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“Why we’re not subscribing to these traditional adulting milestones”

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Megan Murray
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Research has shown that our view of adulthood is still rigidly traditional, here’s why Stylist isn’t conforming to the idea that marriage and a foot on the property ladder mean you’re a grown-up. 

What does it mean to be an adult? 

Arriving at a point in your life when you think you might just about be a grown-up is an entirely subjective feeling. But historically there are some traditional tick boxes that we tend to think signify entry into adult hood and, y’know, being classed as a proper person and all that. 

At a guess, you might identify the most stereotypical signs of adulthood to be getting married, buying a house and having a baby. That all sounds a bit 1950s, though, doesn’t it? Surely in 2019 people don’t still measure their growth and maturity by these nursery rhyme standards?

Well, according to research carried out by MoneySuperMarket, we’re not quite as progressive or nuanced as you might hope. A report released by the financial website has revealed the top 10 life milestones that make the UK feel like an adult, and most of them are disappointingly predictable but also, potentially not achievable in 2019. 

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Coming in first at 38% is getting your first full time job, so far so fair. But at joint second and third is moving out of your childhood home and buying your first home, something which due to the country’s housing crisis really isn’t an option for a large portion of the population (as outlined by Stylist writer Hollie Richardson, who doesn’t think she will ever own her own home). 

At fourth and fifth, the UK puts having your first child and getting married as the next biggest adult milestones. Which, although lovely for those who chose to do them, feel like old fashioned measures of whether our lives are progressing on the adulthood scale. What if you don’t want to get married? What if you feel happy and whole in a child-free relationship, or heck, not having a relationship at all? Does that mean you’re not really an adult?

In truth, we can all feel like we’re pretending to be grown-ups and still waiting for a day when we feel like we’ve got in all figured out in our 40s, 50s and 60s. But we don’t believe that in 2019 women should still be subscribing to the idea that if we haven’t had a child, we haven’t achieved, grown and matured. 

Here, the Stylist team have shared all the little moments that made them feel like an adult from being the kind of person prepared enough to always have a stash of stamps in her purse, to going for dinner alone and loving it. They may be small, but they are mighty.

“Moving into my flat and living on my own. The living solo bit actually felt a little more monumental than the buying a flat thing. I’d always been so convinced I hated my own company and the idea of being on my own would send my head into a spin, but it made me realise I’m far less annoying than a lot of flatmates and just being me in my own space was actually a joyful experience. Oh, and always having stamps in my purse.”

Helen Bownass, entertainment director 

“At 27, I feel infinitely more of an adult than I did even three years ago, and there are two main things that have contributed to this. Number one: I’ve stopped getting blackout drunk every Friday and Saturday night. It was EXTREMELY fun while it lasted (most of the time, at least), but I realised a while ago that I actually like doing things during daylight hours at the weekend. Spending entire days in a hungover nest in bed, and only rising to shower and go back out again, no longer feels that fun.

Number two: I’ve invested in homewares. I’ve made peace with the fact that I won’t be able to buy a home at 30 (or even 40, at this rate), but that doesn’t mean I can’t accrue nice things for my tiny rented flat above a shop. Things that make me feel like a proper grown-up: good sheets, a cast-iron cooking pot and properly framed artwork.”

Moya Crockett, deputy editor, Stylist Loves, and contributing women’s editor, stylist.co.uk

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“There are six scenarios that really say adulthood to me:

  1. Answering your mobile with the phrase: “Hello, [insert name] speaking?”
  2. Going for dinner or lunch alone, on purpose, and feeling really fucking great about it.
  3. Walking past a group of laughing girls and not immediately assuming that you are the object of their hilarity.
  4. Buying loose vegetables and herbs for your first home-cooked dinner at home.
  5. Delivering a presentation at work – and smashing it.
  6. Being sick far away from home (nothing like a bout of stomach flu when you’re flying solo to test your mettle, eh?)”

Kayleigh Dray, digital editor 

“To be able to pay for a holiday out right, without A) having somebody pay for it and I pay them back or B) having my parents lend me the money. Also, to be able to keep my room tidy for longer than three days and to live in a house/flat that has a garden. Now, this isn’t with a view to have raging parties and BBQs, but so I have somewhere to hang my washing out to dry. To me, that is peak adulthood.”

Lucy Partington, beauty editor 

“Frivolous: having alcohol in the house that doesn’t get drunk immediately.

Serious: having money left in my bank account at the end of the month.”

Anna Fielding, associate editor 

“When it comes to adulting, I think I’ve got a top five best realisations that I’ve (kind of) made it into the adulting world: 

  1. Enjoying a glass of red with dinner at home, for the pleasure of it rather than to get drunk. Also choosing by grape rather than buying the cheapest bottle (looking at you, Blossom Hill).
  2. Changing my bed sheets at least twice a month.
  3. Being on top of my washing instead of doing it out of desperation due to no clean clothes to wear.
  4. Caring whether the flat is tidy even if you aren’t having guests.
  5. Sending thank you cards to godparents / friends of family for gifts without being first reminded by a parent.”

Lucy Robson, SEO Exec

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“The day I decided never to book a National Express coach ever again was the day I became an adult who truly values her time, comfort and sanity. I used to book a return ticket every time I visited home or visited pals in Yorkshire. I endured five hours of leg cramp, crying babies and some seriously funky smells – all to save a few quid. So now, I only take the train. Admittedly, this probably wouldn’t be financially possible without the ’millennial railcard’.”

Hollie Richardson, digital writer 

“I got my first job when I was 14, and have worked ever since – bar jobs, mentoring roles, managing teams of 19 people. You name it, I’ve done it.

I’m lucky enough to own a house with my husband, whom I married earlier this month, own a (battered) car and have a garden full of plants I lovingly tend to. In old-fashioned terms, I am an adult. But catch me off-guard and ask me my age, I’d probably say I was 17 years old.

The only time I really felt like I hit an adult milestone was when Aaron (husband) and I adopted a kitten from Battersea Cats Home in 2015. The weight of this tiny little 11-week-old kitten (Luther, nee Steve) sat heavy on my shoulders when I realised I couldn’t swan off for weekends away or stay out all night drinking Whispering Angel by the bucket load – because this little ball of black fluff with big green eyes needed me more than I needed him.

Forget buying a big white dress, and never mind keeping up to date with the MOT and service history on the car, the most adult thing I’ve ever done is keep a small animal alive – and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Felicity Thistlewaite, digital executive 

Images: Getty 

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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