American Science


I had a long talk with my tenant tonight about his very young girlfriend that he recently broke things off with. There was 18 years difference between them. He chastised me a bit for “not letting go” of my own past relationship, mentioning how he could not stand to live with “that kind of heartache”. I said I didn’t mind so much.

“How can you want to deal with that immature bullshit?” He asked me. “I mean, you are one of the most mature women I know. I can see that there are things you threw at him that he was just simply incapable of even recognizing, let alone being capable of meeting you at your level. I have lived with you for a long time and I have not ever found you to be unreasonable, inappropriately emotional or have ever seen you play games.”

I found this to be a very, very, very interesting statement, because I believe that JJ would completely disagree. Which might have been exactly my tenant’s point. This is a case, as that immature, childish adage (so often heard on playgrounds) so succinctly puts it, of, “It takes one to know one.”

What I think is that we measure “maturity” relative to culture most of the time. What “matures” in us is our ability to navigate our emotional-intellectual surroundings. In such an isolated country as ours, it is difficult to measure your maturity in respect to other modes of being. When you encounter a new culture you are the new kid on the block again, no matter how “mature” or “immature” you seem to your fellow country men.

I think I might want to define the idea of “maturity” as vaguely as possible and call it a functional cognitive/emotional awareness process. This is what “maturity” across cultures and ages might look like:

  • Recognizes limitation as permeable boundaries.
  • Recognizes the potential for change.
  • Values flexibility and dependability.
  • Willingness to embrace questions, uncertainty and mistakes.
  • Determines when to lead and when NOT to lead based on current circumstance, not dogma.
  • Uses simile, analogy and/or metaphor more often than definitions or split infinitives.
  • Rarely assumes that they are the prime reason for someone else’s actions. (I have a hard time with this one)
  • Conceives of communication as a skill rather than a personality trait. (This one is tough for me too.)

I have  an American naiveté. We all have our own culturally created blind spots to a certain extent. So, what did I say when he asked, “How can I want to deal with immature bullshit?” I said, “I don’t think that JJ understood that when I was questioning things I was not questioning him or the fundamental soundness of our relationship, but myself. My own blind-spots.”

“Exactly,” he answered.

I think that if maturity can be measured it should be measured in relation to what we were before. Five minutes ago, five years ago. Nothing more. I suppose that my answer to “how can (I) want to deal with that immature bullshit” is that I think that “maturity” (if I can give it one definition) is simply the ability to provided a new frontier and a comfortable place for someone else to explore their own naiveté. And by that definition, perhaps it was me who was “immature”.

Chew on your own ideas of maturity and immaturity for a while and see what you come up with…

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