The expression came of age generally refers to a culturally prescribed time: the law says you can be tried as an adult, your religion says you’re a voting member of your community and your parents make you pay rent. Most people can answer the questions “when were you born” and “when did you graduate from high school” with a high degree of precision. I’m curious about people who say “I grew up in the '50s,” (or '60s, or whichever decade they deem appropriate). What do they mean?
What constitutes growing up? It’s not a vertical measure. Is it a moment in time like when you started high school, had your first kiss, stole your first car? Is it open to interpretation or is there a rule for it?
If I grew up in the '70s, can someone else my age have grown up in the '80s? I liked the '60s, but can I claim to have grown up in that decade if I was only eleven when it ended?
It’s not unusual to hear someone volunteer, “I grew up in the x's,” but when was the last time you heard someone ask, “When did you grow up?” I think we shy away from that question because it’s too vague. We know no one will respond, “I grew up at 8:15 p.m. on Nov. 13, 1974." So rather than ask, we triangulate an assumption from dates like birth and high school graduation; questions easily asked and answered.
Growing up is a process. It can cover multiple decades. I was born at the tail end of the '50s, highly influenced by the events of the '60s, went to high school and college in the '70s and didn’t start to figure it all out until we tipped into 2010. I’m still not convinced I’m a grown-up.
So I ask you, when did you grow up? And perhaps more pressing, when will I?