Punishments for Children That I’d Love as an Adult

Nap time: How many cookies do I have to steal to be penalized with a full REM cycle?

Healthy snacks: Paleo bars and kale chips are way outside my budget, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Cheetos are making me break out. My dermatologist has confirmed this suspicion.

Grounding: My “I’ve been exposed to covid”excuse is beginning to get old. (Actually, it’s not, but I like to think ahead, or I may unwittingly end up at a housewarming party on the Upper East Side.)

Adding quarters to the swear jar: So all I have to do is curse eight times a week, and I never have to worry about laundry again? Count me the fuck in!

Time-out: I need at least two hours before I’m emotionally ready to re-engage with e-mail.

Having to sit at the adults’ table: Now that I’m older and wiser, I can see that Aunt Muriel’s affair is objectively a more interesting topic of conversation than who made the JV baseball team.

No internet access: The CEO of my company spent four thousand dollars on a five-day digital detox in Hawaii to get what I—as an angsty teen-ager—once described as child abuse.

spanking: I don’t really want to admit how much I enjoy this one, but . . . .

Alone time: No one can come into my room? Like, not my boss, not my ex, not even my very best friend in the world who just happens to be driving me crazy right now because she’s in the process of planning her wedding and has been for the past three years—not one?

Cleaning: The best Friday night I’ve had in months was when I canceled a date to clean the bathroom grout while listening to “My Favorite Murder.” (OK, fine, I canceled on me, but the same thing.) Do you have any other mindless, simple ways that I can feel productive?

A demonstration of the consequences of my actions: Because I tracked dirt into the house, I now must clean it up? So you’re saying that my actions had an effect? It all meant something? Do you have any idea how many PowerPoints I’ve made at work that mean nothing? The Excel rows to nowhere? It’s almost like, as I sweep soil off the kitchen floor, I’m reminded that I matter. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ll track dirt every day. This has been joyous.

Being told that someone noticed my behavior: I’ve signed my last seventy-two work e-mails with “fart buckets,” and no one has mentioned it. It’s not even a good joke—it’s a roast of me.

Proof that someone—anyone—cares: You’re going to yell at me? I’m so used to just getting ghosted! It’s a relief to be on the receiving end of anger instead of just emitting it constantly. I’m reminded that I have a place in the universe. I’m literally never following the rules again.

An early bedtime: Like nap time, but better. Except—shit—my door is locked. Is Aunt Muriel visiting?

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