I don’t remember giving consent. Or protesting. Or having a choice, not with adult forces at work. A secret committee decided that I should represent my elementary school at the Little Miss Lafayette pageant. How I got the news, I’m not sure, but my guess is this:

My mother: “Ronlyn, you’re going to be in a beauty pageant. You were picked out of everyone from the whole school. Isn’t that wonderful?”

Me: I likely scowled. I likely pondered the real threat of dress-up clothes. It’s possible I asked, “Why me?”

Why me indeed. There had to be at least 150 girls in my school. Certainly someone else would have been thrilled by such attention, someone to whom strangers commented, “Oh, what a pretty little girl.” I was a cute kid, like the quirky type in cereal commercials. I was not a beautiful child, one born for pageants or hair product ads, tresses wavy and loose, eyes and cheekbones aglow with well-placed catch lights. I was no girly-girl.

My brother always says that if he had a choice, he would have stopped aging right around the time he turned two.

Life was simple back then: Play dates. Naps. Mushy comfort foods. Lots of crawling around on the floor. Do something simple like utter a sentence and the adults around you clap and call you cute names. How much better can it get?

I, on the other hand, always wanted to be a grown up. I wouldn’t leave my mom’s side at the playground, because I just had to listen to what the adults were talking about. Going to sleep was out of the question while my parents were still awake, because I couldn’t possibly miss all the exciting stuff that was going on between my bedtime and theirs.

I thought that adults had it all. They could choose what clothes to wear in the morning and what to eat for breakfast. They could go to work and drink coffee and smoke – all at the same time! – and nobody would tell an adult to “put your gloves on!” or “no dessert until you finish your homework!” Also, as an adult, you could have a boyfriend and get married and have sex and babies – and not necessarily in that order. You didn’t have to account for where your allowance went and, darn it, if you wanted to spend it on pink notebooks, you could and nobody would say a thing about it.

I felt like this about adulthood for a long, long time. Even as I turned into an adult – we could argue about the exact timing – I felt all right about how my fantasies about grown-up life meshed with reality.

But lately I’ve been feeling a bit jibbed by this whole grown-up thing.  It is becoming more and more clear that I’ve been sold a bill of goods and if it’s OK, I’d rather not have any of it, thank you very much.

Through the years and years we spend as children with teachers, parents, and relatives, nobody is really straight forward about the icky stuff. Nobody tells us about the bloody battle to find a career or calling; nobody talks about broken hearts, or what to do when your boyfriend tells you that he likes to wear diapers. There is never any mention of performance evaluations, fertility treatments, mortgage payments, team-building retreats, marriage counseling, unemployment, leaky roofs, ripped condoms, emergency surgeries, car accidents, dead pets, self-doubt, aging parents, taxes, used-car dealers, lost friends, rejection letters, unrequited love, recession, hormones, cubicle farms, voicemail, speeding tickets, mid-life crises, HIV tests, drunk dialing, or lost luggage.

When I mention my discontent to my parents, they usually point out the obvious: I am lucky, because I really haven’t had to face too many challenges. It’s been pretty smooth sailing so far.  True.  But what surprises me every time I come across any of the above-mentioned obstacles, is that despite great parents, good education, supportive friends, I am still taken by surprise and feel unusually ill-equipped to tackle what the grown-up world throws at me. 

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as my hubby and I are experimenting with fertility treatments. When a few weeks ago I was driving to the doctor’s office with a jar of sperm tucked in my bra, all I could think was “Really? Nobody could have mentioned that this was in the cards?”

I am not sure what I would have done differently to prepare myself for adulthood. Maybe there is no way to prepare. Maybe despite the wisdom of our parents and grandparents, they look at our challenges with the same surprise and wish that they could have warned us, but didn’t know what to warn us about. After all, talking to a two-year-old or even a 14-year-old about fertility treatments is probably not responsible parenting.

The only good news that emerged from my whining to my parents is that it turns out that they did keep my favorite blanket along with “Kacsa,” my blue, polka-dot duck. So I am off to take a nap now.