Does this rental car make me look grown-up?
A few weeks ago, a man knocked on the door of my commune around 6 a.m. He was pointing at the street frantically, barely able to sputter out the words "You? Subaru?" Yes, I owned a Subaru, and yes it was parked on the busy thoroughfare I call home on the west side of town. Apparently, a woman had plowed into a parked car that hit another parked car that hit another parked car that hit my Subaru. To my benefit, the woman's insurance company gave me a really sick-ass rental car (see above) to drive while it fixed my beloved Wooderson, and for the first time in my life, I felt like a grown-up -- at just shy of 32 years old.
This is why I can't have nice things. Because I'm clearly not a grown-up.
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The interior smell of a Nissan Altima, not to mention its functional cup-holders, places to put CDs, power windows, cushy seats and working air-conditioning -- I mean, I could go on like this car was my boyfriend -- was all it took to make me feel like I had a real life. I was going places in this car that wasn't mine.
I temporarily named her Debra, after the Beck song by the same name, because I give all inanimate objects that enter my life monikers, and started playing Hole's Live Through This as loud as Debra's fancy speakers could go. I was no longer driving to my job at Shirt Folding Store; I was driving to my destiny.
I can't tell if this notion of superficial adult reality was born out of a rental car's ability to transport my headspace to a world where I could afford nice things and had normal-people goals and such (which in my mind means I live in Los Angeles), or if it was because of that damn Katy Perry movie that still has me convinced I can move to Los Angeles and get a record deal for my band and live the glamorous life. Either way, I'm fascinated by the sudden -- albeit temporary -- sensation of adulthood. Because up until now, I've never felt it.
What does it mean to be a grown-up? I thought it meant you took care of your shit -- like bills and rent -- but even as I sort of do that, I still wear band T-shirts when I'm not working. I still eat Totino's Party Pizza for breakfast. And I still blow fifty bucks at Target on beauty products, even when the aforementioned bills aren't up-to-date. (I call it Dumb-And-Dumbering my money -- when I have overdue bills but instead choose spend my cash on glittery chapstick, home air-freshener systems, to-go sushi or, as Lloyd does in the film, novelty-size things like foam cowboy hats.)
Me, at Target.
Previous examinations of my friends' lives had led me to believe that because they had become parents, they were officially grown-ups. Then I saw their toddlers wearing Ramones T-shirts and thought, nope: They haven't grown up, either. Their kids probably do like listening to the Ramones -- or The Clash, AC/DC, Hüsker Dü, whatever -- but I highly doubt a two-year-old picked out that shirt. To me, it just says, well, no one in this situation is fucking growing up if they can help it.
I also thought that when my friends bought houses, maybe that meant they were growing up. But I currently live in a gorgeous house owned by my landlord who is also my friend, and share that space with three other people. We still have slumber parties, we still have trouble knowing whose turn it is to take out the trash and we still spend more time loitering in front of the 7-Eleven across the street from our house than we do on our own porch. This notion of owning a house (however stressful and real life-like it is to deal with bursting pipes, electricity-bill payments and mowing the lawn) still seems like it isn't the real answer to adulthood, either.
Maybe I'm expecting to one day look in the mirror and see that my face has changed. But did growing up ever really mean wrinkles? Did growing up ever mean twenty-one? Did it ever mean buying a house? Did it mean marriage? Did it mean little or no fun? I don't know. I do know that the kind of life I live -- one dotted with DIY tours with my band, going to shows on week nights, trips to the gym, the pool and other self-centered activities that take precedence over responsibility -- leads to a somewhat suspended reality. But I also wonder: Is growing up just a feeling?
If it is, maybe it's something I never want to feel. Unless it's in another rental car, which makes feeling like an adult feel like a vacation. One that I could never afford.