My best friends are all nerds in their own ways, and I’m fine with that. In fact, I like that nerdy part of them, actually, because I’m quite a nerd myself and there is something so very satisfying about talking for hours about Pokemon or Steins;Gate or The Silmarillion and all the lore and backstory and history that nobody really cares about, not really.
The other day I was with a few acquaintances that were not nerds or geeks, trying to finish up a project, and they started gossiping about a sophomore boy I’ve never met. I have very little interest in gossip of (almost) any kind so I was pretty deep into whatever I was doing, but something stood out to me: they were talking about how this boy apparently has stuffed animals and likes watching cartoons holed up in his room all day. He even uses a fake name on Facebook: he calls himself “Valerian,” based on a game he’s played. One of the girls exclaim: “That’s so immature!” and the others agree and I’m left there trying to figure out what that actually means.
What’s the definition of an “immature” teenager? I suppose there are a few answers. Of course, because of our soft teenager brains, we are apparently more inclined to make stupid decisions than adults (at least, that’s how the argument goes.) But if we are to show more specific instances, a sixteen year old who whines to her mother in the car and repeats that she wants to go home, over and over again: maybe we can safely call that “childish” behaviour. Someone who has a bright pink room, with a bunch of stuffed animals: maybe that’s “immature.” A teen who goes out drunk driving or out partying and doing stupid things: we tend to call that immature, definitely.
Note all the maybes, because I don’t actually know. Maybe I’m just hesitant to call myself immature. After all, I love my stuffed animals. I don’t go out and do reckless driving or drink underage or do something incredibly, incredibly stupid (and thus, apparently, immature,) but I have a bunch of stuffed animals and I have names for all of them. And I’m definitely guilty of watching cartoon network shows even now, in my Senior year. I love my Pokemon and the DS and I’d rather lock myself up in my room than socialise. Does that mean I’m immature?
Does that mean a person who has stuffed animals, or who doesn’t take care of themselves, someone who parties: does that have to mean that the person is immature? I have friends who like Pokemon and have stuffed animals but who I can still have an intelligent and interesting conversation with about the ethical issues of humanitarian intervention or the odd rhyme schemes in Sylvia Plath’s poetry. Does the fact he likes watches kid’s cartoons mean he is immature? Is he “immature” because he likes kiddy cartoons instead of Breaking Bad?
I have a friend who is otherwise intelligent and brings up fascinating points about logical argumentation but has a poor habit of going out drinking and doing potentially illegal things. He does this because he wants to try it out to see what experience he’ll get out of it. Is he “immature?”
The reason I ask so many questions is because the excuse “because he’s immature” shouldn’t be held accountable for his actions, “because he’s immature” he’s not making the right decision, “because he’s immature” he doesn’t know what he’s doing: it’s an argument I tend to hear a lot. It’s the argument for why we need parental/guardian supervision, isn’t it? It’s an excuse some parents and teachers use when trying to argue against something we brought up? “You’ll understand it later” — when you grow up. “You’ll grow out of it/Why can’t you grow up/stop acting so immature.” Sometimes I feel “immature” just a blanket term to explain why someone is behaving unintelligently. When someone says something stupid online, for example, complete with terrible spelling and grammar, we’re inclined to think, oh, that person’s probably eleven (aka he’s not mature yet) or he’s a troll.
I understand that teenagers, as a demographic, make silly mistakes. Not all of us are quite adults yet. But sometimes I have trouble trying to figure out what being “grown-up,” what being “intelligent,” what “worthy of being heard” means. It’s sometimes obvious, it’s sometimes not. A fine line if I’ve ever seen one.

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