This week, Time Out ran a feature on the plethora of kids' activities aimed at adults-from restaurants that let you play with your food to club nights featuring ball pools- that we latently immature Londoners can partake of any time we feel the need to regress.
Normally, I'm on board with what good old TO has to say. It usually makes me chuckle on my Tuesday morning Circle Line commute; no mean feat when I am dangling from a hand rail (also no mean feet when you're 5'2") whilst being forced- note the word 'forced'- to play human Tetris with the grouchy people around me. But I find this whole 'let's all pretend we're four again' thing really tiresome.
Firstly, do people really want to infantilise themselves more than the current government is doing to anyone under the age of thirty (and above) anyway by forcing them to move back with their parents as they are now poor and in debt? I suppose you could argue that this generation is reclaiming the right to be children in the same way that certain elements of black culture have reclaimed the N word or certain feminists the C word. But it all just seems so undignified somehow. Drunken lego bars just seem to me in a metaphorical sense a little like that scene in The Deer Hunter when Christopher Walken's character is drugged and forced to play Russian Roulette whilst his captors take bets*. Less likely to result in death, for sure, but kind of degrading and slightly exploitative all the same. Only this time, people are voluntarily signing up.
Besides, so many people say that your childhood comprises the best years of your life, but does it? Really? People say kids don't have worries, but OF COURSE THEY BLOODY DO! I guarantee that the amount of fear a sport-loathing ten year old boy has about being bullied by the rugby captain is relative in proportion to the fear that a forty year old man has about losing his job. It's a question of perspective. In fact, being a kid is worse, in a way, because kids have no reference to point towards of things working out for the best. Sure, kids don't have responsibilities, but how are they supposed to appreciate that? I personally feel that people who say your childhood years are the best years of your life are the same kind of people who say that no one ever got murdered before violent video games came out. For most people, the past, upon examination, isn't quite as good as we remember it as being. And no amount of giant Jenga can change that.
And let's not forget; ball pools are gross! They were gross enough when we were kids and all we had to worry about was putting our mucky little hands and feet in them. Stick one in a bar, and a whole host of other sticky fluids apply. I'd rather not leave a soft play area with an STI if I can help it. The same principles apply for school dinners, which are suddenly being served in trendy eateries. Undoubtedly they'll have been given a modern twist, like being flavoured with alcohol or chipotle or something, but they are still school dinners and school dinners were NASTYI have merely to scent something vaguely like the school canteen and I have a sudden pavlovian desire to start hiding food in my satchel.
At the risk of alienating about 50% of my Facebook friends, I also feel that way about those early morning alcohol-free raves where filthy yoga mats have replaced chill-out rooms and everyone dresses like extras from Disney Films. I don't drink, so you'd think that these would be right up my alley, and lord knows, I have tried to love them. But I always end up walking away feeling slightly ridiculous, having tried very hard to feel the unity that the MC keeps reminding us we're experiencing and wondering if that woman from accounts I met who was dressed as a mermaid will actually go to work like that and if not, where she will change back to a human. I know that the idea behind these events comes from a good place, but I have never felt my day enriched by sitting on the Central Line at 6AM dressed as a hula girl trying to have an Ayahuasca experience, minus the Ayahuasca.
Even people who didn't have particularly happy childhoods seem to buy into this notion that revisiting childhood activities in this contrived way will somehow heal a wound in their psyche. This seems about as pointless as pretending you haven't lost your virginity by having your hymen sewn back up. You can't un-sleep with someone (I'd be first in line if you could) and you can't change your childhood by doing it over again in a sanitised way.
Personally, if I am going to do some kind of adult sleepover party with bedtime stories, I want to do it alone, with the actor Oscar Isaac, where the story is a choose-your-own-adventure type and there isn't actually a book. There are certain things that we get to enjoy far more as adults. I was one of those kids who couldn't wait to grow up, and you know what? I haven't been disappointed yet. And at the risk of sounding like a smug t**t, doesn't great art allow us to see things with a child's perspective without giving us a Jungle Gym-induced lobotomy?
Anyway, rant over. I shall now rebel by doing my tax return.
*Said with a great deal of irony