child sought refuge with a vendor and reported that the man (whom she initially believed to be “okay” because he was wearing a MLP t-shirt) had been following her around the convention floor and trying to coerce her into going to his hotel room with him. No authorities were contacted, the girl was returned to her parents (who, make no mistake about it, should absolutely have taken some responsibility), and a Seventeen-Year-Old me started wondering why we as a society can’t just let children have things without muscling into their spaces.
Now, this is not to say adults shouldn’t take opportunities to indulge their inner child. I’m of the belief that Disney World is much more fun when you’re older. I couldn’t remember a thing about the trip I took when I was Four; however, some of my fondest memories are from when I returned at Sixteen. I just think we need to respect delineations and boundaries. There are quite a few rides and activities at Disney that I aged out of long ago; and I’m not going to elbow my way to the front of the line just to ride Dumbo’s Flight out of nostalgia.
Similarly, if it’s obviously meant for little children, I recommend staying out of it. My Little Pony was not created for anyone old enough stalk children through a convention hall.
Thankfully, nowadays, the Bronies aren’t seen as much. I suspect they’ve evolved into the sorts of people who caused riots over szechuan sauce at McDonald’s. The problem still persists online; though its perpetuators are becoming more subtle. One can find their stamps on overtly sexual drawings of cartoon characters and fan fiction which (while I am a major supporter of the craft) takes things way too far in terms of sexual content.
But why does any of this matter? Why am I taking the time to write this article? Is it just to yuck someone else’s yum? Is it to stand in judgement because I think I’m somehow morally superior? Absolutely not. I’ve had phases where I was one of the worst people on the internet. High school was a rough time for me.
I’m writing this article because blurring the lines of development from childhood to adulthood is having nasty consequences across the board.
I’ll use myself as an example. Nobody told me how unstable life in my twenties would be. I was led to believe I would follow a set pattern: mature, become a teen, mature, become an adult, finish school, get a job.
Except everyone with hiring power sees me as still a child, while my parents see me as an adult. The concept of adulthood has no concrete meaning for me. Should I be gainfully employed right now? Should I have a house? Should I be engaged?
Or am I expected to be immature? Should I be partying on the weekends? How much will I be allowed to use the excuse “sorry, I’m young, I didn’t know any better?” Media doesn’t help. Every protagonist these days seems younger than me. Sixteen-year-olds are fighting zombies and taking down governments, and I’m dreading the day I have to ask my landlord to change a light bulb.
Or they’re thirty-year-olds with magically disposable incomes, perfect teeth and bodies, and no social anxiety.
Going down the line, look at the examples the media sets for children still going through puberty. Adults are defending a Netflix movie in which children take off their pants and twerk. Shows like Dance Moms are telling kids that if they don’t subject themselves to verbal abuse and a quite frankly alarming work ethic, they’ll never be famous. Child actors (especially young girls) are viciously mocked if they arrive at premieres looking their age. Millie Bobby Brown told Showbiz Cheat Sheet in 2019 that Red Carpet events are especially difficult because of the constant criticisms regarding what she wears and the pressure to be a role model. At Fifteen, she shouldn’t have to worry about that! She should be enjoying her fame, yet she’s not allowed to just be a kid anymore simply because of her career.
To sum up, I think it’s time we redrew the lines. Give children back the spaces that have been created for them, stop forcing them into adult spaces where they wouldn’t be safe, be responsible when indulging in nostalgia, and remember this advice: there’s a difference between growing old and growing up. You just need to be mature to find the balance between them.