Learning adult skills

Lauren Adler

Lately I have taken to watching the tennis courts. I mostly watch during non-team practice hours, when the “just-for-fun” players swing their rackets back and forth, laughing and tossing their hair in the sun. I watch them bounce the little green balls a couple times, lob them up in the air and whack them across the court with total ease, playing a quick round just for the heck of it. It looks great. It looks sophisticated. It stresses me out.

I also am easily stressed by going to a restaurant, where, instead of using a single utensil that I wash off between soup and cereal like I do at home, I am faced with a row of forks and a row of knifes and a row of spoons, all slightly varied with different prongs and blades and sizes.
These days I even get slightly anxious when required to hold an intelligent conversation with a person over 30 years of age (a thing also known as a “grown-up”).

The above list are skills adults need to have: playing an easy round of tennis with the boss man, eating with impeccable etiquette at a many-forked restaurant or talking with other “grown-ups” shrewdly about United States foreign policy. These are skills that I will soon need to have and are skills that, I realize as my senior year and impending graduation draws near, I severely lack. I am about to enter the world of shoulder pads about as prepared as an 8-year-old in a tutu and pretty pink tights.

Whitman, as much as I hold you dear, I must curse you indelibly. While you have done a stand-up job as my metaphorical feather bed for three years of college, you have also given me a very screwy perspective of what knowledge is expected of me from Day One in the real world.

Take my off-campus living situation located at the end of Shady Rill street behind Reid Campus Center, for example. It’s a darling two-story house with shiny countertops, white walls and brand new carpet: remodeled this summer. My rent, including maintenance, water, electricity, EVERYTHING: is $337 a month. I mean…really? That is probably the going rate to unroll a sleeping bag in some peeling brown apartment building in the butt of downtown Seattle.

Also, in the real world, you probably aren’t supposed to attend “grown-up” meetings barefoot (or wearing ratty sweatpants that proclaim the year I graduated high school, or still greasy-faced from too much/too little sleep) like I attend class here. And grown-ups probably aren’t supposed to eat cereal for most meals, either. Well, shit. I have to learn how to properly season a fillet of salmon AND perfect my backhand before graduation? And for Christ’s sake, what the HELL is that bitsy spoon laying horizontally above the plate used for?!

Thus, when spring registration arrived for the rising senior class, I sucked it up and enrolled in Beginning Tennis. I figure, if I am lacking in other adult skills and know-how, I will at least have a country-club quality backhand. Take that, real world.

Then, in some future day when I don pinstripe attire and my boss, after a scholarly discussion about President Obama’s (fingers crossed) foreign policy, wonders if I’d like to play a round of tennis on Saturday afternoon, I will smile smarmily and say, “Why, yes. I DO enjoy a good game of tennis.” And when I swing that backhand, he’ll be damn impressed and assume I own the whole toolbox of adult skills that I will probably still lack.