On Adulthood and DC

Last April, Andrew Exum wrote a blog post that “has been bothering me” ever since. Inspired by public references to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner as “Nerd Prom,” Andrew registered his disgust with “a pattern…whereby ostensibly grown people adopt the rituals of childhood.”

Being no square, Andrew doesn’t shy from the adult pleasures of neighbors, church, and rugby but he assails cupcakes, kickball, and Halloween as self-evidently unacceptable uses of one’s off-time. He identifies no party hurt by these activities; their injury to our cultural understanding of adulthood seems harm enough.

His overarching point is that “people sending 18-year old kids off to war” should take the decision seriously. On this, we agree. But if Andrew’s going to criticize a leisure activity for poisoning such decisions, he might start with the increasingly photorealistic first-person shooters that glorify organized violence on nuclear turrists and other fantasy foes.

Childishly enough, reading his post makes me want to show up at CNAS in a Halloween costume just to spite him.

I don’t think it’s any of our business what public servants do within the bounds of safety to themselves and others when they’re not busy putting in their 40. On the contrary, I think the primary appeal of the modern Western city is its cosmopolitanism. I don’t want to belabor the point too much since there are more important issues for the both of us to address, but I will challenge Andrew to consider whether his argumentative focus on the rituals of childhood says more about himself than it does about the rest of DC:

When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

– C.S. Lewis, 1952

Comments

  1. I remember feeling similarly when this came out. I’m glad you came back to it.

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