Despite Her Best Efforts, Isy Suttie Failed To Stay 20-Something Forever

"When I am an old woman I shall wear purple with a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me... And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells/ And run my stick along the public railings," goes one of my favorite poems, "When I Am Old," by Jenny Joseph.

It’s about behaving disgracefully when we’re old, and not caring what others think. Sounds delightful, doesn't it?

There’s a general feeling that as we get older, we should become progressively more earnest, calm, reliable, strong — that our poor shoulders should be burdened to breaking point with responsibility. (And, if we’re lucky, designer bags full of chunky golden coins we’ve earned from our endless hours of wise, responsible toil.)

Now that I’m 38, I’ve hit certain milestones that I thought would definitely make me "grow up." I thought these rites of passage would change me magically into a grown-up: I coasted through my twenties and early thirties on a brightly colored merry-go-round, leaping from horse to horse when I got bored, not thinking much about where I was headed, just going in circles and generally having a pretty good time of it.

But then, several years ago, three things happened that I thought would finally thrust me into the realm of true adulthood.

The first occurred when my boyfriend and I bought a flat a few years ago. In the solicitor’s office signing the contracts, I waited for the thunderbolt moment that would signal I had crossed over into the realm of responsible composting and sensible loafers. "You need to sign here so that if one of you dies, the other has the ownership of the house," the solicitor said.

"What if you were to die as you were signing your name," I wondered aloud. ("Yeah!" my other half chimed in with perfect timing.) The solicitor looked at us pityingly, obviously in awe that we were actually able to sign our own names in the first place. Back out on the street, pen still in hand, I looked down and took in my marker-stained jeans and beat-up trainers. Nope: Still not an adult.

So what have I learned after passing the checkpoints that mark the so-called gateways to adulthood? Turns out, no one knows what they hell they're doing, least of all me.

Isy Suttie
The second time I thought I would suddenly find myself suddenly leaps and bounds more mature coincided with the birth of my daughter, in 2014. Having read thousands of tips online, I packed for the hospital 60 maternity pads, packs of nuts and olives, and two stark white nightgowns, which quickly began to look like blood-splattered costumes from a horror film set.

I got through labor on gas and air; I liked the gas and air very much. Too much, in fact. I got high. I said things like, “This is like when I was fourteen and sniffed Tippex thinner in geography!” and “People should come in here just for the gas and air!” The doctor put my daughter in my arms. I felt very overwhelmed and scared that I was not equipped to look after her because I had no idea what the hell I was doing. Still, there came no epiphany from the Angel Grown Up, who was probably busy getting high on her own gas and air.

I made final go of passing over into adulthood not so long ago, this time by proposing to my boyfriend (at the party following my UK book launch, no less). If I'm being really honest, I did it mostly because — already a mother and the owner of a flat — I was ready for the next adventure.

"Why don't you propose to Elis?" a friend asked. So I downed a lot of tequila, and then I did — right in front of our friends, where he couldn't say no. Honestly, that evening is a bit of a blur. I know he said yes, and then I hissed, “You’ve still got to pay for the ring!” He did. But we forwent an expensive engagement bauble, since I'm scared I'll wind up baking it into a cake or flushing it down the loo by mistake. Some things just never change.

So what have I learned after passing the checkpoints that mark the so-called gateways to adulthood? Turns out, no one knows what they hell they're doing, least of all me. And anyone who says otherwise is telling a fib.

Real estate, parenthood, and marriage do not a grown-up make. For that reason, I've stopped waiting for the moment that I suddenly feel like I've been handed the keys to the kingdom. But no matter when it catches up to me, I am still looking forward to the day I can officially count myself as old and wise. Then, like Jenny Joseph said, "I shall go out in my slippers in the rain / And pick flowers in other people's gardens / And learn to spit." Sounds like the life, doesn't it?

Isy Suttie is an English comedian and writer, and the author of The Actual One: How I Tried, And Failed, To Remain Twenty-Something Forever.
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