Friday, August 20, 2010

You Can ALWAYS Go Home

Every Friday is Improv Friday at Said Panties. On Facebook, X and J take a poll of their friends for a topic (any topic) to write on. The most popular, ridiculous, or random is selected, and both X. and J must write about it. This week's topic, Emerging Adulthood, comes from Erin Badillo.

When American Idiot hit Broadway earlier this year, it caused quite a stir. The 90-minute non-stop orgy of screeching metal and screeching pre-teens brought the crowds in droves, promising them nothing but anger, Green Day, and a long corridor of black-painted walls where you and your friends could inscribe your initials.

This wasn't enough, apparently, for my boyfriend or many of his critical theater-loving friends. "They don't DO anything!" Joey complained. "The story, when you condense it, is a bunch of 20-somethings who sit around, impregnate their girlfriends, drive to another town, don't start a band, and almost end up dying from drug use."

A slim plot, sure. But it also appears to be based on a large measure of truth. In this week's New York Times, an article gives voice to a generation that is yet to be recognized by the other generations surrounding it. They're not quite kids, they're not quite adults, and they're not quite doing anything besides moving back home with their parents, working minimum wage jobs (if even that), and not getting married or having kids.

The term for this could be considered "Malaise" which was elevated to popularity by President Carter, according to Wikipedia. I don't like this word, mostly because it sounds like "mayonnaise". It should be known that I like mayonnaise as a condiment, but I hate the word itself. It makes me nauseous. Either way, "Malaise" can mean stagnant. Which is what these not-quite-kids, not-quite-adults are often viewed as.

The "old guard" (people who double-click the "send" button on their email) take great issue with these non-starting upstarts. Why, in their age, they had to walk uphill both ways to an uphill factory where they had to walk uphill all day, and they were paid in more hills they had to walk up. They were married at 21 and hating their spouses by 23. Since then, they have been divorced, or have silently snuggled into their simmering hatred of their significant others.

Why, they must wonder, does this generation get to take their time?

And this isn't even just our grandparents' generation. It's as recent as our parents'. The other week, my Mom reminded me that she had been married, divorced, and re-married by my age. Between the comparison, and realizing that Ma has been married three times in my life, it was a very cathartic day.

I can't even imagine being married right now. And getting ready to have children and/or having them already? I can't even decide if I want to keep NetFlix when they ask me to renew at the end of the month. I break out in hives when people ask me if I want to take a trip to New Jersey in three weekends.

What am I doing with myself? I wondered.

Once upon a time, by my age, you were indeed married. With number-point-number something kids. You had a house. You had pets. And a job you would work in until you retired with a gold watch, or died and they sent your bereaved spouse a ham. But now? Well, it's not so cut and dry. People are getting married later. Having babies later. Getting jobs later. It's the Choose Your Own Adventure method of life: Hmm, maybe I'll change schools! This job sucks, I'll just quit and start my own company! Hmm, this guy I'm dating is great, but so is that guy... we ALL should date!

But others, still, may view this as paralysis. As someone with a good job and a nice apartment in a good neighborhood, I cannot truly speak to this anomaly.

My current life situation, of course, all goes back to my lovely mother. From the moment I emerged from her womb, Mom has kept me chugging on a steady diet of fear and worry about how my life will end up. And rightfully so! When my father left her with my brother and I to care for, she faced some of the hardest financial times one could possibly experience. A situation like that would damage anyone. But still, she was pretty generous with those spoonfuls of terror.

According to my Mom's doomsayer prophecies, waiting for me on the other side of college were potential homelessness, death, poverty, and public shame. I couldn't only major in theater, I had to double it with something "practical". And, looking at myself at my creative/strategic communications-based job and remembering how I could care less about being in theater any longer, I thank her for this now. I needed to make sure to have a job. I needed to save money from the day I started making any. Or I would be poor and on the street, and dying from something.

She also succeeded at putting me where I am with a nice dose of motherly force. When I moved home after college, Mom began to charge me rent. It was when I added up the monthly rent, as well as car insurance, monthly train-to-NYC tickets, gas and all of that that I realized moving to New York City would actually be friendlier on my wallet than staying put.

I am thankful for this, of course. It's nice to feel like I am on a path, even though I have no interest in committing to said path, or even figuring out where the path leads in the coming years.

As for this "new generation" of "loafers", to you I say "loaf on!" If you have the means to sit on that pot without shitting for a period of time, why, pick up a copy of the New York Times and read it from cover to cover. If you can have cake and eat the fuck out of it, then snack until you're bloated. But appreciate your fortune: be it a rent free basement, a steady source of cash you didn't earn, or whatever. And realize that it isn't eternal.

From the Boulevard of Broken Dreams,

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