“You’ll make it work in the end,” an adult baby said with a hand on his wife’s shoulder while she complained about their financial status. “You always do.”
The wife recognized this as the compliment her husband intended, but the full import of the gesture failed to register with her at the time. She had no idea that her husband would not be participating in the sacrifices that would be required to “Make it all work out in the end,” unless she was adamant, and she could be adamant. Even when she was adamant and detailed with her instruction, he would only alter his lifestyle as long as it was deemed necessary to get over the current, financial bump.
The adult baby wanted his woman to know that he had faith in her abilities to make it all work out, and that he would stand by her, as long her findings didn’t affect his preferred lifestyle. The wife, thus far, did have an excellent track record of making it all work out in the end, and he wanted her to know this, but he viewed her efforts as a third party witnessing the wizardry of a woman balancing books regardless what he did to offset her gains.
An adult baby doesn’t expect others to clean up after them. They usually don’t give it that much thought. They are the equivalent of children at play. If the idea that a child should clean up after themselves is not enforced, and reinforced, the idea of cleaning up doesn’t enter their purview. They play, and it gets cleaned up. It always does.
The home is always sound, regardless the amount of spending he engages in. The food is always on the table, regardless the amount of hours the wife is forced to work outside the home. The kids are always well-tended to, regardless the degree of involvement he has had in their rearing. Oh, the little woman may harp, but she gets over it once she’s had her say. She always does. And to keep a happy home, a man does have to let women have their say. To keep a home happy, they know that they are to respond with some line that suggests that the woman is always right. A nice “Yes dear!” here and there will do wonders to calm her nerves. It makes the clocks run on time, it balances the books, and it makes sure that the kids are always in school on time.
The adult baby has no powers of reflection, unless “his woman” is adamant that he take a look around him, and his woman can be adamant. She isn’t adamant very often, however, for the adult baby species would be on the endangered list were it not for its enablers.
“I used to love getting flowers,” a woman named Sheila once confessed. “Until I found out how much I was going to have to pay for them.”
Craig is Sheila’s ex. Craig used to bring Sheila flowers. He brought her flowers when they dated, and he continued to bring her flowers long after they were married. Craig loved Sheila, and he didn’t want to be just another man that brought home flowers to the woman he loved. He brought flowers. He decorated rooms. He made cinematic statements that detailed how a man could love a woman, and he did so regardless of the effect it might have on their financial statements.
“How can you put a price on love?” is something Craig might say.
As far as finances are concerned, Craig would be the first to tell you, he knew nothing of finances. “The wife takes care of all that,” is something he will say. “And she can be a real drill sergeant. The woman can drain the romantic symbolism of flowers and turn them into economic principles. She can be so anal-retentive. She reminds you of Monica Geller from Friends. That’s what we call her,” he’ll say with a laugh.
He’ll go on to complain about how she’s always harping. “Money is her big topic.” She talks about how he can’t control his spending habits. How he signs up for credit cards and doesn’t tell her. He spends money as if he has no regard for the bottom line. She says he has acted like a child that has been introduced to the power of money for the first time, for so long, that he doesn’t gauge the consequences of his actions. “I make the money,” is something he might say. “And I work my tail off. I’m a grown man. Who does she think she is, trying to tell me how to live?”
As with most adult babies, Craig lives by his own set of rules and standards, and no one, not even his beloved wife, is going to tell him how to spend the money he earns. He may have some problems with impulse control, but who doesn’t? Spending money, and purchasing things, gives Craig a rush he can’t explain. It gives him identity.
“You’re selfish,” Sheila informed Craig a day after finding evidence another one of his spending sprees, evidence he often concealed better. “You’re the most selfish person I’ve ever met.”
“Only to you guys,” Craig said, referring to Sheila and their two daughters.
He said this without reflection or emotion. He said this to let her know that he was not a bad guy. People love me, was the purport of his assessment, and while I may be a little self-involved with you three, I’m not such a bad guy. I know better. I help people. Your opinion doesn’t extend beyond these four walls, so don’t try to tell me you know who I am.
We all say things to win arguments, but what we say defines us. We all have images of ourselves that we portray to others, and they aren’t lies. We believe them. Every once in a while, though, we step on a landmine that exposes the fact that we’ve failed to mature in all the ways our peers have.
The term adult baby is not exclusive to males, but most adult babies are males. The majority of the demographic consists of forty-something males that have been nurtured (see controlled) by women for the whole of their lives. They’ve had women tell them to share, eat their peas, and clean up their messes, and at some point they grew tired of it. They’ve had females set their clocks, do the accounting, and raise their children. They’ve had women handle the inconsequential matters while they did what was necessary to provide. They have been the ones that punched in for the day and punched out, for decades, without complaint, and now they’re being asked to do more? Where does it end?
“I’m not asking you to do more,” the wife counters, “I’m asking you to do less. I’m asking you to stop doing what you’re doing. It’s making my job impossible.”
Women have it so good, the adult baby says, when they are instructed to reflect. They get to sit home and watch their shows while the man goes to work and caters to the whims of a boss. The man is the king of the castle, and he gets to do whatever he wants as a result. If the man wants motorized vehicles, he gets it. If the man wants the latest and greatest leaf blower when his is working just fine, he gets it, and if the man wants some electronic device that all his friends have, he gets it. The woman is in charge of the accounting, and she balances the books. “I don’t know how she does it,” the adult baby says, if he receives adamant instruction to reflect upon their financial status. “But she does make it work.”
Experts might inform Craig that his current predicament is as a result of a cycle of dependency, but Craig would likely dismiss this as day-time talk show gibberish. He would not be aware of his role in the matter. He would not be aware of the fact that once the first eighteen years of his life ended, and he married a woman straight out of college that he married a woman that reminded of his mother on some level. He would not be aware of the fact that the responsibility for their welfare transferred from a controlling mother to the wife that began to take care of him.
He was so crazy in college. He “got drunk” in a manner that suggested he was trying to make up for lost time, when his mother told him to act more responsible. He also engaged in a number of sexual liaisons, until he met the good woman that could cook like his good old ma’. He never lived alone. He never knew the brunt of responsibility. He never knew that freedom. He never knew how to succeed on his own, and he never learned what it meant to fail.
No one wants the crazy, college years to end. Even when we marry, and buy a house, and have kids, there is that constant need to get nuts. In the crazy days of college we were old enough to enjoy the complexities adulthood had to offer, but young enough to shrug off the consequences of doing so. We were able to show those that mattered that we were no longer a child, but we were young enough to shrug off the ramifications that come with continuing to live like one. We flexed the muscles of independent living in college, while getting our parents to pay the bills. We were also in a zone of life –between adulthood and childhood– that allowed us the freedom to form an identity without the responsibility that formed it.
Everyone wants this time period to last forever, but few have the resources to make it so. No one wants to grow up and become responsible in financial matters. We’ve worked hard to end up in the position we’re in. We’ve kowtowed to bosses, and we’ve held our tongue when our peers have said things with which we disagree. We’ve built our own little empires in which we can now do whatever the hell we want.
Yet, some of us have reached this point, and we have learned to control our impulses and the temptations that drive them. We’ve made our mistakes, we’ve been broke, and we’ve learned that childhood ends. For some of us, this is a long, arduous process. For others, it never happens. Adult babies are never left to their own devices. They never fail, and they are never exposed to the harsh reality financial failure can bring. They are saved. Their inadequacies are tolerated. They are good boys, good sons, good men, good providers, and that half of the relationship that doesn’t have to account for their failings.
The adult baby’s mothers were the lone judge of their character for much of their life, but they weren’t a quality judge, for they loved their boy warts and all. They knew he had flaws, who doesn’t, but they also knew he had a good heart, and she would fight anyone that said anything to the contrary. They knew their boy was irresponsible with respect to financial matters, and that he wasn’t the best and most attentive student, and he didn’t have the best work ethic, but he was kind to his mother, and that was the character they hoped to instill in their boy from the beginning. The boy knew how to hit all of his mother’s bullet points in other words. He knew how to make her happy, and even if it didn’t improve his overall character much, she thought that said a lot about him.
That mother then wanted her son to find a good woman, straight out of college. She wanted him to find happiness, regardless of his failings. She wanted her boy to have a house, a white picket fence, a dog, and to provide his mama with some grandchildren. She wanted her boy to find that one, special woman who would give it all to him, and that placed a lot of pressure placed on that fiancée.
“He’s a good boy,” the mother instructed the fiancée. “He needs someone to take care of him.” The fiancée may have spotted some flaws in the beginning, and she may have brought them up in the string of jokes that were being told about the good son, but when the fiancée added her bit, it ignited a low flame in the mother. That joke was perceived by the mother to be a direct reflection on how she had raised her son, and she took exception to that. It drove a spike between the mother and the future daughter-in-law, until the daughter-in-law learned to keep her trap shut, if she wanted to get along with her husband’s family.
“Don’t tick ma off,” said the good son, sticking up for his beloved mother. “She means well.”
“How do we continue though,” this good wife asked the good boy that was now a man, she was now forbidden to criticize. “Your spending is out of control.”
If this criticism is deemed to be well-founded, the good boy may control his spending in the short-term. He’s not an idiot. In the short-term, a term defined by the adult baby, he may refrain from purchasing big, luxurious items as the family budget hovers around ground zero, and he may feel bad for any role he may have played in the sacrifices his family is forced to endure … in that short term, so he buys his wife flowers, and he doesn’t just buy his wife flowers. He buys flowers. He makes his apologetic statement cinematic.
“You can’t buy me flowers anymore!” his wife shrieks, as she places monetary value on his apology. “We’re broke!” He means well, and she feels bad for shrieking at him, and she used to love flowers, until she realized how much she was going to have to pay for them.
In the same manner that a crazy person is not crazy all of the time, the adult baby has his lucid moments. He has blips on the calendar to which he can point. He has moments, such as those that occur when the wife instructs him, in an adamant manner, where he reflects on their financial situation. He has moments when he appears to be “all growed up” and responsible, but all parties concerned know that he will revert back to who he is if “his woman” doesn’t control him adamant instruction. In those moments when he slips, and he receives adamant instruction, he will recognize how much control has been taken away from him, because he’s never had control, because control has always been dictated to him by women, and a hard-working, rigorous man should never have complete control dictated to him by a woman. They want to control him, everyone does it seems, until he finds a way to better define his independence: money. Money is power, money is freedom, and what better way to express one’s individualism is there than through making purchases? It may cause the wife to stress out about the books, it may cause his family to have to sacrifice a little, but she’ll make it all work out in the end. “She always does.”