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Where have all the rebels gone?

Blogger Jason Kottke recently wrote about the differing approaches to “being an adult.” In his post, he establishes two kinds of adults:
A: Those who have set aside their childish ways

B: Those who rebel against the lack of freedom of childhood.

“Basically opposite approaches,” he writes. “Responsible adulthood and irresponsible adulthood.”

Kottke continues:

The A people feel that being an adult means eating healthfully, being financially responsible, dressing to meet the expectations of others, flossing regularly, servicing your vehicle regularly, etc.

Folks who take the B approach feel that adulthood means that you can eat candy for breakfast, drink too much, fail to keep careful track of your finances, stay up late, play hours of video games a day, skip dental cleanings for three years, order the steak instead of the salad, etc.

This issue is actually at the center of my current manuscript, so the post appealed to me a great deal. But I don’t entirely agree with Kottke’s distinctions.

I tend to be someone who constantly wonders where all the rebels have gone. I cannot understand what causes the adolescent hellion, the twenty-something non-conformist and the teenage idealist to suddenly accept, embrace and surrender to the traditions and mores of modern society. I marvel at people who are my age; former activists, dreamers, militants and all-around challengers of authority, who have become so thoroughly invested in suburban conformity, expectations of appearance, the etiquette of the masses, and an overall concern with the opinions and values of the majority that they have begun to resemble the conservative, staid, judgmental, risk-free nature of their parents.

Have they forgotten the vows made as teenagers and young adults?

Have they chosen to ignore the disdain that they once felt for the rigidity and formality of the adult world?

Have they failed to remember the anthems of their youth?

I think so, and it makes me crazy. I thought that I would be a member of the generation that would tip conformity and convention on its head. I have been disappointed. The majority of people who are my age seem to have eased themselves into the stream of the compliance and traditionalism. This is why clever websites like My Parents Were Awesome even exist. As the site says:

Before the fanny packs and Andrea Bocelli concerts, your parents (and grandparents) were once free-wheeling, fashion-forward, and super awesome.

I agree, but look at the majority of them now. Free-wheeling? Super awesome? That’s starting to become a hard thing to say about people my age, and I’m still barely out of my thirties.

I tend to lean towards non-conformity. I challenge conventional wisdom whenever possible. I question the most basic rituals and procedures of society. I dress for comfort and personal preference rather than the expectations of others. I refuse to wear any item of clothing (save sneakers) that that is adorned with a designer label. I no longer wear ties, finding them to be little more than decorated nooses with no discernible purpose. I don’t drink coffee, tea or alcohol. I still write embarrassing comments in the Memo sections of my checks when presenting them to a friend as payment. When I guy shakes my hand with excessive force, I whine like a little girl, asking him why he’s so mean. When someone knocks on a locked bathroom door, I respond with Monty Python quotes. I still play video games with my friends from time to time (and would do so more often if I had the time). I think that dessert can be a part of breakfast, and I long for the day when I am still hungry enough to enjoy a slice of pie after my eggs and toast.

If you were to ask my friends, they would likely identify me as one of Kottke’s type B adults.

Yet I floss regularly. I like to think that I am financially responsible. I may not eat as well as I should, but I try, and I work out at the gym almost daily. The distinctions that Kottke makes, responsible versus irresponsible, are not quite accurate when describing these two forms of adults, but they are close.

I believe that a type B adult, the kind who does not conform to society’s expectations and challenges convention, can still be responsible when it comes to taking care of him or herself. Despite my desire to tip the world on its head, I don’t want my teeth to fall out, my house to be foreclosed upon, and my heart to explode at the age of 45. I would argue that a person can reject the traditional construct of adulthood while still maintaining a healthy, financially independent lifestyle.

One does not need to live in sloth and destitution in order to be, as someone described me recently, “interesting but difficult.”

A person can reject the trappings of adulthood and still floss regularly.

I wish more would. In both regards.