Blogs Aug 27, 2010 at 5:03 pm



Welcome to Seattle.
I look down at the bike-in post, and then I read this and I just have to chuckle.


Not my fault that schooling is outrageously expensive and that this recession happened.
Living with your parents isn't unusual in a lot of other places (and that's coming from someone who moved at 22).

Plus, let's face it- we're in pretty dire straits economically compared to our parents- and guess what, that prevents you from moving out, and makes it much less responsible to get married, have kids, etc.
I don't understand why people always blame the "regressors" for the fancy ice cream and cupcakes. When I lived near the cupcake shop in Madrona, it was always full of affluent moms and business people eating cupcakes. The Molly Moons near my new house is always crowded with "normals." In fact, none of my friends who would be called "regressors" go in for that shit. Also, it's not like expensive ice cream is anything new.
I was such a mamma's boy myself I have no leg to stand on, but I really like this series of posts you're doing. When I read that piece last week I crossed my fingers you'd have some fun with it.
Isn't it a bit antiquated to define adulthood as getting married and bearing children?
But maybe that's the whole problem. There's nothing wrong with "regressors", except as defined by the people who criticize them.
Furthermore, I blame Michael Cera. And mumblecore. And twee. But I mostly blame Michael Cera.
I'd say this is correct.

For example, by the time I was 25, I'd done more than boy child Fnarf will ever do in his life. And had a lot more fun doing it.
So what they're saying is that today's young adults are a bunch of lazy, spoiled brats?

Yeah, I'll buy that.
Would the shrinking middle class factor into this? A factory worker in the 60s could bring in enough income to buy a house and provide for a family of four. That doesn't seem as easy to do nowadays, which might delay these milestones.
@12. I dunno. There's spoiled, and then there's sheltered to the point of emotional paralysis where the safety blanket of bring a child is almost narcotic. There's a difference (IMHO) from expecting things being given to you (from a spoiled upbringing) to not having any sort of development emotionally or mentally to being a sufficient human being who moves forward rather than back to the idealized concept of being a child (before all the hard responsibilities appeared).

Or so says this late-30s guy who watches SpongeBob on the weekend.
@9 beat me to it.

I'll agree that there is a new culture of grown-up children as described in these posts, but to calculate it according to metrics like marriage and child rearing is bullshit.

If I'd been of age in the early seventies, I might have been married with a bunch of children, but only because I'd have been of age in a very religiously conservative family, and I'd never have come out. I'd have married the girl I dated in high school and impregnated her to show what a good Christian man I was. It would not have meant I was more grown-up than I am in reality.
I'll accept living with your parents (or going into an inpatient facility) in your thirties as being regressive, but you cannot use marriage and children as a measure of adulthood as compared to 1960. The pill was approved in 1960 -- so basically if people were having sex in 1959, they were probably breeding. Women were also encouraged to marry, and discouraged from educating themselves. Secretary and schoolteacher were the best many could do for work, so if a woman (and her inevitable children) wanted to live comfortably, she needed a man to support her (or endure community scorn). All of a sudden the pill shows up, and ta-da! It turns out not all women want to be wives moms at age 17 - and they are labeled regressive!! Unwilling to become adults!! How about no longer in bondage?? Able to friggin vote and choose and be single?? The good old days were only good if you were a white man, I'd rather be regressive than repressed.
I don't get it. Isn't part of living in this time in history the fact that we can now choose when to say, get married, have children, buy a house, whatever, without societal pressure essentially forcing us to do those things? Is it so wrong that those of us who don't want those responsibilities are not taking them on? I have no children because I would be a horrible parent. I don't own a house because I don't make enough money. I'm not married because A) it's illegal and B) I don't want to be. What's it to you? Leave me alone. Am I somehow affecting your ability to do all those things? I don't think so, last I checked.
Well by that standard I'm never going to be an adult. I've finished school, moved out, and I'm financially independent but I have absolutely no intention of ever having children and I see it as unlikely that I'll ever get married. I'm straight so that is my choice but in most states in the US gay couples can't marry so I guess they can't grow up either. Shows those milestones are a bit antiquated, marriage and children are not requirements in life they are options.

Even the first 3 are a bit iffy, anyone going for a PhD or to medical school is committing to many more years of school than the average.
Dodgeball, cupcakes, etc. seem more like isolated urban fads than a barometer of my generation's culture. They're not exactly what you'd consider "adult", but the casual wardrobe and leisure pursuits of the average 35-year-old in 1960 didn't exactly gel with anyone's parents ideas of time-well-spend either.

Waiting longer to be married/start a family can probably be explained by women having more control over their economic situation than they did 50 years ago.

Also, what @13 said. The tougher the economic situation, the longer people stay at home. It's always been that way in America. All over Europe, it's still common for adults to live at home until they're married, regardless.

Agreed - Why the hell are getting married and having a kid qualifiers to becoming an adult?

I'm 45 years old and childless-by-choice - does this mean I haven't "transitioned" yet, and never will. Is a knocked-up teenager a step closer to being an adult than I am?

Married? I'm divorced - does that mean I'm regressing towards adolescence?
Our entire Washington State society has devolved into a form of the 3rd grade "My Brother Has No Hands" prank.
By the way, I agree with all of you that the "milestones" in the NYT article are antiquated and not so relevant. I don't want to seem like I'm endorsing that measure of adulthood. That's why I'm drilling down on all this cultural stuff (Michael Cera being a nice example). You don't have to have children to be an adult and you don't have to be an adult to have children. And a lousy economy is a lousy economy.

But this constellation of corn dogs, kickball, mix tapes, not-paying-bills, Michael Cera, comics (sorry, Paul), '80s-kiddie-fashion, and in-patient psychiatric facilities for people who need some yoga and pills to get their own place—they're not unrelated.

Sex, of course, is a big problem. The Regressors have a tough time partnering their adult sexual impulses with their kiddie aesthetics. Maybe the next evolution of kink fashion (which has gone from de Sade lord-of-the-manor-ravishing-the-village-girls to WWII gas masks and jackboots to goth/vampire chic) will dive into the land of diapers and alphabet blocks and hot-for-babysitter. Nursery kink.

And maybe the furries and manga-dressup and Star Wars burlesque have something to do with all of this.

But that's another post for another day.
By their measure, I'm not allowed to grow up ever (unless I move to Iowa or Massachusetts). I can't get married. And I have no interest whatsoever in having kids. That doesn't mean I'm delaying adulthood. I've just chosen to have an adult life that doesn't meet their definition.

Choosing not to get married or have kids ≠ regression. The population of the planet is exploding, and growing exponentially. Some people choose not to have kids (or delay having kids) for perfectly sound environmental reasons.
let them have some pointless fun while they can; surely the inexorable march of Time or the gaping maw of decrepitude and irrelevance and the attendant sheer terror at the realization of ones own mortality will set in at some point...

and then if not, well, ya, screw those little denialist bastards.
@23: "Some people choose not to have kids (or delay having kids) for perfectly sound environmental reasons."

well said.
Isn't this one of the stock culture articles the NYT dusts off and reruns every 10 years or so?
Wow, suddenly I remember reading all those "Little House" books where people were getting married as barely pubescent teenagers.

That's a measure of adulthood?
Since I was born in 1979: care costs have doubled.
...housing prices went up 70%.
...gas prices are almost the same (they went down for a long time before coming back up). went from $18K to about $24K.
...and median wages have gone down very slightly.

The economic factors are what's doing it. We've been squeezed as much as we could without compromising our way of life, and then squeezed some more.
(That is all adjusted for CPI, of course)
The getting-married & having-kids metrics may be irrelevent today, but it does seem like there is a larger percentage of twenty- and thirtysomethings that don't have their shit together today than there was 30 years ago.
@ 28 - If by "compromising my way of life", you mean not being able to do all the fun stuff you want because your time & energy is taken up with adult shit, well, boo hoo. People have been "compromising [their] way of life" for generations. Why should things be any different for you?
You're not fooling anyone when you say you don't want kids for "environmental reasons".
"Go forth and be fruitful" bullshit. Vindicate your incompetent, bitter elders by indulging their idiotic, antiquated social/financial rituals.

The job market is shit; the social safety net is the most tenuous its been since the pre-war period; the depth between the haves and have-nots is more pronounced than its been in the same period of time. My parent's generation takes the time out to criticize mine for their failure to raise us, and their utter incompetence in saving this nation from near-ruin.
Folks over 35 are by and large confused and frightened that those under 35 are forsaking everything they endeavored to achieve in order to create their own social order. You can see this in the GOP old guard absolutely losing their shit over young republican groups endorsing gay marriage through non-endorsement, older liberals flipping out over the wait-and-see game the 18-35 set plays with votes and so on.

Oh my god, this generation! This upcoming generation! It's so distinct! So different!

This sort of navel-gazing came out of the boomers when Gen X first started reaching their 20s.
I'm loving this the way I used to love reading negative reviews of my favorite albums. There's a queasy joy to seeing these things the way Brendan is presenting them.

When the feature finally runs (please), I have no doubt it will tap into information found in places like this:……

(But anyone tempted to just accept these theories wholeheartedly quickly should study a bit about Erikson's own life too, especially his relationship to and his history with his parents.)

Meanwhile, be aware that demanding, self-coaching and discerning, gestalt-based cognitive therapies are on the rise, due to the overcrowding at mental hospitals and the co-dependent relationships with therapists burning the latter out at an alarming rate too. This has to be factored in as a major response to the regressives (and their economic and emotional drain on older generations and society at large).
There are definitely some good points above, but the phenomenon is being driven by considerably more than just The Pill and the lousy economy. Allow me to add a couple more:

For one thing, people are living a lot longer today, by an average of about 12 years, than they were in 1960. That factor alone has an impact in terms of spreading out the transitions between stages of adulthood.

In addition, the discontinuation of compulsory military service in 1973 I believe has also had a wide-ranging effect on this process. Military service, particularly during times of war (which has been the norm for practically every generation of males in the U.S. born since the beginning of the last century ) tends to exert a major influence on the maturation process, if only because young men serving in the military are very quickly indoctrinated into a highly controlled, heavily regimented environment that squeezes out most inclinations toward individuality. The inclination to conform, once instilled, is rather difficult to undo, and so it may simply be the case that most previous generations did not have the opportunity to explore what many apparently consider "unconventional" modes of behavior to the extent granted young people today.

But, once the draft was discarded, suddenly large numbers of males experienced something very unique in our nation's history: a complete lack of exposure to military-style hierarchy, conformity and and enforced discipline. The seed of that has been growing for nigh-on four decades now, and for better or for worse (and as one who includes himself in this group, I confess to a certain ambivalence regarding this) we are seeing the results manifesting in current social norms.

My thinking here is that traditionally, compulsory military service has actually artificially accelerated the maturation process to a degree, and what we observe today is simply a more "natural" progression; when young men no longer fear the possibility of dying a horrible, violent death at an unnaturally early age, it can't help but change their outlook on just about everything, including their desire to enter into so-called "adult society".

Combine this with a concurrent change in a female population that no longer feels the intense societal pressure to bear children at an early age, and that furthermore is no longer dependent upon males for their own sustenance and welfare, and what we see today makes perfect sense: young people mature at a much slower rate than generations past, for the simple reason that they CAN.

So, the next time some old fart (i.e. anyone over 50 or thereabouts) starts complaining about "kids today" and their "immaturity" and "lack of responsibility" and what-not, politely remind them that this is precisely what they said they were fighting FOR all those years ago: a world in which their children wouldn't have to experience the suffering and sacrifice they did.

Well, you got your wish old man; take a good gander, because this is what that world looks like...
And finally, to Brendan, the regressors create the culture (ie the market for cupcakes & kickball), the culture doesn't create the regressors.

I know that this is an easy scapegoat, but it's bad (or maybe I should say, flawed) parenting, IMO. Both Baby Boomer parents and parents of my generation (I was born in '61) seem to have this idea that they have to create this bubble of protection around their kids. Also, you've all probably seen plenty of parents trying to be their kids' best buddies instead of their parents. I think all this hampers a kid's ability to "grow up", by whatever definition or set of metrics you might use to define "grow up."

And, yes, maybe economics figures into it, too, but not like many of you think. Maybe this sort of "parenting style" (if you want to call it that) is a reaction on parents' part to the dwindling or narrowing of affluence (the "closing of the American Dream") that we've seen in this country since around 1970 (ie national overall decline in real wages since this time).

Of course, I'm just an outside observer when it comes to parenting. I know it's hard work, and I'm sure it's often tough to figure out the "right" way to raise a kid.

Very interesting topic. But I actually doubt that the "cupcakes & kickball" thing has ANYTHING to do with the "30, jobless, and living with the parents" thing. The former, as someone else suggested, is a fad, while the latter is a more complex, and more troubling, phenomenon.
The planet's population is passing the Earth's carrying capacity, meaning probably within our lifetimes we'll get to see some really spectacular famines. It's all these people breeding willy-nilly that are acting like irresponsible children.
Generation X: We're not angry, we just want our toys back.
Actually, Brendan, it's kind of a refreshing change to hear from someone who has a grip.

It doesn't really affect me personally when I see a 28-year-old guy with a full beard on a skateboard, but it's a little annoying nonetheless, and I find myself murmuring under my breath, "Why can't people grow the fuck up?"
NY Times: Sociologists traditionally define the “transition to adulthood” as marked by five milestones: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child. In 1960, 77 percent of women and 65 percent of men had, by the time they reached 30, passed all five milestones. Among 30-year-olds in 2000, according to data from the United States Census Bureau, fewer than half of the women and one-third of the men had done so.

Maybe we shouldn't still be measuring things by a traditional definition. Completing school, leaving home and becoming financially independent still seem like reasonable milestones to me, but marrying and having a child? Why does a person need those to be considered an adult? Especially having a child. The world needs more people choosing to not have children. And even if marriage, arguably, demonstrates adult behavior by making a long-term commitment to someone, I hardly think that needs to happen by 30. Perhaps people who get married after 30 end up making wiser choices in partners.

Brendan: ...the young adults Henig writes about are doing something more extreme: they're fetishizing childhood. Gourmet ice cream and cupcakes, corn dogs and elephant ears on barroom menus, dodge ball and kickball, the baseball caps and striped socks and poofy parkas in primary colors that are adult versions of their elementary-school wardrobes

If the only things you ate or wore and the only things you did for recreation were things from your childhood, then I can see a case being made for "fetishishizing childhood." But I don't see anything "fetishizing" about continuing to enjoy some things from the time you were young. As for dodge ball and kickball in particular, is it more adult to pay big bucks to sit on your ass and watch rich jocks throw and kick balls around?
36/Comte: ...what we see today makes perfect sense: young people mature at a much slower rate than generations past, for the simple reason that they CAN.

Excellent point.

6/supergp: we're in pretty dire straits economically compared to our parents

That may be true in general for younger people but there are also younger people -- working in the tech field, for example -- who are probably making far more money than their parents did at the same age. I'd be interested to know how the 20-30 age group breaks down: what percentages are worse off, about the same, and better-off than their parents at the same age.
@42: Every statistic I used was adjusted for CPI. The median wage is down over the last 30 years.

That pretty well means everyone short of the extremes is making *less*.

Given what I know of my own father's experience with HIS father, this only seems like a natural swing of the pendulum, from parents who were, at best, emotionally distant from their their sons, while at the same time doting on their "precious" daughters (an archaic, anachronistic paternalism born from an era when females were considered little more than baby-making machines whose sole function was to continue the male genetic line), to the next generation of parents who tried to overcompensate for what they perceived as inadequacies in their own rearing, by being, as you describe, "pals" to their children. Unfortunately, in probably too many cases, they went just as far to that extreme as their parents had in the other direction.

And keep in mind, you and I (I was born in 1960) are demographically at the very tail-end of the boomer generation, not quite apart from it, as you appear to be suggesting. Not that the delineation is quite that cut-and-dried, but still, something to consider.

As for "cupcakes and kickball", well, I think they're totally an outgrowth of socio-economic trends. Our capitalistic society locked onto "Youth Culture" as a driving mechanism during the post-WW II boom years when suddenly a very large portion of the population still in their 20's, having just been subjected to one of the bloodiest nationalistic conflicts in human history, found themselves in a state of unparalleled affluence. Between the educational opportunities provided by the GI Bill and the simultaneous emergence of large-scale corporate culture, young people could afford a lifestyle unmatched by previous generations. And the marketers began going after the under 30's with a vengeance, because once young people were the ones with the money, and the leisure time, and the desire to create and perpetuate their own culture, it was THEY and not the stodgy traditionalism of their parents, that was the new driving force of the modern consumer culture. The marketers have had a good 65 years to perfect the formula; although it does appear to be showing signs of breaking under the relentless pressure to continue to buy things in order to keep the economic engine running at top speed.

So, it's really no surprise to me at least, especially in this new era of diminished expectations, that nostalgia would become a primary engine of consumerism (because really, when has it not been so to some extent?), and that the not-quite-life-or-death, but nevertheless seemingly uncontrollable uncertainties of our age would generate a fondness for the simple pleasures of the past? And after all, a cupcake costs a heck of a lot less than a whole cake, it doesn't seem as gluttonously unhealthy to ourselves or to the planet in general, and a game of kickball requires nothing more than a cheap rubber ball and a patch of bare asphalt - not to mention the fact it's probably one of the first games children learn to play in a decided co-ed fashion. In short: they're simple, inexpensive pleasures that almost everyone can enjoy; what's wrong with that?

Let's face it: for the older generations, abandoning the simple pleasures of youth was the price you paid for security (not to mention the fact it's pretty hard to go back to kickball after you've experienced real warfare); today's generation, seeing how ephemeral that security really is, have perhaps opted to not struggle for it with such stultifying obsession. And in return, they get to hang onto some of those simple pleasures for a little while longer. Who's to say which is the better course? I don't think kids today are afraid to grow up, I think they simply recognize there's no longer any inherent advantage in doing it so quickly.

So, in the end, I guess I have to consider whether any actual harm is being done by all this, and I really can't think of any. Besides, there aren't a lot of jobs out there now anyway, and I for one wouldn't wish on anyone the sort of soul-crushing work many of us (and certainly many of our parents) have known almost nothing but. I mean, if life isn't meant to be enjoyed, then seriously, what's the freaking point?

As for me, I'll keep the words of Georger Bernard Shaw (who knew a thing or to about the matter) to heart: "we do not stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playiing."
The evolutionary history of humanity is a tale of neoteny. We are infant chimps with big fat brains. It's the same with every species we domesticate - dogs are wolf puppies. Why should the continuation of that trend be disturbing?

And as far as getting married and having kids... it's the recognition of and reconciliation with your place in the world that marks adulthood, not reproduction; especially not at a time when species-wide we must slow down population growth or suffer for it.

This sounds like old-people sour grapes, to me.
#41 i'm with you here..wouldn't be encouraging to believe that maybe they're growing up differently ? . sure they're eating cupcakes and ice cream and wearing primary colors and living with their parents..and playing with toys ... but then again.. they're also crossing cultures and gender identities as a dizzying rate . ( and speaking of michael cera..the scene in scott pilgrim where we discover our hero is not just rooming with a gay breadwinner, but also literally sleeping with him..made my old head spin ) they seem to be re-formulating what it means to work all the damn time or breeding and raising children three moments after their 8th orgasm.
anyways they can't regress what they've never left .
they'll probably live twice as long as their great great grandparents..
and at the end of it they might end up wiser..
Essentially, the 'one sociologist' came up w/ some assumptions about how people matured, assumptions that the majority of Americans fit into 50 years ago, then took those assumptions and applied them to American Society 10 years ago, and came to the conclusion that people today are less mature.

What I see is a group of people with a lot of intellectual ability finding a way to prove that younger generations are not as mature & evolved as their generation. The emotional/egotistical need to denigrate others came first, then the intellectual power was used to create a test that would prove the denigration.

Instead of their assumptions about adulthood, why didn't they look at the assumptions themselves, and find out what it was that Americans value today in an adult? We understand what it was 50 years ago, but what five qualities do the majority of American adults have now? That to me would be far more fascinating than reading an article about "those damn kids today." It would also take a lot more work and creative investigation. Plus an ability to distance from immature emotions, which many scientists don't have.

I also find it interesting to see who chimed in here w/ a "those damn kids" comment & those who didn't.
I'm baffled by the sentiment against recreation and playfulness. Apparently real adults can't have fun.
I'm not going to work myself to the bone like my parents in order to define myself in society by the house I own, the car I drive, a ring on my finger, and how many babies I've popped out. Fuck you.

There are 3 things that I think everyone must do to be a good adult - be financially sound and responsible, work toward self betterment and happiness, and participate in their community through political discourse, voting, and service. Those are the things that are important. Everything else is meaningless.

Now excuse me, I'm going to play video games until my eyes bleed.
I think there are a bunch of things getting intertwined here, and it's kind of a scale.

If you're 35, still living in your parents' basement, surrounded by comic books and action figures, and you spend your entire life surrounded by such things (hello, Paul Constant :D), then sure, that's regressive. And the people in this article who need therapy to try to live on their own, that's concerning.

If you're an adult, you live on your own, you make your own living, you have a social life, you've finished school, and all those things, but you occasionally enjoy a video game or (to quote Brendan above) "manga dress-up" at a convention, but you can remember where the game ends and reality begins, what's the problem? Everyone needs hobbies and interests outside of work.
(Also: life is hard, and people always have to find ways to deal with stress. If someone has had a hard day and hugs a stuffed animal at night, well, I'll take that over my grandfather's habit of drinking himself into a stupor every night. Sometimes the child remedy is healthier than the adult one.)
The "raising kids" milestone teaches you responsibility towards others who are helpless, which is clearly a hallmark of being an adult. The study authors could have included "adopting kids" and "taking daily care of your aging parents" as other ways of reaching this point. Certainly Dan thought this milestone was important enough that he wrote a book about it.
In many ways, the Tea Party right is the hallmark of non-adulthood; they don't want to be burdened with doing anything for anyone else.
until i hear a valid negative comment on "regressors" ie how they are objectively harming any other person or thing, all of these complaints only come across as bitterness to me. if they are harming themselves by living this way, that's their problem, not yours. and whether they are harming themselves is not really for you to say. the article is interesting, but overall a cultural observation tinged with bitterness and theory based on no solid foundations. until 20/30 somethings in their striped socks and puffy coats and frosting covered faces start gunning us all down, i say live and let live. who gives a damn.
I'm in my early thirties. A lot of my friends are childfree, so that's why they don't have kids. A lot of my friends dislike the institution of marriage and don't want to enter into it. A lot of my friends do have kids or are planning to, but they delayed either because the dot-com crash combined with the recession was incredibly hard on us, as the economic problems started very shortly after we got out of college. A lot of my friends delayed because they wanted to get an education first and that meant either grad school or just getting an undergrad degree, but they had to wait until they were 25 to start, because in the US your parents' income counts against your ability to get grants and loans, but they have no legal requirement to help you. So, if your parents choose not to assist you, but have money, college isn't really an option until you're 25.

I remember growing up and the adults around me saying that you could major in anything at college. Just having a college degree was really helpful. But they were wrong. That used to be the case... when they were growing up far fewer people went to college and a college degree was enough to ensure a good job. Now you either need a degree or some very good skills and grad school is what is expected if you want a particularly good education. That's an extra four years of education tacked onto most people's lives before they can start earning money and it's a pile of debt too, and yet people wonder why it takes young adults longer to feel financially stable and want to start a family?
Once again, childfree people are told they aren't real adults. Horseshit.
There's a frightening degree of bullshit here.

If you're a productive and healthy member of society, having or striving to make your own way fiscally, living or striving to live on your own, with the ability to supply your own transportation (car, transit, bike, scooter, motorcycle, whatever), healthy familial and social relations, are aware of things happening and changing in your local (city/state/national) and foreign environments, and have hobbies, you're not a regressor.

I don't give a shit if you dress and talk emo, grunge, rock, goth, preppie, corporate, otaku, or whatever other subset.

I work, my wife works, we're saving for a home, we pay all our bills on time, we have lots of local and distant friends (all across city/state/national/international) levels, are aware of our surroundings, have good relationships, and each have a ton of hobbies and interests. But, for example, if you routinely saw me, you'd see:

Generally unshaven guy with slightly messy uncut hair, in video-game or comic-book t-shirts, with a messenger bag with a Green Lantern and Star Trek sciences division button. That's often my work uniform in a corporate environment, but when I have to I put on my nice leather shoes, nice shirt and khakis, and look different (which doesn't change what I am). My hobbies are exercise, reading comic books, playing video games, politics, gardening, photography, reading in general, watching sports, and exercise. Our apartment has comic-book & film posters, ironic crap all over (six pack of Duff Beer on the mantle), and photos all around of friends current, distant, and from days gone by.

I look like your stereotypical socially awkward chubby geek with thick glasses with all that in mind--but I'm not, never have considered myself that, and the one time I recall someone jokingly referred to me as that one of my friends laughed in their face over my confusion. Just to mess things up more? I used to be able to run 10k distances and was starting small forward on two basketball teams at once for several years in fairly competitive church and corporate leagues. I average the most minutes of everyone on my work team--usually 18 of 20 minutes each half. I used to go clubbing all the time when I was single to hit on girls. I only got slowly fat after marrying my female counterpart (just as geeky, just as multi-layered).

Again, you see us, you might think: textbook regressors. Why? Because we like shit that some old fuck who is irrelevant thinks we're into juvenile shit?

Sorry I'm not reading the Saturday Evening Post in a tweed jacket in front of a fireplace with a hound at my feet as my wife tends the children we don't have yet since we decided to wait on that.
52/Biologist: The "raising kids" milestone teaches you responsibility towards others who are helpless, which is clearly a hallmark of being an adult. The study authors could have included "adopting kids" and "taking daily care of your aging parents" as other ways of reaching this point.

While I can agree with you that "responsibility towards others who are helpless" is a hallmark of being an adult, it doesn't follow (and I don't believe) that is a requirement to be considered an adult.

One of the defining characteristics of an infant is that it's completely self-centered. There's nothing wrong with that of course. They don't understand that there's more to the world than them. The way I see it, a requirement of being an adult is making the transition from that self-centered state to caring about others in some way. That "some way" may take many different forms. It could be having and raising kids. It could be, as you suggested, adopting kids or taking daily care of your aging parents. It could be volunteering at a food bank. It could be giving money to help people in Haiti, or somewhere else in the world. It could be something as simple as being a good listener for a friend who needs to talk, or stopping to help someone with a flat tire. It's great if a person does a lot of things to help others but I think the key is to do something, to go outside yourself and reach out to other people in some way.
Regarding the cultural factors...

If you can blame poor Michael Cera, then you can blame JK Rowling for forcing a generation to stall adulthood and wait for her series of Harry Potter books to roll out (not to mention the films).

The primary color influenced fashion is just that, fashion. I would look ridiculous in it, but those white kids do look splendid in them. I enjoy playing dodgeball, but simply because I can finally fucking master it with my adult coordination. I go to Bluebird Ice Cream because I think Josh is a hottie.

What is the affect of these regressors in the workforce? Are they able to work, think, and act as adults with other adults? Are they productive? If you disregard the ones going into professions like medicine, law, and science - which I assume we are here, then are these kidults getting their shit done at work? I work with just one and he is not. He is spoiled and is confused by the idea that he actually has to do things like "walk" to do something and "talk" to the client to figure out their needs. He is consumed is his gaming life, his comic books, and his drawing of superheros on company stationery.

The NYT article is interesting, but in that pop-sensational kind of way. And that's not a bad thing.

I'd say you both missed the god damned point.

Corndogs and kickball are hardly the problem, since they're imposed on children by adults in the first place. They aren't child ideas.

The problem is the manchild complex, the 30-somethings that never emotionally mature, blame everyone else for their problems and can't connect to other people.

Including those who play kickball.
So who exactly is getting hurt by this phenomenon?
@45 - just what balderdash said. Cultural evolution seems to progress in the same way. This is a beautiful thing.
While I agree that the shitty economy does make things much more difficult, and don't doubt the statistics that people raise on exactly how shitty it is, that's not really the point for the people the article addresses. The article points out that many young people aren't really even trying. It's not that they can't get a job despite their best efforts, it's that they just don't want to, with the implication that it's because (whether they consciously know it or not) they don't want the responsibility of "being an adult."

Comparable to the change of mind that occurred when marriage is supposed to be happy and about love (a good change, which led to many more divorces), many affluent young people have this notion that they have to be happy and fulfilled all the time, even on the job, and that this is the case when they get to "do something they love." That's why they all seem to have theatre, music, or film degrees (if you're lucky, they studied history. But this doesn't happen to chemists, economists, or engineers).

"Oh shit, I graduated and don't have a job lined up that I love doing. I'll go to Tibet for a summer in the mountains/do that 6-week puppet program/hang around at home and 'find myself.' Mom and dad love me, they said they could foot it."

I agree most of the milestones (marriage, kids, house) are irrelevant and antiquated. But here's one I do believe in: financial self-sufficiency (or the continued desire to be, as the economy is preventing many motivated graduates). A lot of these "Regressors" aren't making an effort, or have an incredibly naive notion of how our terrible, awesome capitalist society works. They've never needed to worry about it, and can't handle the idea of starting.

(FWIW, I'm 24. So this isn't "an older guy" hatin' on the kids because they aren't like I was. Also remember that the article and my comments aren't about all 20-somethings, or people living with their parents, just a pretty visible minority).
All of this assumes that the complainers knew what the fuck they were doing when they were our age thirty years ago, of which I have yet to see convincing evidence.
I can agree with some of the disdain for "regressors," but I think a lot of it is misplaced. For one thing, what's so particularly adult about moving out? When I was studying in Taiwan, every unmarried person I knew lived with their parents unless they were attending school or had a job in a different city. And even then they often stayed at home over the weekends. many people who did get married and move out stayed near their parent (or in-laws), and within ten or so years, their parents would move back in with them. My friends were all in their late twenties and early thirties, and none of them were immature. They worked long hours at challenging jobs, saving up so that they would be financially stable when they did decide to start a family, and so that they would have a cushion to pay for their parents' care when their parents retired. So maybe we're just changing to a different cultural model of adulthood. I know there have been times when I was between jobs and low on money, and I crashed on my dad's sofa for a few months until I had a job offer or decided to return to school. And while I was there, I did my share of the cooking, cleaning, and childcare. Especially in this economy, I don't think it's necessarily a terrible idea to explore different ways of being an adult, especially if you're still contributing to society.

I mean, our current mayor got elected by the efforts of a bunch of jobless skool-kids who were deferring jobs and school to volunteer. A lot of them were only able to do that because their parents were helping out. But I'm hoping most of the Stranger staff wouldn't feel too negative about that.
Great post, Brendan. I hope you keep it up!
Hey, I guess I'm a real irresponsible jerk then since my parents live with me. I guess I'm real childish since they pissed away their meagre pension in one year after they retired and can't live independantly on their Social Security. I guess I'm really immature because I didn't start manufacturing spawn the minute I graduated high school. Real childish and selfish of me thinking "Hey, I can't afford kids so I'm not going to make any".
@63 - Interesting to note a lot of these complaints about people in their 20/30s now are probably coming from the OG "yuppie" generation, who viciously embraced an ethics-free "work ethic" that screwed the economy to death. Are the results of their self-serving hyper-achievement more nocuous to society than a descendent culture they judge as guilty of amae?
Hey Brendan, you left your bb gun at my house...
I can feel where these people are coming from, because emotionally I'm one of them. I pine for the good old days when I was small. I had everything I wanted except freedom. My parents could afford to give me what I wanted. I had no responsibilities. Now it's pressure, pressure, pressure. My family is chronically cash strapped. I know that I can never again have what I used to have and it hurts. If I could go back in time... I would.
@40 - Why does that bother you?

I'm jumping on the money train here, also. What would have been considered a comfortable salary for daddy to bring home to the wife and kids (in terms of where it puts me in economic rankings - about the top 25% nationally) many years ago has bought me a small condo in a barely-safe neighborhood with crappy schools, adequate but not overly generous investments in my emergency funds and retirement savings, and just making the balance work when my student loans are thrown in. I'm not hurting, really, but it would be next to impossible to raise a family on my income alone.

If you added another person with about the same salary, we could still only afford either a slightly bigger condo in a slightly better neighborhood, or a small house in the same crappy-yet-developing neighborhood. Being the silly economist I am, I know that it would actually cost me more to live in the suburbs (and that was without calculating the cost of extra hours of daycare while we commuted to/from work, and the higher utility bills from a bigger home...I only did the analysis "all other things being equal"). One may argue that I live in a rather expensive area (DC), and that's true, but my salary for the same job would be cut by at least 1/3 if I went back to my birthland of the Midwest (just out of school I looked for jobs everywhere, and the salary actually did reflect the cost of living almost perfectly, and there were FAR fewer jobs available), meaning the same job would not buy me much more. In fact, having friends who still live in my hometown, a house barely adequate to raise a child in costs about the same as my condo did, so there's really no gain to be had (meh, maybe better schools).

And I'm 29 with an MA and one of the rare good jobs available out there...most of my friends are much worse off (especially those that stayed in the "cheap" area I'm generally = no jobs). While it may be *fun* to live like this, it's totally a symptom of a crappy economy. However, as we get used to it, and the economy inevitably changes both around and because of us, it may become more of a choice.

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