I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman

Very Pretty Pink Planner Edition

At 25, I am still not entirely comfortable referring to myself as a “woman.” It’s just so awkward, and it kind of feels like I’m lying. Would a “woman” really be out shopping for bralettes at Forever 21, or occasionally going to 16 Handles for dinner? Would a “woman” own an impressive collection of Essie nail polish and not even totally know what the word “vesting” means, in a financial context? A “woman” would almost definitely not spend $20 on a bright pink planner complete with bright gold lettering declaring, “I Am Busy,” but I am a female human over the age of 18, and I that is a thing I did the other day.

I swaddled the planner as I carried it out of the store, whispering, “I’m your mommy now,” as I felt that familiar euphoria wash over me. You know, that feeling comes with being able purchase something your inner seven-year-old would totally die for? I’ve been financially independent for a while now, but it’s still thrilling to purchase something the color of bubble gum, despite the fact that, as my dad often reminds me, I could very easily use the calendar on my iPhone.

When I posted a photo of the planner on Instagram, I was met with several instances of the word “adulting.” On some level, yeah, definitely: it’s a medium for planning the future, being responsible, and getting stuff done. But it’s also “childing,” in that it’s glittery and includes several pages of funky stickers. When I saw it, I thought, “Wow, my inner child would LOVE this,” but my outer adult also totally, unironically loves it. Really, it’s the most ridiculous manifestation of a lot of things my not-a-girl-not-yet-a-woman self does with her money.

There’s something so unserious about it (obviously, I don’t need stickers; has anyone ever needed stickers) and yet, it’s also kind of empowering. The planner represents a taking back of all of these elements of being a “little girl” in the form of something useful. This applies to anything cutesy and simultaneously practical. Clothing is another good example. Although, for me, stationery is the clearest iteration of this phenomenon. (If I focused hard enough in the right aisle of a Paper Source, I’m pretty sure I could come.)

Stationery is a hyper-specific sub-genre of the sort of consumerism I’m talking about here. The lack of necessity made it something to yearn for when I was younger, especially when emblazoned with rainbow unicorns, technicolor puppies or other such accoutrements of Lisa Frank. My mother wasn’t trying to turn me into some monstrous Veruca Salt of a child, so she purchased only about three percent of my total stationery-related desires. To be fair, I often started journals with the line, “This is my journal, I am going to journal every day,” before discarding them, upset they were no longer perfect.

Still, the denial created a strange desire that I don’t know will ever be truly satisfied. I’m a little tipsy right now, but I swear I can feel my heart flutter a little at the prospect of purchasing the perfect set of aesthetically-pleasing greeting cards I will likely never send. I don’t buy every pretty paper-based thing I want, (because I live in an closet of a New York apartment and I’m not a deranged hoarder), buts still more of it than I should. And I can’t help but think that it all goes toward satisfying a childishness that has yet to subside. Monetary agency is the most concrete iteration of adulthood, and yet I am using it to quell a tiny part of me that is apparently super immature.

A fraction of this is genderless. Growing into total monetary agency comes with an excruciating mix of glee and itchiness from the desires of a younger self. Although, I think there is something very specific and female about trying to own cutesiness while doubting whether I deserve the label of “woman.” It’s as if a part of me is working to reclaim the things that were silly, dismissed and belittled as a ridiculous thing a “little girl” would want as part. Little girls are taught to lust after adorable nothings, then criticized for wanting them. So, to grow up, and be able to buy any iteration of an adorable nothing, and to furthermore be able to use it to plan out my successful, do-something bitch life, well, that’s a great feeling.

I know this is absurd. I’ll make self-deprecating jokes about it. I’ll tell friends who catch a glimpse of my planner that I flew away in my final form as an ombré phoenix shortly after buying it. And maybe I won’t be totally comfortable calling myself a “woman” until all that bedazzled frivolity subsides. Or maybe it never will, and maybe being a woman is just doing the things I’m doing right now: sometimes using my money for ice cream meals and sparkly things, but mostly, making all of the decisions for myself.

Lauren Duca is an award-winning and -losing freelance writer who is mostly just trying to get you to follow her on Twitter.