The Measure of Maturity

This is a term I see tossed around all the time – particularly in reviews. I must say, I’ve never really seen the word used so much – and I deal with crime all the time. The idea that doing “X” will show that Sookie is maturing, has matured. Usually it’s an exhortation for Sookie to mature. What am I saying “usually”. Fucking ALWAYS. Eric can throw an epic jealous two year old tantrum, and he’s not seen as immature – he’s supported (again) as rightfully possessive. It’s important for women to change to acquiesce to his rules, because he has a peen, and therefore it’s right for Sookie to grovel at the altar of the gracious plenty.

You know I’m going to get a peen sewn on now. A big one. I’m going to be able to terrorise and traumatise Mr. Minty. On top of that, if I had a peen, I could behave like a tiny, tiny manbaby, and everyone would call me mature by dint of peen.

Of course, one of the perverse snorts I get out of this phenomenon, is that while Sookie is seen as “immature” for not wanting to get down and dirty with Eric whenever he demands it, in the real world, supposedly grown women are throwing a tanty over a fictional character not boning their love interest enough. Someone who can’t try to understand the text itself and why it’s not wall-to-wall romance, acquiescence, submission to men and porn of their choosing, and they are the standards of maturity, and know what they’re talking about? Lolfuckinglol.

I remember when I was obsessed with maturity myself – and when I look back at it, it was when I wasn’t actually mature. Nowadays with an extensive education, a husband and two teenagers and quite a bit of life experience, I rarely think of how mature someone is. Occasionally, I’ll see a young person do something and think they’re a bit silly, but I don’t really think in terms of maturity – as thinking “Oh, they’re just being immature.” I think that they’re young, and that it’s normal to be a bit silly at that age. After all, I was – and that doesn’t mean it’s bad, or that they’re bad people. The whole “maturity” discussion implies that from birth, we should strive always to meet the mystical standard of maturity as rated by other people’s opinions of us. I dunno – but that sounds like childish caving to peer pressure for me.

So, because I never think about maturity, I went and looked around the net for guides to maturity. I found lots of crap on yoga websites, or relationship websites, and of course wikipedia, but nothing I would take as authoritative enough for my personal tastes. I was kind of shocked – after all – maturity is talked about as if there were one single guide for all people – to walk out on Bill for raping Sookie or Eric for cheating on Sookie is somehow immature. That there is a standard for which these behaviours are dealt with and apparently mature people are supposed to do it one way, and one way only – ie. never ever walk away from a man. I don’t notice much uniformity in the people around me – or the wider range of people I deal with – victims, offenders, students and faculty. I notice quite a lot of variability – not one solution fits all.

I know people who are divorced, but none of them I would term “immature” because they couldn’t deal with the problems in their marriage. They seemed to have given it a good go, and then finally gotten tired and given up, finding that they were better off being alone and happy, rather than tethered to someone who didn’t care for them that much. I searched around for that of course – the rules of when it’s “allowable” to walk away from a relationship, and apparently, your partner lacking respect for you and expecting you to change to suit their daily requirements is a key ingredient in a “toxic” relationship.

So looking for authoritative works on maturity, I went and had a look at scholarly journals – and my searches didn’t really come up with anything definitive there either – it usually dealt with stuff about a particular aspect of maturity. Usually it was an aspect of maturity, like that crime desisted over time as subjects matured, or emotional intelligence, but there wasn’t really one set of rules for people to follow. There was general discussion of maturity of judgement, but there was no uniformity in that either.

Then I sat back and thought about that fact – that there is this seeming obsession with Sookie’s level of maturity in fanfic, and yet, even when dealing with youth crime, it’s not something that anyone in the criminological world measures with the view of totality. About what the word or concept of maturity really meant, if there is no one standard – for if there is no one standard, then you can’t be measured up against a yardstick of maturity when so many experiences, lives and standards are different.

That’s when I figured out that it was only when I myself was immature that I was concerned with the holy grail of maturity. Nowadays, I’m confident in my own skin, and I don’t really give a toss what anyone thinks of my level of maturity. If I feel like sitting down and watching The Powerpuff Girls (I do so love Mojo Jojo) then I do just that, and I don’t care if people think it’s infantile. Because that would require me to care about what they think about what sort of person I am and live by their standards and peer pressure on what I should be for my age.

Funnily enough, the same sort of dealie goes on with Mr. PMR. If he were to tell me that I was childish for doing something, I would just wear that and move on. I wouldn’t try to change myself to fit with him – that speaks to my ability to be comfortable in my own skin, know myself and be at peace with it. He’s supposed to love me – not some version of me that doesn’t think Mojo Jojo is incredibly cute. Or the version of me that doesn’t yearn for a pet monkey. I don’t think he’s ever called me childish though – probably because he really loves me as I am – not the false dream girl he wants to be married to – but just me.

Often times in these fanfics, Eric doesn’t really seem to love Sookie. He likes the idea of her, but other than that, he really wants to modify a whole heap of stuff about her. She doesn’t behave how he wants her to behave, and there’s a big list of stuff he wants her to change – her clothes, her home, her style, her manners, her behaviour. What she thinks and stands for – I’ve even read she should control her emotions for Eric’s sake. Sookie at the end is so “mature” she’s absolutely unrecognisable. The maturity thing is corollary to that – she changes herself to “more mature” and thus accepts absolutely everything he wants her to accept. It’s the mirror of the “Eric bashes Sookie until she fits in with what he wants”. Except this story is “Sookie bashes herself until she’s what Eric wants”.

Immaturity is marked out by trying to fit the standards of others – and never making it. Maturity is marked out by having a clear view of who and what you are, and knowing your limits. Developing to your fully developed self – not becoming the paragon of whatever people want you to be. Mature people are not more developed, perfect people – they are just the full potential of what was there in the first place, know themselves and they’re okay with that.

It strikes me that Sookie is pretty mature. She is who she is. She’s not concerned if she’s fashionable, she’s not concerned if people know she boinks vampires, and she’s not concerned if people know she’s a waitress. She knows her limitations, what she can abide and what she can’t. She doesn’t try to prove to others that she’s up to their standards – not since she left Bill anyway. Just a quick reminder too – it was Bill who called her childish in the books. Eric has never done such a thing. Probably cause he doesn’t act like her Dad and tell her what to wear, eat and think.

Of course that’s not to say that she doesn’t have new things thrown in her face that challenge how she constructs her identity and things that she believes about herself, but she’s resolving them. It’s not as if they’re run of the mill stuff that most have to contemplate in their every day lives. I’ve never had to worry about whether I could cope with cleaving a sword through someone’s spinal column, and I doubt many or any who read here have had to worry same. I’ve never really worried about what being tortured would do to me either. If I ever do get tortured, I probably won’t be so unremittingly harsh to myself as some readers are to Sookie. I’m pretty sure I’ll cut myself a bit of slack if I don’t react perfectly to everything.

That’s also not to say that she doesn’t worry a little about what people thinking of her could do to her life. As I’ve discussed before, the whole kept woman thing is a load of crap for secret-Bill fangirls. It’s something that still concerns Sookie – but Eric hasn’t tried to portray her to the entire town as his whore. Now, some would say that Sookie should just ignore them. That’s a mighty fine sentiment if it’s just gossip said away from your ears. But to know that you can’t take listening to the degrading thoughts about yourself in other’s heads, that you don’t want to have to fend off advances from guys who might think they have enough money to buy your favours and to not get treated badly because everyone thinks you’re a prostitute isn’t immature. It’s heading off potential problems before they start. But then, I’m not inclined to let people make my life a hassle by making assumptions they can pay me to have sex. And I don’t even worry that it’ll make me look immature for not wanting that hassle.

It also doesn’t mean that I don’t have my own challenges to what I believe to be right. It doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen. Nowadays I tend to have some challenges over whether it is right to do certain things, and how much slack I’m going to cut myself. I tend to question my assumptions – and probably because of my job – about whether I do things the right way. Like if it’s right to watch something copyrighted on Youtube, or whether I should feel that that’s a violation of the law. Whether my son should be able to watch the Tarantino movies or not – the whole cultural capital vs. parental guidance thing. Whether I want to research for the rest of my life, or do something different. Whether to tell my kids I took drugs when I was younger, or how to react when my son tells me he’s had alcohol. Not cleaving through the spine decisions, but still essential nuances in my life on what is right and wrong, and how I construct my identity.

I would instead argue that what these people are arguing for is not for Sookie to mature, but rather that she should submit to her lot in pessimistic defeat. The exhortation is always that she should grow up and realise what she has, and not strive to get more for herself that she doesn’t have. Things like a marriage that isn’t just for her protection. That in the face of that knife handing ceremony, she should just resign herself that that’s all she’s going to get – a man who will marry her for a purpose. Things like killing humans is fine for vampires, and therefore, she should acquiesce her moral defeat to what vampires want. Instead of striving to do things she believes are right – not killing small human waitresses over $60,000 she should laugh at them, show contempt for them, and let them perish under the kind ministrations of their boss.

Often times, there is no amount Sookie isn’t expected to bend over backwards to make Eric’s life easier. If he wants to kill people, it’s thought to be all growed up to acquiesce and assist in that murder. If he wants to have little dalliances with other women, she’s immature to object or stand up for herself. She’s not really mature, because she’s always adjusting herself to Eric’s standards and whatever will make him happy. “Mature” Sookie isn’t developed very much at all – she’s just a doormat who hopes that if she conforms to her Master’s wishes, he might deign to not wipe his feet too hard on her.

Sookie is called on to “mature” and accept that if Eric wants her, then his standards, wants, needs and desires should become hers. If he wants her to have babies, well then she’ll have babies – and to wish otherwise to his needs is childish. Sookie doesn’t really have a full personality, or potential, because until Eric tells her what she should want, she doesn’t really have any standards for wish fulfilment. Sookie isn’t allowed her own thoughts and feelings on her life, but must mature to what Eric thinks and feels on his life. There’s not really any Sookie there, because she has “matured” to the point where she will go back to a childlike form of accepting whatever Eric might give her in exchange for his love.

As an aside, I find it really interesting that there is no call for Eric to go with Freyda. After all, that’s the argument used on Sookie right? His future wife is hot, rich, fantastic in bed, can offer protection and wants him – why is he resisting? No one seems to be telling Eric to not follow his own heart’s desires there and take up with Freyda cause she really wants him. Apparently it’s not what Eric should “mature” to want – the very self-same deal that Sookie is exhorted to take. I mean, in the often rather gold-digging pantheon of fanfic, Sookie is seen as insane for not jumping Eric’s bones in a heartbeat – whereas seemingly, Eric should not do the same.

That instead of learning what she is when she’s fully developed like a mature person, she should just do what she’s told by her new Daddy – Eric. She’s expected to become his quasi-Renfield. Unfortunately it’s not enough to just be babied by Eric – she must love to be babied by Eric. It strikes me that for all of this, one thing about canon could just be changed – and it never, ever is. The fact of the matter is that if they just changed Sookie so that she could be glamoured by vampires, they could pull her into line quick smart. I don’t know why these writers just don’t change that so that Sookie could be a proper little Stepford wife. Any time Eric doesn’t like what she’s saying or doing, he could modify her to be what he needs. He could even modify her to be happy about that.

Instead, Sookie is made incredibly weak and grovelling in the face of vampires. Like Ginger, but obvious a better class of human because she can wait tables, feed and fuck Eric and read minds – which helps Eric more. She’s like a one-stop shop for all of his needs and a perfect way to power – and throw in Niall, and he is like Eric’s ticket to stardom through the window of what Sookie can get him. Of course, she’s often made incredibly weak and grovelling in the face of AH Eric – forever submitting to his will and never saying boo about it – other than she’s happy to get fucked as long as she does as she’s told.

That doesn’t exactly scream maturity to me. The overall thrust of the whole “maturity” thing is always about what she’s going to “maturely” do for Eric. It is more mature to submit to all of Eric’s demands apparently. Wonder when Eric is going to mature enough to submit to all of Sookie’s demands?