“You’ll make it work in the end,” an adult baby said with a hand on his wife’s shoulder, as she pined over their financial affairs, “you always do.”
The wife recognized the compliment for what it was, but the full import of the gesture failed to register with her at the time. She had no idea, for example, that her husband would not be participating in the sacrifices required to “make it work out in the end,” unless she was adamant, and she could be adamant. Even when she was adamant and detailed with her instruction, however, he would only alter his lifestyle for as long as he deemed necessary to get over what she declared a dire financial state.
The adult baby intended the compliment to serve as a statement of appreciation for his wife’s abilities, and he wanted her to know he would stand by her, as long her findings didn’t affect his preferred lifestyle in the long term. Thus far, she did have an excellent record when it came to making their lives work, and he wanted her to know that he recognized that. Her record of achievements in this regard did not begin and end with finances however. The family made sacrifices to offset his irresponsible behavior, and she informed him of the sacrifices they needed to make to offset his actions. He saw the effort she put forth, and he was aware of the idea that his family needed to sacrifice, but he viewed it from third-party perspective.
Adult babies are like small children playing with toys in the living room. Neither party expects others to clean up after them. They simply don’t put that much thought into it. If no one instructs them to pick up their mess and no one enforces the practice to the point of making it the child’s habit, the idea of cleaning up doesn’t enter their purview. They play as much as they want to play, then, without any effort or sacrifice on their part, the area is clean. They won’t even notice that the area is clean, when they return to it, it just is. It always is.
Adult babies hear about financial problems, but like those mysteriously disappearing toys on the floor, they hear about those financial pile-ups so often that the adamant tirades go in one ear and out the other. They know everyone in the family must make sacrifices, and they even echo the wife’s sentiment to the children, but they know that these temporary blips have a way of working themselves out.
The wife may have to work some overtime or even, take on a third job to keep food on the table, but no one ever starves. He might not have much involvement in the lives of his children, but they receive the attention they need. All they know is that the home is always sound, so sound that he can eat his tortilla chips and watch his shows in peace. The little woman may harp, and she might nag a little, but she gets over it once she’s had her say. She always does, and to keep a happy home, he knows that he has to let her have her say.
If he wants to continue doing what he wants to do, he will not only have to endure those occasional rants, he will respond with a line that suggests that the woman is always right. A nice “Yes dear!” sprinkled into those conversations makes the clocks run on time, balances the books, and allows him to live the life he’s always wanted.
The adult baby has no powers of reflection. His woman might be adamant that he look around on occasion, but she’s not adamant very often. If she was adamant more often, he probably wouldn’t be an adult baby, 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 confessed, “until I found out how much I was going to have to pay for them.”
Sheila’s ex-husband, Craig, used to bring Sheila flowers. He bought flowers for her when they dated, and he continued to buy her flowers long after they tied the knot. Craig loved Sheila, and he didn’t want to be just another man who brought a few roses home to the woman he loved. He bought flowers. The rooms of flowers he bought and choreographed made cinematic statements of how much one man can love a woman, and he did so regardless of the effect it had on their financial statements.
“How can you put a price on love?” Craig would ask when she interrogated him.
As far as finances were concerned, Craig would be the first to tell you that he knew little to nothing. “The wife takes care of all that,” Craig said on one occasion, “and she can be a real drill sergeant. That woman can drain the romantic symbolism out of flowers and turn them into economic principles. She can be so anal-retentive, like that character on the show Friends. Monica Geller. That’s what we call her,” he added with a laugh.
“Money is her big topic,” Craig said when he talked about how she was always harping on him.
As is often the case when one person complains about another, Craig refrained from offering any details of Sheila’s argument, for those details might have revealed the substance of her argument. Craig did not say anything about how Sheila complained about his spending habits. He didn’t acknowledge her complaint that he signed up for multiple credit cards without telling her. He also would not repeat Sheila’s line, “You spend money like a child learning the power of money for the first time, and what’s worse is you’ve done so for so long that it’s obvious that you are incapable of gauging the consequences of your actions.”
“I made the money she complained so much about,” Craig said to conclude his rant. “And I’m a grown-ass man who worked as hard as any man I know. I don’t know who she thought she was, always trying to tell me how to live?”
As with most adult babies, Craig lived by his own set of rules and standards. As far as he was concerned, no one –not even his beloved wife– was going to tell him how to spend the money he earned. He confessed that he might have had some problems with impulse control, “But hell who doesn’t?” he asked. Spending money and purchasing things gave Craig a sense of identity he couldn’t explain. He confessed that purchasing products gave him a rush.
“You’re selfish,” Sheila said the day she found evidence of yet another one of Craig’s out of control spending sprees, evidence he usually did a better job of concealing. “You’re the most selfish person I’ve ever met.”
“Only to you guys,” Sheila quoted Craig replying to that accusation. Craig was referring to Sheila and their two daughters. Craig apparently said this without reflection, and to remind her that he was not a bad guy. “People love me,” he added, assessing his character via perceived public opinion. “While I might seem a little self-involved when it comes to you three, I’m not a bad guy. I know better. I help people Sheila. Your opinion doesn’t extend beyond these four walls, so don’t try to tell me that you know who I am.”
We all say things we regret in the heat of the moment, but sometimes, our words define and expose us. The things we say reveal what we believe our image is, what we believe others see in us or what they should see. As far as we’re concerned, those aren’t lies, fabrications, or exaggerations. We might step on a landmine on occasion that exposes our failure to mature in all the ways our peers have, but, hell, everyone has made missteps.
While not all adult babies are male, the majority of the demographic consists of over-nurtured, 40-something males who are unable or unwilling, to shake free of the leash of the people who control them. Women have reminded them of the need to share, that they need to eat their peas and clean up their messes, but at some point, the adult baby became fed up with it. Women have set their clocks, raised their children, and handled the more inconsequential matters for most of their lives, while they did what was necessary to provide. Even though their wives have had to make sacrifices and they’ve done whatever was necessary to supplement the family income, the adult babies argue, “I’m the one who’s been clocking in and out for decades, without complaint, and now you’re asking me to do more? Where does it all 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. You’re making my job impossible.”
“Women have it so good,” the adult baby says. “They get to sit home and watch their shows, while the man goes to work and caters to the whims of a boss. Whatever happened to the idea that the man is the king of the castle?”
If the man wants a new motorized vehicle that only travels on water, he gets it, even if he lives in a land-locked state that requires the vessel to sit in a high-priced storage unit 364 days a year. If the man wants a leaf blower that has a high-powered engine, when his is working just fine, he gets it, and if the man wants the electronic gadget or device, that one of his friends has, he gets it. The woman is in charge of the accounting, and she attempts to balance the books in the wake of his attempts to indulge his desires. “I don’t know how she does it,” the adult baby says if his friends ask how he can afford such luxuries, “but she makes it work.”
Experts might have informed Craig that his current predicament resulted from a cycle of dependency, but Craig probably would’ve dismissed that as daytime talk show gibberish. He was unaware of his role in the matter, and he was naïve to the fact that as soon as the first eighteen years of his cycle of dependency ended, he married a woman, straight out of college, who reminded of his mother. He was not cognizant of the fact that the responsibility for his welfare transferred from a mother who coddled him to the wife tasked with doing the same.
Craig was crazy in college. He “got drunk” in a manner that suggested he was trying to make up for the time he spent acquiescing to his beloved mother’s request that he 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’. Craig never lived alone. He didn’t encounter the pratfalls of being irresponsible in those years, and he never learned the level of freedom that allows one to succeed and fail. Craig was thus deprived the lessons that young people learn during these years and carry with them throughout life.
Even when we marry, buy a house, and have kids, there is that constant need to relive the crazy, college years when we were old enough to know the complexities inherent in adulthood, but young enough to shrug off the consequences of ignoring them. Back then, we thought we were equipped and entitled to show all those who mattered that we were no longer children, back when we were young enough to shrug off the ramifications that come with continuing to live like them. In our adult years, we flexed the muscles of independent living in college, all while our parents footed the bills. We were in a zone toddling between adulthood and childhood that allowed us the freedom to form an identity without any concerns for the responsibilities that might help better form it.
Few, however, have the resources to make those crazy college year last well into adulthood, and the lack thereof requires most to make choices no one wants to make. We work hard to put ourselves in a comfortable position in life. We kowtow to bosses, and we hold our tongue when our peers have said things with which we disagree. We try to build an empire that will allow us to do most of what we want, but some others who just do it. That’s the gist of their answers to the curious who question how they’re able to afford such luxuries on their salary, with two kids, “Like Nike says, you just do it.”
Most full-fledged adults know the despair that results from crushing debt, and they learn to fight off the impulses and temptation that could drive them to shut-offs, red box “past-due” notices, and shameful credit ratings. We’ve all made our share of mistakes. We’ve all been broke at one time in our lives, and we all know the horrible feeling of not having as much money as someone else, but we’ve all come to terms with bitter reality that the good times of living like a child ends. For some of us, this is a long, painful process. Others might never have to face these inevitable truths because others make it all work out for them.
The women in the lives of the adult baby learn to do everything they can to avoid leaving them to their own devices. As a result, the babies don’t experience embarrassment, aren’t required to deal with inadequacies, and ever fail. They are good boys and good sons that become good and honest men, but they are the half of those relationships rarely held to account for their failings.
“I never spent us into unmanageable debt,” Craig said. It was his best defense, for in those moments when the family had to sacrifice Craig decided to control his spending, in the short-term. He refrained from purchasing big, luxurious items when the family budget hovered near ground zero. He even felt some guilt for the role he may have played in the familial sacrifices, albeit only in the short term. To rectify whatever damage he may have caused, Craig bought his wife flowers, but he didn’t just buy her flowers. He made his apologies cinematic.
“You can’t buy me flowers anymore!” Sheila shrieked, “We’re broke!” Sheila would later say she felt bad about the times she yelled at him like that, because she knew he meant well. She said he bought her flowers, because she used to love flowers. “They used to be one of my guilty pleasures,” she said, “until I realized how much I was going to have to pay for them.”
In the wake of their divorce, Craig entered the house to collect those prized belongings of his not listed in the decree. Craig also considered this his opportunity to tell us his side of the story. He answered all of the questions posed, as listed above, and he pointed out the days when he acted “all growed up” to counter Sheila’s claims. Craig also informed us of all the purchases he didn’t make, because he knew the family couldn’t afford it to counter Sheila’s claim that he was such a spendaholic.
We couldn’t help but wonder if the purchases he didn’t make, and the moments Craig recounted for us to counter Sheila’s claims, were all the more remarkable in Craig’s memory because of their rarity.
We reminded Craig of one of his favorite sayings, “Money is power! Money is freedom!”
“Was I saint in our marriage?” Craig asked. “I was not, but I was not an idiot. We always found a way to made it work. Somehow or another, she always made it work in the end.” We couldn’t help but avoid thinking he slipped up in the second sentence saying she as opposed to we in the second sentence, as he slipped a final bouquet of dead roses into a living room now full of dead roses to complete what he considered a final cinematic statement to his ex-wife.