These days, it's not unusual to see middle-aged men collecting Star Wars action figures, office workers wearing Hello Kitty accessories, or celebrities like David Beckham playing with Lego bricks. It's becoming more and more common to see adults taking an interest in toys, comic books and the activities that are traditionally associated with children. This phenomenon has given rise to a new word: kidult.
What lies behind the phenomenon? One is about adults' nostalgia (怀旧之情) for the carefree days of childhood, and this is especially true with today's fast-paced, stressful lifestyles. Another is about a societal change in recent decades where people are starting families later. As a result, they have more time and money to spend on themselves. Some adults could only window-shop for their dream toys when they were kids, but now they can afford that radio controlled car or high-priced doll they have always wanted.
Businesses have been quick to exploit the kidult trend, and the number of toy stores that target adults has risen. Companies are repackaging products from past decades and also bringing out new ones for adults. Lego, for example, has brought out an architectural series featuring landmarks from around the world.
Society traditionally disapproves of adults who refuse to put aside childhood interests, viewing the refusal as a sign of social immaturity and irresponsibility. Those who agree with this view sometimes claim that kidults are suffering from the pop-psychology concept known as Peter Pan Syndrome, an anomaly (异常) that people remain emotionally at the level of teenagers. On a grander scale, these kidult opponents (对手) argue that such delayed adulthood causes couples to marry later and have fewer children. This in turn can lead to shrinking national economies, for there needs to be a generational replenishment (补充) of the workforce.
From the standpoint of kidults, though, this phenomenon is seen as nothing but harmless fun. Kidults insist that having youthful interests keeps them young, happy and creative, and their refusal to conform to society's acceptable tastes shows independent thinking. Besides, they argue that being part of the social trend of delayed adulthood is not purely a personal choice. The real causes include expensive housing, increased educational requirements for employment and poor work opportunities.
Whether the kidult phenomenon will continue to grow or prove to be a passing trend is anyone's guess. As the debate about it continues, remember that there is nothing wrong with being young at heart.
Today, the first thing you see when you drive into the small town of McFarland, California, is a welcome poster. "Home of the State Champions, it says proudly. Written across the bottom are the names of the members of the running teams that have brought McFarland nine state championships over the past twenty years. Today, this little farming town is the "home of champions", but things weren't always like this.
It all began with a group of seven young men, who were McFarland High Schools first running team. They were called "cloud runners" because it looked like they were floating on a brown cloud of dust as they carved paths through the surrounding fields.
They weren't a very good team. But the turning point came one hot summer afternoon when the young men were doing hill practice. As there were no hills in McFarland, their coach, Jim White, made them run up and down large piles of nut shells covered in white plastic sheets.
"Enough!" one of the young men cried. The sound of breaking shells could be heard as he beat his fists on the sheet. The plastic tore and a river of nut shells poured out. "Do you know what these are, Mr. White? They're almond shells. Do you know where they come from? My family has been working on farms picking almonds for forty years.
You and your family, living in your big comfortable home, eat these without giving a single thought to where they came from. And now you are making us run on them! I've had enough!"
"We're losers, Mr. White, not winners," another young man continued his face wet with tears and sweat. "Nothing has changed here for forty years and nothing's ever going to change! Running is for rich kids in private schools in the big city, not for us poor farm boys. We can't even afford real shoes for running. We're 'pickers'. I'm going home!"
Something in Jim White's heart changed that day. He went into the fields and worked with the 'pickers'. He bought running shoes for the boys. He spent evenings having dinner with the boys' families. His wife baked and sold cookies to raise money. One small act of kindness led to another. Other families began to take notice, and slowly, the entire town came to support Mr. White as he helped these young men change from farm workers to champions.