What The Last Kiss teaches us about growing up before the day we really have to
Kim: “The world is moving so fast now that we start freaking long before our parents did because we don’t ever stop to breathe anymore.”
– THE LAST KISS (2006)
In The Last Kiss, Michael is a normal man who’s about to turn 30. He’s basically got everything that he ever dreamed of: a young and pretty fiancée, a great job, and cool friends. He even has a baby on the way, as well. One day, Michael goes to a friend’s wedding, meets a young college co-ed who sparks something within him, and begins to feel like the pressure is on him to start growing up right away. He views that day of either his future marriage or child’s birth as the day where he has to leave his youth behind. He doesn’t want to let go of his youth, and decides, haltingly, to try to re-discover his youth through Kim, the girl he met at the wedding. It results in his fiancée being angry at him, his friends leaving because of the same desire, and him trying to decide what he wants. And he does at the end of the film, choosing to grow up with his fiancée and finally leaving his youth behind.
What Michael faced in the film is what we’re all facing now. We don’t decide everything upon leaving college, choosing instead to defer that day of reckoning to the future and preferring to dwell on our glorious youth. What we fail to realize at that point in time is that all we’re doing is just pushing off the day we have to grow up for a while, and as a result when that day comes we’re completely caught off guard, just like how it caught Michael off guard. It’s a common occurrence, and maybe that has to do with the way we want to live, as opposed to the way we have to live. We want to live life the way we lived it in college; totally free, without worries, without responsibilities. And we want to live it without ever having to acknowledge that sooner or later we all will have to grow up; we just want to remain in that state of carefree youthful bliss.
Ironically enough, we do grow up without realizing it, or knowing it, which is why we think we’re living completely free. The modern world assigns to us responsibilities almost right away, in the prime of our childhood. It really depends on what kind of responsibilities we’re talking about; it could be physical, moral, mental, and so on. They can come in the form of chores or assignments; meetings or obligations; whatever else you can think of. And we have them while we’re young, despite our deep belief that we’re just living our youth without any responsibilities whatsoever. But it’s there for us all to see, embedded in our dreams of who we want to be. We unknowingly take on the responsibilities of who we want to be, and we grow up bit by bit through carrying out these responsibilities, while just simply living out our youth. We’re taught to think one way or another, believe one way or another by our elders, and we even sometimes subconsciously take on responsibilities and values and so on even while we think we’re rebelling against the Man or society at large. However, their lessons and delegation of responsibilities usually never become apparent to us until the day we finally grow up.
So how does all of this connect to the day we finally grow up? It’s because the day we finally choose to grow up is the day when we finally decide to leave our youth behind and start the final chapter, the big chapter, which is adulthood, of our lives for real. This is what Michael’s facing in the film, as we see him try to shy away from it, then dealing with it, and eventually coming to embrace it. There are many of us who will come to this consequence the same way Michael did, but that doesn’t necessarily preclude the possibility that maybe some of us will realize that before we have to, and take it in stride. All that matters is that we come to that day through whatever way we choose and make our own choices on that day, the way Michael did in choosing to embrace his fiancée and grow up, albeit after panicking for a little while.
Let’s consider our tendency to push away the act of growing up. Today’s world moves at a blindingly fast speed, fast enough that time always seems to move quicker than we expect it to. And so, because we perceive that life is moving at a breakneck pace and pulling us with it, unwillingly, we resist it with everything we have, because we don’t want to grow up. We want to extend our romantic and independent youth for as long as we can, because we also believe there isn’t enough time as it is. Is it because others say so, or we say so, as to whether there’s really enough time or not? Or maybe our society has a subtle way of applying pressure on us to grow up and move into the adult world. Whatever it is, it causes us to try to find time somewhere to as to push off that very day, and think we’ll have our youth for a very long time.
Lost in the fight to stay young and not grow up is the simple fact that we’re just making an artificial deadline out of that day by just pushing it back and not accepting the fact that we’re growing up. Our life expectancy is longer than ever, and the collective standard we’ve reached in terms of overall health is nothing short of astounding. What that really means is that we actually have more time than ever in which to grow up, and make our own choices long before we have to, while enjoying a youth that’s longer than ever before. So it’s contradictory for us to try to create more time for us to enjoy our youth when we already do have the time for it built into our lives nowadays, and as a result when we try to push the day we grow up away under nonexistent pressure, that day will come sooner than expected. That’s what happened to Michael.
Now, with time in which to grow up and live young at a leisurely pace, maybe we’ll take better advantage of the chance to better contemplate our dreams and futures, and make better choices before that day comes. We shouldn’t have to worry anymore about losing our youth to the march of time. Once we do that, really realize that we don’t have to worry about growing up so soon or staying young, we can all just sit back, and just… take a breath.