PTA Oversight
Section 8
Day Care Issues


The Miami Herald
May 17, 1999 Monday, FINAL EDITION

All grown up (almost)


Dear recent college graduates,

If your parents are like mine, they probably drilled this into your head: "You're not grown until you have a job and get your own house!"

Well, I've been out of college and working for more than five months. I have my own apartment and pay (most of) my bills. But I still don't feel like a full-fledged grown-up. And I'm not sure that I want to.

I like to think of myself as a "growing-up." Since becoming a working professional, I've learned that grown-ups plan vacations with their kids, buy houses and drive large sedans. Growing-ups go to happy hours, dream of travelling abroad and live with little furniture. Growing-ups are the straddlers of postcollege and prefamily life.

The growing-up zone is a unique place to reside. Some days, the back of your ears feel very moist. Other days, you feel ready for the rest home.

For example, I still miss my 2 p.m. nap between classes, and I believe that the work year should be divided into semesters. Since becoming a full-time employee, I have a self-imposed curfew. My college friends - a k a the nocturnal creatures - call at all times of night. They tease me when I give them my speech about my weary, work-driven body.

One time, I had dinner with some co-workers. Three women sat at a table, discussing a universal favorite pastime - shopping.

"Ann Taylor is my favorite store," says one. The other nods in agreement. But my eyes just widened. Isn't that the store with all the suits? With my boot-leg cut black pants and fitted shirts, my style is more "GAP clearance" than business executive.

Another time, co-workers spent an afternoon talking about good places to raise kids. My eyes glazed over. At this stage of my life kids is a four-letter word.

One day, a source on my beat called me "young lady." Immediately, a 12-year-old image of me in a frilly dress doing a curtsy filled my mind. I wanted to tell him I have my own apartment and I pay (most of) my bills - I'm grown!

But other times, I've felt extremely old.

For instance, after asking for directions one day, a man had the nerve to call me "ma'am." I was quite vexed. I felt as if I must have had work-burdened wrinkles on my skin for him to say such a thing. Friends told me it was Southern hospitality that made that man essentially call me a "grandmother." But I wasn't convinced. So the next day at work, I staged a silent rebellion.

I slipped on my sleek, black, go-go-esque boots, wrapped on my grey ultrasuede skirt and piled on my dark lipstick. A little edgy for the workplace, but that was the point. More than a few people noticed my look and asked questions. I told the truth. I was in Peter Pan mode: I won't grow up, I won't grow up! I've just turned 23, and I refuse to start wearing pants with elastic in the waist.

But my life as a growing-up can be exemplified most by my living conditions.

In my apartment (one bedroom, I can't afford more), I have no couch, my coffee table is an old footlocker, and my bed is a futon with a flattened mattress. I have to stomp my foot three times to get reception on my 13-inch television with the rabbit ears. But after more than four years of dormitories and roommates, living alone in a matchbox would seem like heaven. Most importantly, my name is on the lease, and I pay my bills. So, according to my family, I guess I'm grown - except when I ask for a little help on the phone bill - another trait of a growing-up.


Natalie P. McNeal graduated from Howard University in December and is a reporter at The News & Observer.


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