1. Eating dessert for dinner.
As a child: Dessert for all the meals, really! (And oh, buddy if kid-you could see the Pop-Tart Ice Cream Sandwich now. It’d be like if Disneyland created breakfast.) No more suffering through the broccoli to get to the cake, no more having to be bribed with an extra cookie if you can only get that last bit of meatloaf down. And when you’re an adult, oh boy. Pizza for breakfast. Pizza for all the meals! It’s got all the major food groups: Dairy? Check. Grains? Check. Vegetables? Well, sauce counts, maybe some mushrooms if you’re intrepid. Meat? Check. It’s the most balanced triangle you’ve ever seen in your life! Mom, please, can I have pizza for breakfast, pleaseeee?
As an adult: If it’s not the fact that your metabolism has suddenly not just hit the brakes but careened off the tracks like some hellscape car imagined by the likes of Michael “some-men-just-want-to-watch-the-world-burn” Bay, it’s that you’re preventatively watching what you eat. Or you went vegetarian, or Paleo, or (guilty as charged) vegan, thus rendering the classic cheese-crust-pepperoni dream all but moot. (If I’ve had one friend tell me that my new definition of cheese-less “pizza” is blasphemous, I’ve had them all tell me that. It’s my cross to bear.) But oh, adult-you tries, and heads home with the sole intention of plowing through a pint of Rocky Road, only to be left hungry and unsatisfied at 10 pm, so you wind up eating actual dinner at the time when you would typically be eating dessert, and it’s like you got tricked into being semi-nutritious anyway.
2. Be President when you grew up.
As a child: Sure, it seems ambitious even on the playground, but like, it’s an endearingly precocious kind of ambition. Either you say you’re going to play in the NBA, or you’re going to cure cancer, or you’re going to be the first female president — and what was more, you actually believed yourself. At least you were being more mature than the kindergarteners who thought they’d grow up to be puppy dogs. Fools. You were going to incite some real world change.
As an adult: Even though comedians like Jo(h)ns Oliver and Stewart and the almighty Colbert seem to have a much better grasp on the world than politicians at time (I mean, Ted Cruz just told the world at large that he doesn’t like avocados and personally, that is something I just can’t trust), here I am, making weak jokes about politicians and no closer to the White House than my local White House/Black Market and its plethora of smart-chic shift dresses, beloved by ‘timeless’ moms the world over. (But kid-me would be very proud of Hillary’s general boss abilities. So that counts for something.)
3. Marrying your childhood pop star crush.
As a child: That poster you ripped out of Teen Bop, taped on your wall, and might or might not have marked up with the discount lipstick your mother passed off to you? It was a prototype of a Pinterest board, your childhood way of manifesting your deepest desires, Secret-style. (For the sake of full disclosure and complete self-humiliation, I’ll just say the love of my prepubescent life was Aaron Carter. Go on. Google a photo of him today. I’ll wait.)
As an adult: Did you google Aaron Carter present-day? Did you? (Though to his credit, ‘Aaron’s Party [Come Get It]’ is still an ironic, nostalgia-based crowdpleaser at any 20-something party.) But like, I mean. I’m sitting here swiping on Tinder, and would only be so lucky if a profile belonging to one Aaron Carter, 26 (7 miles away) were to pop up amid the sea of guys who look exactly like their dogs, or who think their main selling point is that their mirror presents a great reflection of all those rippling pectorals.
Though, honestly, I’d probably swipe right.
4. Driving that Mustang.
As a child: Or that lone Lambo you saw cruising down the street. (I grew up in Los Angeles, it was exactly as insufferable as it sounds.) Or Cher’s loqued out Jeep with the monster sound system. Or really, any car that wasn’t your mom’s sensible Camry. Kid-you swore you’d never have to deal with another eyesore like a minivan, and because you didn’t quite understand the concept of money beyond the fact that it was something the Tooth Fairy left you, what was one car over another? Why not just get a Maserati? What’s stopping you?!
As an adult: Money, it turns out. And mileage. And the general price of gas. And the fact that sometimes, even the coolest of Mercedes aren’t exactly family-friendly. What’s more, chances are good you’re actually either going broke from student loans so you can’t afford your dream car; you’re chasing your other dreams in a city where having a car is a fiscal impossibility (and why wouldn’t you want to delight yourself with all the chaos of your local, quaint subway car?); or the manufacturers made an update to the current car model that you find personally appalling and now you’re hunting down Craigslist for a ’97 ‘Stang instead of the nonsense they call the “new” model. Sometimes things just aren’t fair.
5. Listening to whatever music you wanted to listen to.
As a child: Because your dad always commandeered the Oldies radio station when he was driving. Or because your mom didn’t like you listening to all that “loud music,” or didn’t think the lyrics were “appropriate.” Or because your childhood was in that bleak former life known as pre-Pandora, so you’d have to wait through the Top 40 hits so you could hear your favorite again. Or because you never had enough money to buy that new CD you really wanted and felt like such a rebel when you Kazaa’d the new Limp Bizkit single.
As an adult: You would blast One Direction (without shame, I tell you! No shame! None at all!) at 5 in the morning, but you would also not like it if your roommate put Nair in your shampoo. Well, that, and you suddenly realize that yes, your children are going to call the Backstreet Boys’ discography “the Oldies” and oh, how things all come full circle and how old we suddenly feel.
6. You’d wear whatever you want.
As a child: Kids live in this blissful world where it’s okay to wear a head-to-toe Superman outfit NOT on Halloween. Kids can frolic on the playground in a princess dress, crown and all. Toddlers can rip their clothes off and run their diapered butts around, feeling the freedom that comes with having no secondary sex characteristics and even less awareness of what nakedness means, other than complete and utter freedom. And most of all, kids think this is how it can always be, and adults are suckers for wearing those ties and suits and heels. Come on, why would you want to torture yourself when you can wear sparkles all the time?
As an adult: Let’s ignore the fact that now, when grown adults wear costumes not on Halloween, chances are good they’ll get arrested, because here is the one condolence of being an adult and dealing with adult things day in and day out: you can go back to your apartment, lock yourself in your room, take off your pants, blast your music, and eat ice cream for the first course of dinner, and google “What is Aaron Carter doing with his life?” and consider yourself sort-of fulfilled. Hey, it’s the little things in life.