Today I am a (Wo)Man

Everyone chuckles at the bar mitzvah boy’s announcement. Not just because he’s so short that he has to stand on tip-toes to see out of his hat. But because we all know that, bar mitzvah or not, there’s no big black line that you step across to become a mature adult. It happens gradually, and not always at a regular pace.

That was what I was thinking about while reading some of the comments to last Monday’s post (“Are People Pitying Me?“). Far be it from me to say that people who get married at 19 are miserable and stuck in foreclosed identities (though I know there are some). The post was about me, and how I believe the extra time has made me more than ever ready for marriage. However, I know there are many women who didn’t need that extra time, and I don’t begrudge them their marriages.

Some of us are just late bloomers.

I’ve always known I was slow.

In 5th grade we learned about Helen Keller and our teacher asked us to write a composition about what we’d do if we had three days left to see. I didn’t have to think too hard about that one. I was in 5th grade, and had hardly seen a world that I’d read about extensively. I picked some of the sights I thought I shouldn’t die without seeing and wrote a little itinerary for my three days (allowing that my parents would have to  escort me).

The teacher asked who wanted to read theirs aloud, and of course the class goody-two-shoes (G2S) raised her hand. Then she recited an essay all about how she would spend the three days memorizing the facial features of her family. As she read, a smattering of students around the classroom surreptitiously picked their pens back up and oh-so-nonchalantly added another paragraph to their paper.

I was among them.

It would be fair to say that I resented her and her dumb composition (and who needs three days to remember what their parents look like anyway?). She had the right answer – always had the right answer. A right answer that showed me up – not for having the wrong answer, but for lacking… lacking something, some instinct that led her to the right answer. What exactly, I couldn’t say. But it wasn’t something you could learn from a book, or look up in an encyclopedia, or even understand by being told about it. Either you got it or you didn’t. And I didn’t. And that bothered me.

My best friend (BF), on the other hand, didn’t understand why I was so bothered. She’d written about going skiing and hadn’t felt the slightest compulsion to amend her story.

G2S was about a decade ahead of me in emotional development. I should mention that she was in the first wave of engagements and marriages. BF also got married, but a few years later. I wonder when she finally understood G2S’s composition, and if it had been sudden or gradual, early or late, if she’d even noticed at all. I wonder about all the other surreptitious paragraph-adders in the class.

But most of all, I wonder about what else there is that I might be missing. And when I’ll finally learn what they are.

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9 thoughts on “Today I am a (Wo)Man

  1. I agree with much of what you said in this post- although it’s important to keep in mind that although GS2 was emotionally mature and thus ready to get married at 19, not all people who get married so young are as emotionally mature- and sometimes there are very emotionally mature women well into their late 20’s who aren’t yet married. It does take a certain emotional openness- and maturity- and this comes at different points for different people. There is a correlation not a causation. Not every 19 year old is that emotionally perceptive- and one composition on elementary school isn’t quite enough to illustrate someone’s emotional maturity.

  2. Well said
    I don’t know if its a function of being mature rather than being more in tune with others emotions. being close and building relationships is not necessarily about maturity, its about being aware of the others emotions. this girl was keenly aware of the important things in others emotions with regard to her essay of helen keller, recognized what she would miss the most and penned those thoughts. when she was dating and met a guy she liked, she was able to figure out quickly what meant a lot to him, how she would feel about it, and then activated those strategies which she had been developed (or been developed by others)

  3. Goody two-shoes types may indeed be preternaturally mature. And they may very well have the emotional maturity to get married young or pen syrupy, saccharin paeans to parents. But keep this in mind: those folks also tend to do things for the sake of appearances, not because of sincere convictions. I wouldn’t call the place you’re in right now “emotional immaturity” as much as “emotional honesty.”

  4. I don’t think emotional maturity correlates with getting married. But once married I think it has a lot to do with staying married….

  5. Also I tend to view the word “mature” with a bit of suspicion….
    Maturity is often a synonym for conformism

  6. kisarita- I do not believe maturity is a synonym for conformism- additionally I am anti-conformity in the blind, let’s swim with the current sheeple (sheep people) sense. However- conformity in and of itself is not a bad thing. There would be no society without some degree of conformity. I don’t know about you but a little bit of conformity is, in my opinion healthier than all out anarchy. I kind of like things like…currency, food, some form of government and a stable environment. If nobody conformed….ya it would look like a war zone out there. The Torah also says “al tifrosh min hatziboor”- so it’s probably a good idea to conform to something.

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