Career? Working on it. Babies? Maybe. Property? In this economy? Marriage? Eh? It's not news that women are dismissing trad-life milestones faster than you can say arrested development. While this hasn't been totally anxiety-free — how will we know when we've actually grown up!? — it should be viewed for what it is: Progress. Freedom. More Choice. Where there are looser expectations, there is greater room to flourish on our own terms. Best part? Not having to feel bad about it.
Hello, agency. Hello, redefining your own personal idea of success on your own terms. Hello, living a life that moves by the rhythms of your own maturity, ambitions, development, experience, needs, desires, and not based on some arbitrary idea that if you're not married with a kid and a dude by 38, covered in cat hair while shopping the frozen sperm aisle in the grocery store. Which could be really with the right cat hair, actually.
Look: There's obvs nothing wrong with wanting babies, husbands, property, careers. The problem is making these things the major yardstick by which we're ALL evaluated. And more than that, it's that a lot of personal deprivation and game playing has been traditionally required from women to meet such milestones, from maintaining purity (or the illusion thereof) to mastering the black art of feminine deference.
But now, with all that pressure swept away like an unattractive pile of dirt accumulating its own dust in the corner of a kitchen floor we totes don't want to own, what signifies our entrance into Adult Life now?
Whatever we want.
Losing Your Virginity
This is an important, scary, exciting thing for men or women, but it has long been celebrated and encouraged for boys — who inexplicably, become men after finally getting laid — and discouraged in girls, who inexplicably, become "tainted" afterwards. Oh what I'd have given had someone contextualized the significance of this for me without all the stigma. Yes, it's important, yes it has consequences, yes, it can end badly. But that's just as true for boys, and yet, culturally we still treat it as a high-five on the road of life for them.
Getting Your Period
This should be a party. A fucking blowout with little mini tampon party favors, gorgeous red dresses (or sweatsuits?), pampering rituals, red velvet cake in the shape of a uterus, fruit punch, and the space and encouragement to ease into this milestone for girls as an important, lovely, complicated aspect of what it means to be a chick. It shouldn't be ignored, steamrolled, stigmatized. It should be held up as the gateway to newfound choice and freedom and burdens that are part of womanhood, with all the sobriety and celebration that signifies. See also: Having/Not Having a Baby; Menopause.
Learning How to Masturbate
With virtually no instruction and no sex education (thanks, South), I didn't have an orgasm by myself, because of myself until my late teens. As this lovely ode to masturbating makes clear, women still aren't taught to feel OK about exploring their bodies and giving themselves pleasure. Figuring this out isn't just so your lover doesn't have to do the work of figuring you out, but because it's a critical, healthy part of your ability to actively please yourself. See also: Buying Your First Vibrator.
Standing Up For Yourself/Someone Else
Sure, it's a personal moment, and perhaps no one is even around to witness that you did it aside from the recipient of your newfound courage. But the moment you tell someone where to stick it, whether you are 6 years old or 60, whether for yourself or someone else who needs some backup, is huge for women in a culture that still doesn't know how it feels about an angry woman. See also: Standing up to Sexism.
Falling in Love
We so often see this tale told from the smitten boy's perspective, but not so much from the girl's. A girls' first crush, her first head-over-heels dive into the love drug is a formative moment, the template from which all other relationships must deviate or duplicate. Hail it as such.
Dumping Your First Shitty Boyfriend/Girlfriend
One day you will realize that your first boyfriend or girlfriend, or maybe it's your second or third, is real shitty. Falling out of love is just as critical a moment as falling in love. The moment you gather the courage to "I Love It"-style throw that shit into a bag and push it down the stairs is a critical moment in spine-detecting person-ness. Make T-shirts.
Finding Your People
Everybody's kind of a lemming at one point or another: Taking cues from friends, copying styles, caring desperately what other's think, trying to fit in more than discover yourself. But there comes a moment in every woman's life where she must accept and realize who she is, and who her people are — where she best fits, where she feels most at home. This can happen in high school when you realize the gothy drama freaks are, like it or not, where your brain lives. You're a weirdo wallflower, you're a fitness freak, you're a girly girl. It's not a permanent label, but it's a jumping-off place when you own your preferences and no longer need to apologize for them.
Picking a Major/Focus
To declare what you will study in college or pursue as a vocation may mean very little in the bigger picture of your actual life, but to first choose a course of study is to first begin framing your life toward a goal, a job, an identity, a way of viewing the world. It's not nothing: Do it wisely, mean it at the time, and try to pick something that you feel strongly about, because too many of us go so far down a road we never even wanted to travel in the first place.
Taking Your First Road Trip
Whether it's to the nearest mid-sized town, to camping grounds 10 minutes away, or a three-day trek across the country: This will be the time you went. And it should be regarded as a rite of passage for all young people, when they test their knowledge, maturity, and ability to put up with someone who loves John Mayer for more than five minutes. Leave as a goofy kid, come back a Woman Who Navigated a Map.
Finding Your Look
Remember the day you realized that long, A-line skirts and scoop neck T-shirts were super flattering on you? That you most definitely were blessed with a hat head? That you can pull off big, oversized watches on your delicate wrist, that you happen to rock turquoise jewelry like nobody's business? Relish it. It is kind of a big deal, because it means you will stop, I repeat, stop, buying the trendy things and settle into your own Diane Keaton-style awesomeness.
You must leave the nest, even if it's only temporary. But more importantly, you must navigate the world on your own. Negotiating a lease, turning on utilities, figuring out how recycling works and tiptoeing around the boundaries of another young adult on their own for the first time is an important human ritual. See also: learning to cook; keeping up a house. See also: Weaning Off Your Parents.
Trying to Have an Adult Relationship
Assuming it has some appeal for you, everyone should attempt a union of some kind with another human that lasts for a bit. Because romantic relationships are unique mirrors that you can't get anywhere else, it's important to, at least for some amount of time, try a sustained involvement with a person where you are required to care, act human, communicate your feelings, listen to another person's feelings, agree to some mutually preferred list of rules and regulations, and learn about yourself and humanity. Try it. Just for a month even.
Changing Careers (A Lot)
Like this piece on vanishing life milestones points out, you might be 27 and interning by day and bartending at night, barely making ends meet and struggling to get into your field of choice. It may take longer and involve more false starts then you thought. Or you may find yourself jumping around longer at entry-level positions until you figure out what you really want to do. Ride it. While you are less locked into a high paycheck with tons of benefits, you might be more likely to gravitate toward positions that are a better fit, which leads to greater happiness later. See also: Quitting a Shitty Job.
Facing Your Finances
Similarly, the point at which you merely stop sorta getting your bills paid most of the time and have the courage to perhaps even set them up on auto-pay means you're doing something right. Bonus points for if you actually reach the point of diversifying your investments, because that means you actually have investments to diversify. See also: Asking for a Raise.
Loving Your Body/Actually Liking Yourself
Ugh, yeah, this. I know. It may take a lifetime to achieve and even then with only mixed results at best, but a huge life milestone should be liking what you see in the mirror and whose head you reside in, nearly inescapably, for however long you are on earth. No matter what they say. If by chance you are lucky enough to like you from day one — do tell us your secret. See also: Gaining the Freshman 15.
What did I miss? I could go on forever. The beauty here is that all or any of these things will probably change you forever on the road to maturity. What makes your short list?
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