How to Tell if You Are, in fact, a Grownup


When I was a kid, I thought that entrance into the adult world meant everything would be simple and sunny and that daily life would be accompanied by a boom box pumping soundtrack, sort of like on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. 

To my kid brain, a sleek city townhouse seemed like a perfectly viable housing arrangement for a college kid. When I finally reached grownuphood, everyone would own a 4Runner and the universe would basically be alternating shades of Mattel and Disney. (In retrospect, my childhood outlook was pretty homogenized. Please don’t judge.)

I have, in fact, discovered that that the above is not at all true. There’s no “WELCOME TO GROWNUP WORLD” initiation party (no, 21st birthday fetes do not count). There’s no soundtrack, and from what I can tell so far, very few 4Runners.


Entering the grownup world is sort of like walking through a spiderweb, or strolling through a room where someone’s just farted.  

Turning eighteen, finishing college and even getting married are not key adult indicators. You can finish college without being a grownup. You can, and probably will, turn eighteen without being a grownup. 

Here, in my humble opinion are some infallible ways to tell if you are, in fact, a grownup. It’s pretty much scientific. I don’t think fulfillment of all of these is necessary for grownupness- they seem to rather take take hold in a slow, imperceptible fashion, sort of like yellowing teeth or a cockroach infestation.

1. You join a gym. You are probably definitely a grownup if you join a gym. Working out and the frequency of said working out is irrelevant. It’s the membership aspect that irreversibly enters you into the grownup world. Let me break this down:

You are paying money (grownup thing A) 

to consciously exercise (grownup thing B)

in an indoor, artificial environment on apparatuses designed specifically to help you shed parts of yourself in the name of health and self-preservation. (grownup things C, D and E)

Would a kid ever even think of that? Is that even fathomable to a teenage mind? Money+effort+self-preservation= very, very grownup. You can count yourself as part of the crowd. You have arrived!

2. You clean your car. This one isn’t quite as inherently grownup as joining a gym, but pretty close. I don’t remember any of my friends ever having clean cars, or even their own cars as teenagers. If it was theirs, it definitely wasn’t clean. You know you’re a grownup when the interior of your car is vacuumed, polished and/or scented.

This may be motivated by the fact that you now own your vehicle and are responsible for its maintenance (responsibility: grownup behavior), or due to the fact that you’re trying to impress or outdo your boss/neighbor/girlfriend (caring what other people thing: very grownup behavior). Regardless, it is in fact scientifically true that cleaning your car means you’re probably a grownup. 

3. You invest or have some sort of financial game plan. If you have money left over after paying your rent and buying ramen noodles, you’re either merging into adulthood or your parents are still supporting you.If you have enough money left over to actually own things or even think about investing that surplus of cash in something, you’re fully there. Using terms like retirement, 401K, diversification  insurance… that’s some hardcore grownup vernacular. 

4. You moisturize. Seriously. Do I have to explain this one? It actually makes me laugh to think about the very adult nature of skincare.


5. You maintain things. See No. 2. It goes further than just cleaning a car, though. I’m talking about changing your oil, updating your virus software, knowing how to change a tire and actually changing your batteries when they’ve died instead of just moving them back and forth between the TV and DVD remotes. Maintaining things also means using stuff like leather protectant or one of those little eyeglass cases to actually keep your sunglasses in so they don’t get all keyed up while they rattle around in your purse with the rest of your crap.

If I see someone take their Ray Bans out of a glasses case, I know that they are undeniably a grownup. Scratches on your fake designer lenses are just childish. Clearly.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but most assuredly sound. I haven’t reached most of these stages myself, but applaud those of you that have. 

 In case you’re interested in more signs of adulthood, the Telegraph has compiled an exhaustive list here. I started reading it but very quickly became overwhelmed, prompting a retreat into my hazy, young-person tinged existence. Being a grownup will be great, I’m just not quite there yet. And that’s okay. 

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