PORTLAND, Maine — Thirty-five people gathered at a popular Portland bistro on a recent weeknight to learn how to talk.

Cards were passed and conversations sparked, but this group of branders, photographers, auditors and teachers weren’t merely networking. They were “adulting.”

“Small talk is hard for me,” said Julie Moulton, a thirtysomething marketing coordinator who was attending the happy hour networking class at Sur Lie on Free Street.

The event was organized by The Adulting School, a new program devoted to helping people learn skills they might not have picked up in college or from their parents. The founders take their inspiration from a similar program, The Society of Grownups, in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Adulting is a newly verbed noun that Time magazine described as a way for millennials to “acknowledge and/or make fun of and/or come to grips with that transition [to adulthood] (or how late they are to it).”

“Our mission is to teach people to feel empowered,” said Rachel Weinstein, a psychotherapist who launched the effort with friend Katie Brunelle to “fill the gaps” that people may have missed along the road to adulthood.

“We are targeting millennials who grew up in the recession,” she said.

That generation is known for delaying typically adult trappings such as marriage, home ownership and steady careers in much greater numbers than their parents. And with classes in home economics pushed aside nationally for a narrower focus on academics, there seems to be room for programs such as The Adulting School to thrive.

Can you teach someone the tips and tricks of maturity? The program’s founders say yes, they can.

The startup’s mission statement to instill “life-knowledge we wish we’d learned in high school or college. We’re talking budgeting, investing, meal planning, getting out of debt … even how to change a tire, meditate or start a fire,” is done in informal happy hours. Classes are held at places where people including 27-year-old entrepreneur Laura Sprinkle feel comfortable learning, seeing and being seen.

“There is adult education, but that sounds lame,” Sprinkle said, sipping a glass of wine after listening to a 40-minute talk on the ins and outs of networking. “This is hip. I am going to cool bars I would go to anyway.”

A need to connect with others facing similar struggles — such as careers, Roth IRAs and balancing romance and work — drew the Portlander to the event.

“When you become an adult, you think you’ll have it all together,” she said. “This is enlightening and validates the notion that maybe I don’t know what I’m doing — but neither does anybody else.”

The event at Sur Lie also drew people well ensconced in adulthood, such as Scott Huska, 48, who attended with his wife, Amy. The couple have daughters in their 20s.

“There is a generation of kids that just don’t know this,” the Gen Xer said. “My grandfather knew how to do everything. For him to go to a class to learn how to be an adult would be ridiculous.”

The founders don’t have a brick-and-mortar space, but they have developed a curriculum and are offering classes and recruiting students.

Around 75 people are expected to attend The Adulting School’s first summit on Nov. 13. The daylong event at One Longfellow Square features a panel of financial planners, business lawyers and a therapist all offering workshops on time management and relationships, how to pay off debt while saving and the benefits of a second job.

The founders plan to start a fee-based membership soon, as well as an online network. They also hope to expand nationally.

“A lot of people are missing lifestyle skills. There is no shame in that,” said Weinstein, who as a therapist knows firsthand that stress can manifest when people are less financially stable. “I always wonder, why don’t they teach this in school?”

Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.