There are many reasons as to why I love SZA.
Number one: she balances vulnerability and humanity with a sass and confidence that I’ve not appreciated in an artist for a very long time. Number two: she is painfully delightful to look at, and every hair change is a keeper for the ages. And number three: some of her lyrics so beautifully sum up what it feels like to be lost and a little bit helpless in your twenties, and that ability to communicate “oh shit, yeah, I totally get that” is something I admire.
For example, in Prom, she sings:
“Fearin' not growin' up
Keepin' me up at night
Am I doin' enough?
Feel like I'm wastin' time.”
And we’ve all felt that, right? That looming realisation that all we’ve achieved over the past few years is narrowing down which underwear is the most comfortable and upgrading our alcohol purchases from supermarket’s own to the cheapest branded bottle on the shelf. When will we grown up? When will we reach our potential? When will we stop overindulging in marginally more expensive gin and accidentally wetting ourselves as we throw up?
It’s a common fear that unites most of us twenty-somethings, and whilst we wait for that fateful day to come where we can proudly proclaim that yes, we have in fact managed to keep a house plant alive, we try on the uniform of “adulthood” and flirt with its responsibilities at arms length, all the while cracking jokes about “adulting” and quite how dull and responsible we have, or have yet to become.
You know the jokes. Often seen to reference some mundane household chore or a trip to IKEA, each comment is served up with a side of sarcasm or a self-deprecating meme. I’m particularly partial to an “adulting” quip, myself. At the weekend I revealed that I wouldn’t be attending the Royal Wedding as I had to clean out my fridge (lol so bitter). This was promptly followed by a gif of Broad City’s Abbi and Ilana declaring: ‘I’m responsible, I’m an adult’. Cleaning out the fridge is an inane but necessary part of a functioning household, but one can’t simply claim to have cleaned the fridge without at least making a joke about it first. Because then it would literally just be cleaning the fridge, right? And that’s actually just boring?
This got me thinking. These jokes that we make about adulting - about finally “growing up” and being “25 going on 85” - why do we make them? Is it to declare that despite finally opening an ISA and starting to discuss how the fuck a mortgage actually works, we’re still young and sexy and wildly irresponsible? Is it because we feel like frauds, doing decidedly adult things but secretly knowing that we haven’t a clue where the hell we're going with our lives? Is it because everybody else seems to be making these cute fashionable comments and so we want to be part of the lost Millenial club too?
A little bit of all three, probably. I do think, however, that there comes a moment in your life when, despite all the jokes about “adulting” and “ ~ g R o W i N g U p ~ ”, a little bit of you realises: you kind of are. And what’s more, you’re kinda scared.
Some of my friends have had babies, others are moving away, others running their own businesses and buying their first homes. Keiran and I have discussed pension plans, ffs. I have a wine preference (though it’s often the cheapest), I’ve started choosing more comfortable footwear and I’m genuinely grateful for a good night’s sleep. Sure, I still get pissed and ask strangers to take photos of myself and my brother on the tube, but I’m doing it less often. I have a spice rack, for crying out loud, which houses more than one kind of paprika! Wtf?
My friends are starting to make big, life-informing decisions, chasing their careers and building lives for themselves, taking risks and and leaving no room for ‘what ifs?’. And so am I. We’re all doing the things that we imagined our grown-up selves to be doing when we were shit-faced and carefree at 18, but it feels like there’s been no transition. No ‘Congratulations! You’re an adult!’ party or starter pack stuffed with tips on the best energy tariffs or how to be nice to the neighbours who now refuse to take your parcels *cough*. No grand ceremony and graduation cap or first day in the office at your brand new adult desk. It just happened, quietly, slowly, and almost without us noticing. Until suddenly, BAM. You’re not an irresponsible young person anymore, you're a bit of an adult.
And so we make jokes. We take the piss out of ourselves whilst silently acknowledging that we’re on the way to becoming our parents, reflecting back and peering forwards in this weird limbo state that is your twenty-somethings. It’s a defense mechanism of sorts, but also a step-outside-of-your-self-for-a-moment-and-think-about-how-weird-life-is kind of thing.
We’re propelling into adulthood with a few stops left along the way, and the whole situation feels like one big unanswered question. Are we ready? Will we ever be ready? Is there anything to be ready for? Or will we remain this semi-clued up, semi-clueless in-between person but with a greater knowledge of garden birds? We hate the music on the radio these days, so has the change been and gone? Or will we go through a menopause of youth, coming over in hot sweats at the sight of a crop top and bursting into tears at at mere hint of dinner plans past 7:30pm?
Of course, there is no answer, and so we use the quips about adulting as a way of making sense of it all - to figuratively give ourselves a pat on the back and say, ‘it’s okay girl, everybody else is kinda scared too’.
And it's not even the adult things that are necessarily scary. You soon realise that threatening to leave your phone company of choice is a performance everybody is in on, from the lady who first answers your call and gleefully passes you on to the retentions team, to the guy who chats to you about your weekend before fibbing a couple of times about the "absolute best deal" he can give you.
No, instead it's the slow fading of that naive invincibility and boundless hopefulness that really is scary. You realise that - shock horror - your Mum was right, and walking home alone in the dark is a bit dangerous. You come to terms with the fact that, despite your best shower efforts, you're probably not going to develop Adele-like vocal chords in a mysterious twist of fate, so you probably should get a bit more serious about your career plan. And it's unlikely that you're going to bump into Alex Turner in a record shop in Brixton, so it might be time to stop rehearsing your 'pretend-you-have-no-idea-who-he-is' face in the mirror.
That's not to say there isn't a whole heap of good shit to come. You still get to tit around like a young person, you can just feel - whether you want to overtly admit it or not - that you're moving into the next stage of your life. And it's unknown. And a little bit frightening.
So here’s to sort of growing up without realising it, but not really feeling like you’ve grown up at all. I’m looking forward to my bus pass.