Most of us may remember our pre-teen years as being awkward, occasionally enjoyable yet sometimes unbelievably embarrassing. We’ve all gone through those familiar moments during the early teenage years that unite us regardless of our differences: the first heartbreak, the random attempts at being rebellious, the fear of losing our friends, the desire to be independent, and the need to maintain absolute control over our lives. 

Macaulay Culkin, who most of you may know as the bubbly, precocious, goofy Kevin McAllister from Home Alone, was one of the most famous child stars Hollywood has ever seen or produced. He was a lovable icon to both kids, teenagers, and adults throughout the 90s.  His rise to fame represented the childhood earnestness we all hoped to bring in our adult lives. 

Yet, as Culkin stopped making movies and deliberately chose to step out of the public eye in his early adulthood, he became labeled by the media as the foremost example of “child actors gone bad”.

The weight loss, the publicized emancipation from his parents, the drug-related arrests, an abrupt wedding at 18 — nobody could really put a finger on it. It didn’t make sense for most people that a child actor so cherished and privileged could unveil what many so-called ‘red flags’. 

Yet Culkin has spoken out recently about how there is more to the speculation than meets the eye, and that his celebrity over the years may have brought more trauma and turmoil than he had expected. 

A controlling father who called the shots

Macaulay Culkin’s decision to emancipate from his parents at the age of 15 became one of the most notorious celebrity scandals in the 90s.  By 1994, Culkin had raked in millions of dollars with his extensive filmography but that didn’t mean he was any happier as a result.

His father Kit began to see him as a cash cow, getting his son into as many projects as possible so he could profit off his son’s wealth. Meanwhile, the fifteen-year-old simply wanted to slow down and return to school. 

“It started feeling like a chore. I started vocalizing that and not being heard: I was saying, ‘I wanna go to school—I haven’t done a full year of school since first grade.’”

Macaulay Culkin to Esquire

But some blame has to be placed on the media for construing it as though Culkin had ‘divorced’ his parents, seeing how it was purely a financial decision Culkin made for the sake of his future.

While his parents were feuding for child custody during their separation, Culkin decided to remove their names off his trust fund and instead enlisted an executor who would look over his assets instead. 

The decisions that change our lives

What Macaulay did at just 15 is something a lot of us could never imagine doing in our entire lives. To recognize the toxic people in our lives and take active measures to free ourselves of their oppression is undoubtedly difficult but when push comes to shove, we have to make those crucial decisions.

They may seem especially distressing at the time but our lives are all the better for it. Nothing tastes better than the sweet feeling of freedom.

Today, Culkin stands tall and proud

Macaulay is not your regular guy. Or at least that’s how the media frames it. Aside from a few film projects here and there, he is not particularly keen about rejoining the film industry. And that’s okay, because it’s not necessarily what he wants anymore.

Despite a lot of people perceiving him to be a weirdo or someone’s who’s been traumatized by his childhood, he is actually been perfectly content with his life. 

“Okay, everybody, stop acting so freaking shocked that I’m relatively well-adjusted.”

Sure, he may get up to weird activities here and there, but that’s something he accepts and admires about himself. For example, he created an online poll that allowed users to vote on a new middle name for him. (The popular option is “Macaulay Culkin’ which would make his full name be Macaulay Macaulay Culkin Culkin.) Or when he went touring across the country with a Velvet Underground cover that only sang songs about pizza.

Macaulay doesn’t hold back from being silly; that says something about how comfortable he is with himself. To be able to make jokes at one’s own expense is no small feat, and he continues to do it amusingly.

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They're multiplying.

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Macaulay Culkin at 39, in many ways, is no different than Macaulay Culkin at 25, or for that matter, Macaulay Culkin at 15. He is in touch with what he wants from life and does not paper over the cracks. He admits to being a fairly regular smoker and drinker. He admits to having had a drug problem. He admits to being in pain over his sister’s death eleven years ago. 

But at the end of the day, those struggles have led him to the comfort of the present day. And he couldn’t be happier. He’s now in a relationship with the lovely actress Brenda Song, and both of them share solidarity over being former child actors. They love snuggling together with their two cats, Apple and Dude, and are looking to expand their family.

The wonders of routine

“There were certain times when I had to catch myself, once or twice. You’re having too good a time, Mack.”

Macaulay Culkin to Esquire

Nowadays, Macaulay loves taking baths, recording podcasts and playing video games — when most of your life has been a whirlwind, it can be a major relief to take it easy and appreciate life for what it is. 

Furthermore, while he admits that he has lived through a lot of trauma, he still took a more positive interpretation of his past. “But: It coulda been worse, you know?” Macaulay states. “I wasn’t working in a coal mine. I wasn’t a child soldier. My father was not sexually abusing me. Certain fucked-up things happened, but fucked-up things happen to kids all the time and they don’t come out the other end.Now, he is even grateful for it all, even if it wasn’t easy.”

It took me a long time to get to that place, and I had to have that conversation with myself and go, like, Honestly, Mack? It’s not so bad. I want for nothing and need for even less. I’m good, man.

Macaulay Culkin to Esquire

Maturity is an abstract concept; it emerges due to both age and experience. Or it can be lightning in a bottle; once you capture it, it can be yours to keep. But mostly, it is immensely connected to how empowered we are in being able to own up to our past experiences and admit how they played a role in shaping us as we are today. If Culkin can find pleasures in the small moments, then we can also show our love for those simple pleasures. 

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