I think that in a lot of ways, deciding to grow up and handle problems in an adult fashion just makes life a lot harder for everyone.
It might be a different story if we started teaching children how to navigate the world properly a little earlier, so that the transition wasn’t such a huge mental shift. But no, we essentially have a longstanding societal agreement to spend the first twenty or so years of our lives handling our problems like absolute children, until suddenly one day that’s no longer allowed.
And at that point I guess we’re just supposed to throw out all of our old coping mechanisms from the middle school playbook. Even though they worked, dammit.
If I got into a fight with one of my friends in middle school, I could make a dramatic announcement that we were no longer on speaking terms, and they’d have no other choice but to leave me alone until further notice. Other people would run interference for me, even if they didn’t take my side in the conflict, simply because the declaration had been made. Remember that? “Bryanna isn’t speaking to Abby right now” would spread across the cafeteria like wildfire, and everyone would honor the battle lines that had been drawn. Maybe it was immature, but it was certainly effective.
But when you’re an adult, you don’t really have any socially acceptable way to announce to someone that you’re not speaking to them. Just saying it outright makes you sound like a seventh grader, and just ignoring them without explanation makes you look like a sixth grader. And neither of those are good looks anymore.
I suppose you could say it’s because adults aren’t supposed to give one another the silent treatment. When two adults have some kind of interpersonal issue, they’re supposed to talk it out until they can come to an understanding. And sometimes the understanding they reach is that they can no longer have a relationship with one another- but at least it’s not a holding pattern of claiming to still be part of one another’s lives, all the while refusing to have a conversation. We agree that’s a stupid solution.
But I think that really only applies if there’s some kind of argument at the heart of the issue. Of course it’s wrong to close the lines of communication when you have a disagreement that needs to be worked out. That’s obvious.
But what if it’s not that you’re having a disagreement with someone? What if you’re just mad at them, and you don’t want to talk to them?
What if someone has said something massively hurtful and unfair about you, and you’re so offended by their words that you can’t even consider the possibility of having a conversation with them afterwards?
What’s the mature and adult thing to do in that situation, if not to simply stop talking to the person until you’re emotionally ready for it again?
Is it to ask for an apology? Come on, of course it isn’t- that’s fourth grade territory. And especially if the insult wasn’t even made to your face. It’s far too low to stoop to demand that someone apologize for something that they said behind your back, isn’t it?
Or is it?
Because now I’m back to the square one problem: that trying to be “mature” just makes things more difficult. Maybe the easiest and best course of action is to simply say to your fellow adult, “Hey, I heard that you were talking shit about me, and I’d appreciate an apology.”
Or I don’t know, maybe you should really lean into the middle school approach and just start a rumor that they can only use jumbo tampons.