Generation Gaps
December 2, 2014 6:44 AM   Subscribe

It's no longer just teenagers and students who seem to be running away from real life, it's people in their twenties and thirties, too. People who should really know better, but don't seem to know how to do much else. Fully grown, semi-functioning adults who are unwilling to surrender those endless nights spent staring at their own harrowed reflections in club toilet cisterns, and can't find much reason to give them up, either. People like me. This is my generation; the generation who have no real incentive to grow up. No kids to feel guilty about, no mortgages to pay off, decent enough healthcare to keep them alive, jobs that let them ​scrape the money they need to feed, house and wash themselves, and only the screams of their bosses and the worried phone calls of their families to tear them away from the noble pursuit of getting on one. An army of first-world wasters trapped in an Escher maze of immaturity.
posted by josher71 (160 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
 
Now, you may cry "crisis of masculinity". You may cry "fear of commitment", or "quarter-life crisis", or just "stupid cunt" – but I think in doing so you'd be ignoring something that is basically true.
...that the author can get a Vice post out of it?
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:50 AM on December 2, 2014 [15 favorites]


(Yes, that's snide, but the fact that there's a commonly-understood term for it, which the author cites, rather mitigates the notion that this is some startling revelation.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:52 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


People who should really know better

That being a hedge fund manager is a superior life?
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:54 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


I miss those days.
posted by Artw at 6:57 AM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


i'm SO glad i found my way out of the escher maze and took my rightful place on the escher moebius strip.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 6:58 AM on December 2, 2014 [17 favorites]


You know what? I want to sneer at this article--mostly because it's Vice and I still have a immense distaste for them--but some of this seems to ring true for people my age (and I just turned 38) and a bit younger. There definitely seems to be an extended adolescence lifestyle going on for some folks and even I fall prey to it every now and again (I really shouldn't be anywhere after 11 pm but my own house).

I do think this is worth talking about but the casual lad tone of the article grates on me.
posted by Kitteh at 7:00 AM on December 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


As the prospects of adulthood become ever more optimized and dystopian, is it any surprise that the pressure to escape into fantasy finds a wider audiance? People seek agency in the only way they see possible: by rejecting the world which would strip them of it.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 7:02 AM on December 2, 2014 [71 favorites]


This isn't a generational thing. It's a personality thing. If everyone around you is doing this, you need to find a better place to hang out.
posted by DU at 7:02 AM on December 2, 2014 [29 favorites]


To paraphrase Paul from Grosse Pointe Blank, why not quit pouting on the sidelines and join the working week.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 7:03 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


But on the plus side a life structure beyond FIFA and getting mashed was up for grabs. It was a time when even working-class people, even people in London, even people who didn't go to university, could find jobs that paid well, eventually buy a house, get married and have children, indulging in all the tropes that make British suburbia both the best and worst place in the world. Sure, they did it later than their own parents and probably had a lot more fun in the process, but not only was the pressure to conform to a traditional lifestyle much greater, it was so attainable that people often did it by mistake, birthing the generation of accidental firstborns that so many of us are.
And therein lies the rub.

I'm single. I'm childless. I'm in my 40's. I still rent. By some yardsticks I've "not grown up" yet because of all of these things. However, I do not still rent because I prefer that free-and-easy lifestyle - I still rent because for easily about 50% of my adult life I have been underemployed, thanks to the dot-com bubble bursting in my 20's, the post-9/11 economic downswing in my 30's, and then the Great Recession right when I was on the cusp of my 40's.

A lot of us want to become grownups - but we're basically still being paid a teenager's income, so how the hell can we afford to?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:05 AM on December 2, 2014 [237 favorites]


why not quit pouting on the sidelines and join the working week

Because it don't thrill you?
posted by thelonius at 7:07 AM on December 2, 2014 [18 favorites]


Was that a Vice article or a National Review article? It's sometimes hard to tell the difference.
posted by dortmunder at 7:09 AM on December 2, 2014 [7 favorites]


I work a very adulty 9 to 5 job with, like, responsibilities and occasional travel, but I make juuuust enough money to rent and pay the minimum on my loans. Talk to me in ten years when they're paid off.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:10 AM on December 2, 2014 [32 favorites]


You might, if you like to think that history rhymes, compare this situation to stratified late medieval/early modern societies, when the average age of marriage and first childbirth crept up into the early 30s for the average peasant. When owning a house is culturally accepted as a prerequisite for starting a family, and owning a house becomes unaffordable for most people, this is what will happen.

At the same time, nobles were marrying and starting families younger and younger. It'd be interesting to know if our modern "nobles" are doing the same thing.
posted by clawsoon at 7:10 AM on December 2, 2014 [28 favorites]


i'm SO glad i found my way out of the escher maze and took my rightful place on the escher moebius strip.

The giant ants are a bit of a downside, though.
posted by eykal at 7:12 AM on December 2, 2014 [15 favorites]


At no point does it occur to him to interrogate whether the "traditional" adult path might suck. A lot of us watched our parents Work Hard and Buy Houses and Do Right and get completely, utterly screwed at the end, dying penniless with nothing to show for it but 50 years of grinding it out. Can't believe we didn't run right out to sign up for THAT amazing bargain.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:13 AM on December 2, 2014 [150 favorites]


Yeah, I'll take this article seriously when the well-paying, secure jobs that are needed to cover the costs of a "grown-up" life materialize out of thin air for the millions of people my age who have never, ever had them.
posted by nonasuch at 7:17 AM on December 2, 2014 [46 favorites]


Didn't follow the link, was it written in the 80's? And I do mean the 1880's.
posted by sammyo at 7:21 AM on December 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


Um, can we please dispense with the notion that not having kids (and heck, debt like a mortgage), makes you immature? I know 100% I don't want those things - that actually makes me mature.
posted by agregoli at 7:21 AM on December 2, 2014 [116 favorites]


He mentions that the price of real estate and the stagnating wages of the average person have a lot to do with it, though.
posted by Selena777 at 7:22 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Boundless indulgence is a decades-old problem, an inescapable part of the late-capitalist condition, a symptom of the endless, warless, nothingness of modern life.

Ha! I'm reading a Russian novel now where the about-to-turn-thirty protagonist is doing the exact same thing, avoiding responsibilities (and his nagging uncle, who wants him to focus on productive work) and either getting drunk with his worthless friends or lying around his apartment feeling sorry for himself. The novel was published in 1847 (it was written over a year earlier but Goncharov gave it to a friend to pass on to a magazine editor but the friend didn't think it was good enough so he didn't tell the editor about it, and when the editor found out about it he loved it and what an asshole that "friend" was!). This is not about the late-capitalist condition, it's about personality and situation.
posted by languagehat at 7:23 AM on December 2, 2014 [54 favorites]


I don't feel the thrust of the article is, "Grow up, sell out, make money." Plenty of people my age (mid-to-late-thirties) and older work "real jobs" and still struggle to make ends meet. That struggle is very much a grown-up responsibility, and I don't think this article is about that.

I think this is more about purpose. "Settling down," and having kids, for all its trade-offs, tends to focus peoples lives in a way being childless doesn't. It's an enormous responsibility one rises to or one doesn't. Plenty of people find purpose—something to live and work toward and around which to structure their adult lives—without kids, but clearly many of my generation haven't. It's something I've struggled with as well. I truly believe people need purpose and meaning in their lives to thrive, and those are things that typically aren't handed to us. To paraphrase the Coens, living for the weekend and being snarky on the Internet isn't really an ethos.

tl;dr, I'm with Kitteh. Important points. Shitty tone.
posted by echocollate at 7:25 AM on December 2, 2014 [20 favorites]


"decent enough healthcare to keep them alive". Youth is enough to keep you alive for quite a while. Healthcare is what keeps you alive when you are no longer young.
posted by vapidave at 7:25 AM on December 2, 2014 [10 favorites]


++languagehat There is nothing "modern" about this and the author's estimated age of this "problem" is off by at least a few of orders of magnitude. The difference is that the often-intoxicated, mostly-pointless lives of the forgettable masses of people through history passed without the opportunity, let alone the ability to wax poetic about it.
posted by Poldo at 7:25 AM on December 2, 2014 [8 favorites]


Was that a Vice article or a National Review article? It's sometimes hard to tell the difference.

You joke, but Vice has conservative roots. One of the founder's wrote "Hip to be Square: It's Getting Cooler to Be Conservative" (more readable link) in the American Conservative in 2003 (he remained with Vice until 2007 according to wikipedia). The New York Times looked at the Vice empire and the founder's politics around then, too. I also remember seeing a few columns praising neocons back in those days of the magazine.

He's gone now and I think the current people in charge have distanced themselves from him, but periodically you can see evidence that undercurrents remain.
posted by msbrauer at 7:26 AM on December 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


Every generation thinks that it invented 1) sex, and 2) losers.
posted by MrJM at 7:26 AM on December 2, 2014 [49 favorites]


I have got to stop reading articles like that. I'm 24, I have never done the party hard shit in my life, I have done the straightlaced cheap-state-college-and-make-the-most-of-it thing, I went straight from undergrad to grad school--and you know, I'm still scrambling to get by and pay my rent and maybe achieve not living paycheck to paycheck at some point. I don't know anyone who has the cash to go out and party every night. And shit like this which is all "oh you millennials you just don't have the right values and you're just a bunch of lazy wankers" gets me every time, even when I should know better. I'm doing my fucking best stop fucking telling me it's my fucking fault every time I turn around auuuugh.

I dunno. Even when I know intellectually that a huge chunk of this is the economy, it's just so disheartening. And yeah, I should know enough to be cynical and snarky about this but I've been fiscally independent for two years and I've been hearing this at every turn--that all of this is my fault, that I should be making better decisions, that everything about my career is going to hell forever--it's just... depressing. And it's everywhere. I must stumble into an article like this every week or two. Just this constant background noise of "you're financially fucked and it's all your generation's fault forever."
posted by sciatrix at 7:27 AM on December 2, 2014 [53 favorites]


As someone with a mortgage but no kids, I feel a lot less tied down and more mobile (and yes, less "adult" in the traditional meaning) than younger people I know who are taking the old-school path.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:27 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


was it written in the 80's? And I do mean the 1880's.

I wonder just how many "lost generations" there have been in history.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:31 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


A lot of us want to become grownups - but we're basically still being paid a teenager's income, so how the hell can we afford to?

And even for those of us who have some semblance of an "adult" salary, the prospect of having it unceremoniously kicked out from under you - and maybe with no hope of ever making it again - looms all the time.

I'm in my 40s, have two kids and a mortgage, and this is on my mind constantly - we can just afford what we have, can't really afford to get the space we need*, and the longterm prospects for just being able to stay even aren't great. The feeling of stasis, of almost every aspect of the economy trying to prey on you, of the ghouls that run it and the city and country not giving a fuck whether you sink or swim or actively trying to exploit you . . . there are many mornings where I wake up to a full slate of chores and a day of work and want very much to just say, "to hell with this, it isn't worth it."

So I completely understand why anyone younger might look at these kind of obligations, their potential earning power, the bloodsuckers looking to profit off of their aspirations, and come to the same conclusion. If the UK and US labor forces and their spending power actually meant much in the globalized scheme of things, this would be a serious problem - but it isn't. The kids splayed out next to the puke in the article are as disposable as Bangladeshi factory workers now to the folks in charge, and will be treated with the same rough hand. We're fucked, so folks who haven't gotten themselves entangled would do well to just try and enjoy themselves as best as they can (and I imagine there are others doing it better than just getting blackout drunk at grim clubs).

* Given, we live in one of the most asinine, overheated housing markets in the US, but can't leave due to family obligations.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:31 AM on December 2, 2014 [23 favorites]


Yeah, they can fuck off. I'm American, not British, but I live in an expensive area and the problems are largely the same. I live in this area because it's the best place for my chosen field. I just moved into a one bedroom after living with roommates for many years and that wasn't even really by choice but because I couldn't find a roommate in time. I live in nearby suburbs, not central city, because I couldn't even afford the rent for a one bedroom in an area that was commutable to my relatively new job. Where I live not only has one of the highest employment rates in the country, but one of the highest for my demographics and for my field. If I want to do what I want to do work-wise, this is where I need to be.

My chosen field doesn't pay highly, and the cost of living in this area is high (beyond the exorbitant rents). I'll never be able to afford my own home unless I move fields, move locations, buy in the boonies, or marry rich. It just ain't happening. If owning your own home is a mark of maturity, it's one that is out of reach for many people.

Simply put, the economy sucks, and continues to suck. I've been unemployed, on benefits and not. It's horrible, and it makes you feel like a child. I'd say that the younger generations can rightly feel that the game is rigged, that you can't really make all the milestones that our parents did. And that trying is a mug's game. Sure, I could go massively into debt for a mortgage (theoretically, I'd still need some amount of a down payment and I'm rebuilding my finances from being unemployed), but I acquired student debt to go to grad school to get the job I have now (and to shift from the career track I was stuck in and which I hated). That seems like a terrible idea to me. Saddle myself with debt and less flexibility the next time some rich bastards decide to fuck the economy.

You've seen it before in other apocalyptic situations, debauchery is a reaction to hopelessness. In times past people scourged themselves and/or participated in orgies because they thought the end was coming and was unavoidable. The end isn't coming per se, just the end of the middle class and a return to the feudal/serf system.

I do think that the constructed nature of adulthood that we inherited is flawed in so many ways and I have no problem discarding a lot of that. But I also think that there are a lot of people who would love to move into the system, to move up in that system, to take on the greater responsibilities that come along with that. But it's simply not possible, because the support structures of our society are breaking down.
posted by X-Himy at 7:32 AM on December 2, 2014 [30 favorites]


"Me these days, am I right?"
posted by trunk muffins at 7:33 AM on December 2, 2014 [19 favorites]


And having kids? Ha! I don't want to bring kids into a life of penury and uncertainty. Which means that I'm screwed. Basically, I need to marry an heiress.
posted by X-Himy at 7:34 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm reading a Russian novel now where the about-to-turn-thirty protagonist is doing the exact same thing

Before following your link, I immediately thought of Oblomov, a later work by the author. The character type was so common in Russian literature of the time that it was one of the era's defining literary concepts. One of my favorites of these stories is Lermontov's "A Hero of Our Time," which I think is a perfect and subtly caustic title.
posted by msbrauer at 7:34 AM on December 2, 2014 [12 favorites]


Was that a Vice article or a National Review article?

Can you explain a little more?
posted by josher71 at 7:36 AM on December 2, 2014


sciatrix, Gen X got dumped on in much the same way. It's really not you. It's old assholes (which is not all old people; just the assholes) looking for someone to blame for the way things are besides the obvious person in the mirror.

As soon as ya'll got old enough to blame, they stopped blaming us. They didn't apologize or anything, they just forgot we existed. So I guess we're like even older losers that people have stopped bothering about. Is that better? No idea.

I still rent. We discussed buying this year, seriously, because we could maaaaybe make it work, but I got cold feet. I don't trust that things will stay stable, and I don't want to give up my ability to pull up stakes if I need to. It's depressing because rental houses are just not as good. I've had to give up watching home improvement shows, they just bring me down. But; I'm not upside down on a 40-year mortgage. If I get hit by a bus, it will suck for my family but they will have fewer financial burdens than if they had a house to take care of. And at the end of the day, life is about more than the house you happen to live in.

So we spend our money on artistic outings, good TV shows and books, vacations when we can, experiences instead of things. Things are expensive, to buy and then to take care of. Experiences can be done pretty cheaply, and memories don't cost you to maintain.

We do have a kid. It has been a struggle, which is why we only have one. We wanted him very much, but we also resent how hard this society makes it to raise him and educate him and help him be a good person. So I have no advice for people on that one. It may or may not be worth it to reproduce at the end of the day. If you don't, the world still has lots of spare people, so the species will be fine. If you do, then find as many friends and family to be your village that you can. You're going to need them.
posted by emjaybee at 7:37 AM on December 2, 2014 [39 favorites]


I get the impression (not least from datapoint number 1: myself) that many of the people enrolled in PhDs are people seeking meaning and a facsimile of some sort of adulthood in lieu of a decent living wage, career trajectory and savings/capital.

I am still undecided about marriage or kids, but I wonder if my preference for either would be more apparent to me if my life were more stable.

I don't drink or party that much anymore, but I certainly pull all-nighters eking out research essays in the uni library, much like my undergraduate self. I have tried to treat my PhD as a job, but without the standard parameters of adult existence and without the promise of future incentives or security to work toward, it's hard to feel anything but lost.
posted by dumdidumdum at 7:40 AM on December 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


I am about to turn 40 and am just now getting married and 'settling down'.

In total honesty, of all the things I regret doing in my life, wasting a decade doing piles of club drugs every weekend is not really one of them (although I regret a few specific weekends, for sure).
posted by empath at 7:46 AM on December 2, 2014 [14 favorites]


You might, if you like to think that history rhymes, compare this situation to stratified late medieval/early modern societies, when the average age of marriage and first childbirth crept up into the early 30s for the average peasant. When owning a house is culturally accepted as a prerequisite for starting a family, and owning a house becomes unaffordable for most people, this is what will happen.

That's super interesting - would you say that was true across most of Europe (since 'medieval' is such a vexed descriptor even in Europe and doesn't really make sense in, say, China)? Is there particular reading you'd recommend on this period? (I've read mostly Annales School social history of the period and rather unevenly at that, so it's possible I'm just reading the wrong bits.)
posted by Frowner at 7:46 AM on December 2, 2014


I guess that my perceptions are biased by the fact that most of the young adults that I know are through working in the software industry but they all seem very serious and hard-working and are mostly married with kids and a house. My only complaint is that they're way too smart and knowledgeable and I have to work hard to keep up.
posted by octothorpe at 7:47 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


(The only young adults I know who are married with kids and a house are upper middle class, have decent jobs and really wanted that kind of lifestyle. I think there's several factors in play here and they get confused: first, the economic situation makes it very difficult for many people to have a kid and impossible to have a house or even a decent apartment that is child-safe; second, there are a lot more social choices than the good old compulsory heterosexuality-kids-by-mid-twenties narrative of my parents' generation. So, for instance, I could not afford a child and my class background foreclosed a lot of job possibilities so that now I'm pretty much a jumped up admin for life - but I thank my lucky stars every day that I do not have to have a child and a marriage and that I can have my own job and my own money without a husband to latch them to.
posted by Frowner at 7:53 AM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


Yeah I came here to mention Superfluous Man but msbrauer already did but I don't think anyone noticed by the lack of favs. The Diary of a Superfluous Man (1850) by Turgenev defined the concept. A free audio version (2:37) if you're feeling superfluous. Kind of a failed love story.
posted by stbalbach at 7:56 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


As a Heyer fan, this reads like the dissolute youth of the gentry living the life on the town in Regency England.
posted by infini at 8:03 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


I hate articles like this. First, they just assume there's some objective standard of "adult" behavior and OH HAY BIG CO-EENKYDEENK it's the one from their society when they were kids, when (duh) adult behavior can only ever be the observed behavior patterns of adults in a particular society. Saying that people need to have kids or own a home or not get drunk every weekend be a true adult isn't really any different than saying that people need to own slaves, file their teeth into points, have killed another human being, or juggle, tap dance, and sing the Catalina Magdalena Lupensteiner Volunbeiner song to their town leadership in order to be considered a proper adult.

Second, they're just wrong. Golly, thirty-somethings in the UK spending the weekend wasted? Obviously they invented that shit and it's not like thirty- and forty- and sixty-somethings spend a lot of weekends in the pub being wasted nowadays, and certainly didn't in 1980, or 1960, or 1920, or 1840...
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:04 AM on December 2, 2014 [7 favorites]


Weird, isn't it, how some couple could accidentally get pregnant and take on a mortgage that's way too big for them, and this is a Sign of Maturity. People really want adulthood to be a measurable concept with clear signifiers.
posted by echo target at 8:07 AM on December 2, 2014 [27 favorites]


So it sounds like there are two unrelated phenomenon being talked about in this thread:

1.) Young adults refusing to "settle down" in a manner approved by their elders, which is what the author of the Vice article is complaining about: NOT A NEW PHENOMENON.

2.) Young/not so young adults being unable to "settle down" in a manner approved by their elders--even though they might want to--for structural economic reasons: POSSIBLY A NEW PHENOMENON

I don't think it serves anyone to act like these are the same thing. They clearly are not.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:07 AM on December 2, 2014 [24 favorites]


Also, a point of order on marrying - even if you're as rich as Croseus, it's kind of hard to get married if no one is interested in marrying you.

I'd love to settle down in that particular fashion. But I've only found two people thus far with whom I'd have wanted to try making a go of that, though, and neither of them reciprocated that particular desire.

But that's also not solely their fault - I'm also kind of fussy. Much like what agregoli said about not having kids unless you were sure you could hack it, I'd argue that not wanting to get married just for the sake of being married is also a sign of maturity. I'd love to be married, but I'd also love to not ever have to face divorce, so I don't rush into that kind of thing.

So my being single still may be a result of conservativism or bad luck or bad timing on my part, but it is definitely not due to immaturity or a lack of desire for settling down.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:09 AM on December 2, 2014 [8 favorites]


Frowner: Class-based age of marriage and childbirth changed over time, and I don't have dates and periods at hand - which is why I was fuzzy in what I specified :-) - but I recall getting the most information on the subject from two very interesting books, Population and History and Mother Nature.
posted by clawsoon at 8:09 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


I have to think this outlook is more a function of being his age than any phenomenon exclusive to his cohort. It was the same for me, now late 30s. It was the same for most of my friends now in their 40s and even those approaching their 50s. People still go out with friends and drink too much in their 30s and 40s and 50s. They might start to go to different, more expensive establishments and drink different, more expensive drinks and spend much more money than you to do it. Or they find an excuse to do it in the daytime, like golf or fishing or softball or whatever. Also some big reason you don't find olds like me out to 3am at the club every night off is because I didn't really like clubs when I was 20, either, and the day after a night like that starts to become less and less pleasant as you get older and your body starts to suck. It's not all because we've all of a sudden gained some kind of maturity that's unavailable to you that makes us grown-ups.
posted by Hoopo at 8:12 AM on December 2, 2014 [13 favorites]


I think it's really interesting how many people note that "the economy sucks."

That's just not true. The distribution of wealth is totally messed up, but for those with economic clout, 'The Economy' doesn't suck at all. And they've got lots of people buying into a made up story...
posted by rock swoon has no past at 8:15 AM on December 2, 2014 [8 favorites]


Of course this is nothing new. Nothing under the sun is new. But I suspect changing social norms (less pressure to marry, have children, get a mortgage) have made it more pervasive. It's no longer the domain of the offspring of the wealthy. It's a full-blown trend that's largely classless.
posted by echocollate at 8:22 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't think that's out of ignorance, rock swoon. It's just that most of us are so disenfranchised that there's little point thinking about the economy except as it applies to us. Yeah, no shit, we're being sucked dry by the bandits at the top, but most of us are so weighed down with the effects of that that we can't, or won't, spare much energy to deal with the causes.
posted by Drexen at 8:25 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think it's really interesting how many people note that "the economy sucks."

That's just not true. The distribution of wealth is totally messed up, but for those with economic clout, 'The Economy' doesn't suck at all. And they've got lots of people buying into a made up story...

The dividing line on that is pretty high, though.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:27 AM on December 2, 2014


The notion that taking on long-term secured debt and spending 10 hours a day getting heart disease while you move reports no one cares about from column A to column B makes one an "adult" is disgusting. You want to impress the other parents at Sunday brunches? Rock on, do what makes you happy. I'm 38 and have two paid gigs this weekend, one of them at 3am. And I am happy. Being an adult for me means accepting yourself and finding goals that make sense for you. Not tying your life to some machine that doesn't need you and will likewise forget you as soon as you retire.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:34 AM on December 2, 2014 [41 favorites]


Some more precise information on the "late medieval/early modern" marriage patterns that I mentioned upthread is here, from the author of Population and History. From the data on p. 165, it looks like the 1600s showed the widest spread, with folks at the 25th percentile getting married at 20-22 years old, while folks at the 75th percentile got married at 28-30 years old.
posted by clawsoon at 8:36 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think it's really interesting how many people note that "the economy sucks."

That's just not true. The distribution of wealth is totally messed up, but for those with economic clout, 'The Economy' doesn't suck at all. And they've got lots of people buying into a made up story...


When people say, "the economy sucks," they aren't talking about (and generally don't give a shit about) GDP or the Dow or any of that. They mean, "I am struggling," and for many, many people, that is not a made up story.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:38 AM on December 2, 2014 [45 favorites]


Can you explain a little more?

The shortest explanation is, "Kids today, amirite?" To elaborate further, I detect a rather reactionary strain in a lot of Vice articles, and this one is no exception, and I find the idea that marriage + children + job + mortgage = maturity argument facile and old fashioned. There are a lot of immature married people with kids, and there are a lot of immature people with high paying jobs who own property.
posted by dortmunder at 8:38 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


NO FUTURE FOR YOUUUUUUUUU
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:40 AM on December 2, 2014 [13 favorites]


I think I bruised my eyeballs from rolling them so hard. And I haven't actually RTFA yet.

I am 43. Married, no kids, mortgage, well-paying job that I would like desperately to not have to do. Wife works part-time and hates customer service and hopes to find something else. We stay up late nights playing computer games and web surfing, reading comics and watching SF/fantasy movies.

We have friends that have bounced off of rock bottom multiple times, and sometimes it makes me feel guilty that we're doing okay and they're not. I buy lottery tickets all the time, because I want to get off the treadmill and I want to get my friends out from under the treadmill.
posted by Foosnark at 8:41 AM on December 2, 2014 [8 favorites]


38 years old, childless, renter, unmarried woman. I have no real interest in conventional domesticity and less in babies. I see great music and great art. I don't make a lot of money, but I travel regularly and manage to (generally) enjoy my circumstances. Remind me again why I should want to "grow up?"
posted by thivaia at 8:45 AM on December 2, 2014 [24 favorites]


We're fucked, so folks who haven't gotten themselves entangled would do well to just try and enjoy themselves as best as they can (and I imagine there are others doing it better than just getting blackout drunk at grim clubs).

Yep, we are! As long as I don't try to have kids, get married, or buy a house, I can kind of just go along my merry way. Since I don't need to stockpile hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to do all of these things, I am free to work a job that lets me spend most days sitting by my fireplace with a laptop and a cat resting upon my person. I get a lot of sleep and a lot of exercise. I eat out at a pace that would astonish and appall my late, frugality-as-an-art-form father. I consume a lot of media, but actively and with intention. I do a lot of reading.

I don't really have a future; but the rub is, I probably wouldn't have a future *anyway*. What I do have is an enviable present and a reasonably stable near-future. If that's what makes me a perpetual adolescent, well, I'll take it.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:47 AM on December 2, 2014 [37 favorites]


an extended adolescence lifestyle

I always get slightly confused by this statement, since it's usually used to describe a lifestyle much more typical of one's early to mid 20s than "adolescence". When I think of my teen years, I don't think of partying all night. I think of my mom giving me endless shit over the notion that some of my friends might smoke cigarettes. I think of carefully hoarding any money my parents gave me to see some nothing band play at the one all-ages place in town. Of owning a dozen CDs, mostly Christmas and birthday presents or mixes burned and distributed by friends.

When I think of crazy shows and drugs and staying out all night and hangovers, I think of being 23. It's interesting that, if one chooses, one can keep doing that stuff well into middle age, but eh, if that's really what you want, OK.

Anytime I hear people lament our modern "extended adolescence", I assume they're nostalgic for a time when people were married by 20 and getting down to the business of bourgie teatotaling Upright Protestant Work Ethic life. In other words, a time that was either oppressive or nonexistent, or some combination of the two.
posted by Sara C. at 8:47 AM on December 2, 2014 [34 favorites]


(I really shouldn't be anywhere after 11 pm but my own house).

What, do you live in a really bad neighborhood? :-)

More importantly, did you stop watching PG films when you got access to R rated ones? Stop drinking soft drinks when you got access to alcohol? Stop kissing when sex became an option?

Life is spent gaining new perspectives and pleasures. Doesn't mean you have to give up the old ones.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:53 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


The shortest explanation is, "Kids today, amirite?"

Interesting. I dd not get that out of this article at all. As they say, YMMV.
posted by josher71 at 8:54 AM on December 2, 2014


I have heard this tune before.

Oh well a young man
ain't got nothin' in the world these days
I said a young man
ain't got nothin' in the world these days

Well you know in the old days
when a young man was a strong man
all the people they stepped back
when a young man walked by

But you know nowadays
it's the old man
he's got all the money
and a young man
ain't got nothin' in the world these days
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:54 AM on December 2, 2014


Stop kissing when sex became an option?

Oh, I dated this guy!
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:56 AM on December 2, 2014 [31 favorites]


I detect a rather reactionary strain in a lot of Vice articles

For some reason, the zeitgeist has forgotten that Vice started as the worst hipster garbage imaginable. Casual bigotry and reactionary politics disguised as Devil's Advocacy, with a style that somehow managed to be both vapid and cynical at the same time. They've nominally improved with their recent makeover into "documentary" content, but it's important to remember that they're still nasty reactionary garbage.
posted by Sara C. at 8:57 AM on December 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


What I meant by that is that I tend to think that having another drink or ordering terrible food that will give me heartburn is a really bad idea after certain hours. YMMV, obviously, but I never feel very good about myself the next day.

Exceptions are made for staying up late to catch up on TVD or Sleepy Hollow, obv.
posted by Kitteh at 8:58 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


The 10th Regiment of Foot: I wonder just how many "lost generations" there have been in history.

All of 'em, son.

All of 'em.
 
posted by Herodios at 8:59 AM on December 2, 2014 [10 favorites]


This is a terrific article. Thanks for posting.

With respect to the notes about how most of our parents were basically handed adulthood, I often think about whether or not I'm going to pursue raising a family.

This leads to, if I were to, what would it require to at least give them a good, healthy upbringing aside from a positive emotional support? Making no assumptions about the offspring, I assume I'll want a good sized house, and ample, diverse food and other resources.

Meaning: a lot of money, and probably enough to put my future wife and I in the global top 5% of income earners.

Given the crapshoot it is of becoming a 'successful' 'adult', putting the work and the life into building the relationships and obtaining resources for raising a 'decent' family seems rather risky, and practically selfish.

So I am slowly weening myself off that track, and exploring interests while working full time, which is quite fun. Previous to now I had been a workaholic, and in school up to 2012. Looking at games, music, a bit of clubbing (but not that much, certainly not as much as noted in the article). Hoping to do some cross-ocean travel sometime soon. I make monthly donations to local charity, and eventually I want to get back to civic engagement (especially on the public transportation and general sustainability fronts).

The potential is there to have a fun life, and I have every intention of doing so.

Cheers all
posted by JoeXIII007 at 9:00 AM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


44, Married, Grown Kids, in Debt beyond belief and lost my Job Friday... YOU GO Kids don't fucking work for the man. Make consumerism DIE. Didn't read the article and I probably won't but I agree with anyone not getting on the treadmill. If I knew now what I know (yea yea) When my youngest child was born I would have started a self sufficient farm and smoked pot and sold honey... The kids would have seen me more and been happier with a father that didn't LOATHE his job which once I was too old and not working 80-90 hours a week and only getting paid for 40 I was told I cost to much...
posted by mrgroweler at 9:03 AM on December 2, 2014 [22 favorites]


Yep, we are! As long as I don't try to have kids, get married, or buy a house, I can kind of just go along my merry way. Since I don't need to stockpile hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to do all of these things, I am free to work a job that lets me spend most days sitting by my fireplace with a laptop and a cat resting upon my person. I get a lot of sleep and a lot of exercise. I eat out at a pace that would astonish and appall my late, frugality-as-an-art-form father. I consume a lot of media, but actively and with intention. I do a lot of reading.

As the age-at-marriage thing upthread suggests, this is all so class marked. I mean, I know single working class people who don't "need" to stockpile all that money, but they don't have access to the kinds of jobs you can do in comfort in a nice home of your own so they can't afford to travel, eat meals out, etc. Being a "middle" class person who can live a comfortable life or have a child is a problem - and the fact that so many of us don't want kids obscures some of the issue, because we can continue to consume/travel/eat out/etc since we don't have kids.

Also, there's a limited number of "I have two gigs this weekend, one at 3am and I'm happy" jobs out there in the world - this idea that we all could, if we tried hard enough, find fulfilling and life-sustaining gigs rather than workadaddy jobs with spreadsheets or pushing a broom - well, ask yourself where those jobs even are? Who has knowledge of them? Who has what connections? What does it take to get into that world? And again, how many of those jobs are there? Enough for everyone? Not likely. It's the good old neoliberal model of the self which says that if we all just hustled enough we could all have great, low-hours, sufficiently paying jobs through which we'd be self-actualized.

I know several working class parents who are raising kids in hair-raisingly difficult circumstances, working lousy jobs and living in below-code and/or precarious housing. This is a different calculus, one that is almost opaque to me because I came from a background where while I might end up as a bank teller, admin or other pink collar worker, I was unlikely to end up scrabbling for fast food employment unless something went gravely wrong.

"Adulthood" gets defined differently by class and region. It's reasonable to want to become an "adult". If large groups are held back from the markers of "adulthood" by social inequality, that's a bad thing, even if you don't like the way "adulthood" is defined.

"Adults" of different classes have access to different pleasures and opportunities and face different risks.
posted by Frowner at 9:03 AM on December 2, 2014 [40 favorites]


W/R/T my previous comment, I definitely don't think people aren't struggling financially, but I do think that attributing that to a 'bad economy' is buying into a false narrative: "You should be thankful to have a job at all in this economy!"

That's a convenient argument for employers to underpay and take away workers' bargaining power.
posted by rock swoon has no past at 9:04 AM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


So, Mrs. Machine and I have reproduced. This is not a position I expected to be in six years ago, but, well, life changes you sometimes. I am fortunate to have a skill that is in demand (software development), and to have had a wife who supports me and makes it possible for me to be more ambitious and energetic in my career than I ever was previously. I think this effect has been overlooked somewhat. Before I met her, I fit into the "extended adolescence" mold entirely too well, but after we met and married, with her support I pursued much more elevated career goals, and I have hit them.

It's weird, but "finding the right person" can be a turning point in your life in many ways... it certainly was for me.
posted by sonic meat machine at 9:04 AM on December 2, 2014 [9 favorites]


Re age of marriage in Ye Olde Historical Tymes, everything I've ever read has made it clear that marriage in one's late teens or early 20s is a phenomenon of the post-WW2 industrial economy/nuclear family lifestyle, and is in no way How It's Always Been. Most of the stats I've seen on this are European in scope, but, yeah, there is really seriously no reason to think that marriage circa age 20 is "normal", and later marriage is some kind of perversion of the natural order of things.

My guess is that specific numbers on this will probably vary across cultures, but, yeah, in general we can't assume that the 50s in the US and affluent West is in any way typical.
posted by Sara C. at 9:07 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Those of you pointing out that you've chosen not to work in a heavy corporate job and get a mortgage and may live modestly but are able to travel, you're kind of missing the point - the point is that it was also easier to do exactly that in the past, because there were more jobs that were exactly that kind of low-key but still paid a livable wage. In fact, some of those lower-key jobs would have let you afford more. For every person who went to college and pursued a high-level career and had a big house and took fancy vacations, there were several more people who were all "hell with it, I'm gonna just do a trade or a couple of part-time gigs or something" because "a trade or a couple part-time gigs" was still enough for you to own a home. Maybe a more modest one, but you could still own.

But then we off-sourced a lot of the lower-level jobs and people are scrambling for what few ones are left, and the very full-time job that people were trying to get in order to have a HIGH status house is what people need to get ANY house.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:10 AM on December 2, 2014 [34 favorites]


W/R/T my previous comment, I definitely don't think people aren't struggling financially, but I do think that attributing that to a 'bad economy' is buying into a false narrative: "You should be thankful to have a job at all in this economy!"

That's a convenient argument for employers to underpay and take away workers' bargaining power.


I agree with this, and I think it's only going to get worse.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like every time I hear someone say they're doing ok, they're writing software. Seems to be pretty much the only non-celebrity thing America values anymore.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:12 AM on December 2, 2014 [11 favorites]


Ha! I'm reading a Russian novel now where the about-to-turn-thirty protagonist is doing the exact same thing, avoiding responsibilities (and his nagging uncle, who wants him to focus on productive work) and either getting drunk with his worthless friends or lying around his apartment feeling sorry for himself. The novel was published in 1847....

Right? I've been reading a lot of 19th century newspapers lately and in them, "kids these days" is a notable and not-uncommon theme. The wardrobe, modes of transportation, and flavor of petty crime are all different, but the sentiment was the same. It's not in any way a new thing. There are probably ancient scrolls buried somewhere that lament a younger generation's lassitude and lack of moral fiber.

I am about to turn 40 and am just now getting married and 'settling down'.

I'm 41 and getting divorced! It's scary on both ends. Settling down is supposed to be comforting, but comes with its own fears and at least you (ostensibly) have someone to work through those fears with. Coming out the other end and rebuilding after 40 -- when by most accounts you are a grown-up, whether you feel like it or not -- well, it makes you very reflective, I guess, about whether you really ever did grow up after all, because it all feels so overwhelmingly TOO grown-up.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:16 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


When people say, "the economy sucks," they aren't talking about (and generally don't give a shit about) GDP or the Dow or any of that. They mean, "I am struggling," and for many, many people, that is not a made up story.

Yes, but the meme of "the economy sucks" obfuscates the the causes. It makes it sound like it's the weather -- something that sucks for everyone and can't be changed -- when in fact the economy is great, it's just only benefitting a small number of people.
posted by the jam at 9:16 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


They've nominally improved with their recent makeover into "documentary" content, but it's important to remember that they're still nasty reactionary garbage.

A derail, but:

Actually, now that they're basically a media conglomerate, I don't think it's possible to generalize so easily about Vice. Their recent pieces about the bubonic plague in Madagascar, the search for WW2 remains in the Philippines, and some of their coverage of Ferguson (especially the live tweeting by Tim Pool and Alice Speri), for example, have all been worthwhile.

There's a lot of garbage, but some great stuff, too.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:17 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


And again, how many of those jobs are there? Enough for everyone? Not likely.

How many jobs do there need to be? Let's resist the idea that everyone has to have one or more. What if everyone had a basic income, enough for survival, and high incomes were taxed in order to provide it? Then couldn't everyone who wanted to spend a great deal of their time as artists, gardeners, caregivers for their family, or whatever else they felt drawn to? Some people would still spend all their time in the pub, and that's fine. Pub owners get rich, their income gets taxed to provide the basic income for the folks in the pub whose purchases make the pub owners rich...sounds sustainable to me.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 9:17 AM on December 2, 2014 [20 favorites]


> What if everyone had a basic income, enough for survival, and high incomes were taxed in order to provide it?

Donald Trump just woke up screaming.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:23 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Maybe it's just me, but it seems like every time I hear someone say they're doing ok, they're writing software. Seems to be pretty much the only non-celebrity thing America values anymore.

Well, are you judging by the Internet? Because software people disproportionately use the Internet in its more active forms (MeFi, Reddit, forums, etc.). People who are doing well as pipefitters or construction foremen or commissioned salespeople or nurse practitioners or underwater welders? Not so much. Even at software companies, for example, there are likely to be more salespeople than software developers, and the good salespeople are paid more than programmers in many cases.

Then, too, there's the fact (unavoidable) that people like me write replacements for low-key, inefficient jobs that used to be done by people. Ever looked at a medical charting application? Thousands of data points networked together between the different pieces of a healthcare system... all of that would've been done by a horde of medical records specialists and stored in vast batteries of filing cabinets previously. Now a significant medical chart application might be maintained by a team of thirty or fifty programmers and service dozens of hospitals and medical providers.
posted by sonic meat machine at 9:24 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think we're going to have to reach third-world-like levels of income inequality before people admit that jobs are not the end-all in an increasingly automated world where labor is less and less needed. It's not a concept our culture is going to let go of easily.
posted by the jam at 9:31 AM on December 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


Fuck this noise. I'm going to lead platoons through virtual wars, rent, and experience life away until some Outside Context Problem (possibly climate or economy based) indicates that a change of scenery is in order and as fast as I can make that happen.

Maturity would seem to kill the fun and send up a hell of a resource footprint to boot.
posted by Slackermagee at 9:32 AM on December 2, 2014


> So I completely understand why anyone younger might look at these kind of obligations, their potential earning power, the bloodsuckers looking to profit off of their aspirations, and come to the same conclusion.

If I were in high school or university now, staring down the barrels of everything coming our way, I'd be drunk or high off my ass ALL. THE. TIME. You might as well enjoy yourself. It's later than you think.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:32 AM on December 2, 2014 [7 favorites]


We had the same discussion 6 years ago.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:33 AM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


It often pays to RTFA. For instance, I would agree with this:

A friend of mine told me recently that he'd read it would be impossible to make Big now, because 30-year-olds still do the kind of things teenagers do. It wouldn't be funny or shocking any more to see a grown man buying a pinball table or wearing jeans to the office. It probably wouldn't work even if he were 40 in it.

Or 50, or 60, or beyond. Boomers want to relive their teenage years as much as younger people do, if not more so.

Also, I would think that a little closer attention to RTFA would make it clear that what this Vice writer is talking about is not "fucking kids nowadays amirite" at all. He makes it very clear that what he is talking about is "the insane housing market and the faltering economy." There is some stupid tendentious moralizing thrown in at the end but that seems to me to have been more a matter of a lack of anything else to say (other than "try another plan") than a well-considered puritanical beatdown.
posted by blucevalo at 9:36 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's not really that hard to understand. If we're no longer guaranteed good long-term jobs with a college education, the cost of raising a child requires 2 full-time "middle class" incomes, and housing costs are astronomical everywhere it's desirable to live, what's the incentive to behave like the people who had all those things? The boomer ideal of adulthood (already a far cry from their parents' version) died when they pulled up the ladder behind them. Live as you wish to live, my friends, for those before us sold our future.
posted by Lighthammer at 9:40 AM on December 2, 2014 [13 favorites]


I think we're going to have to reach third-world-like levels of income inequality before people admit that jobs are not the end-all in an increasingly automated world where labor is less and less needed.

I sincerely doubt anyone who matters will give a shit about inequality by the time we get there.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:42 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I lucked into a good job and I have a good head on my shoulders. I'm just perpetually single because no one's all that interested in me. Stop scolding, I'm trying!
posted by naju at 9:46 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also, I would think that a little closer attention to RTFA would make it clear that what this Vice writer is talking about is not "fucking kids nowadays amirite" at all. He makes it very clear that what he is talking about is "the insane housing market and the faltering economy."

He also faults the "party all the time" people for being just as foolish in their choices. Chief among them is still thinking that you have to live in London, a place that is in many ways a shell of what people imagine it to be or what it once was. ( See also) That applies to Brits but it equally applies to Americans who think Manhattan's West Village is still where the all the cool people hang out and Soho is full of struggling artists.

If you think you need a big house and kids to be happy or if you think you need to live in London Zone 1 to be happy - either way you should reflect whether you are just doing what others told you you should do.
posted by vacapinta at 9:49 AM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


A college class-mate is a (decently) successful music journalist, so I get to see snippets of her crazy adult life on Facebook and when I catch her name in a byline. She's a real, responsible adult who still lives an awesome, exciting life.

What I'm saying is that 9-5 (or 8-5 with an unpaid "personal hour" for lunch, razzum frazzum) is not the only thing that makes you a responsible adult. Working your crazy hours on exciting assignments and meeting deadlines still qualifies you as a responsible adult in my eyes.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:50 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's not really that hard to understand. If we're no longer guaranteed good long-term jobs with a college education, the cost of raising a child requires 2 full-time "middle class" incomes, and housing costs are astronomical everywhere it's desirable to live, what's the incentive to behave like the people who had all those things?

Yeah I get it, it just feels like we have this discussion presented every 10 years or so like it's a new trend.
posted by Hoopo at 9:51 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yes, but the meme of "the economy sucks" obfuscates the the causes. It makes it sound like it's the weather -- something that sucks for everyone and can't be changed -- when in fact the economy is great, it's just only benefitting a small number of people.

That's ridiculous, though. The whole point of economies in classical economic theory (thanks to Utilitarianism) is to benefit as many people as possible. If you don't accept that, then you'd have to stipulate what the point of any economic system is as a precondition to evaluating it.

In other words, "economies" in a generic sense can't be described as "great" if you don't first stipulate what the goals of the "economies" are and then base your evaluation on those criterion. If you don't explicitly set the goals first, you can't really evaluate whether a particular economy is "great" or "awful." If the goal of an economy is to make a few people very rich at the expense of many others, then maybe you could argue our economy is "great"; but deciding what the point of economies is in the first place is a social and political matter. You evaluate things like economic theories using meta criteria--not within the internal logic of the theories themselves! The idea you can make a qualitative claim about an economy without defining conceptually external evaluation criteria (i.e. criteria external to the economic theory/system you're testing) is conceptually incoherent. You can't make qualitative claims about any economic system in practice without stipulating first what the specific goals of the system should be, and those aren't hard quantitative measures, but qualitative ones that depend entirely on what your social and political priorities are.

There is no way to take the political and social dimensions of economics out of economic theory; economics began as a specialized discipline within the field of ethical philosophy, and it will never be a pure hard science that doesn't require meta-systems in which to evaluate the claims of economists against the practical effects of economic theory in the context of more general human values and social consequences. It's pretending that economics is more about mindless mathematical processes than about right and wrong to characterize any economy as "great" without discussing what precisely it's supposedly so great at doing.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:52 AM on December 2, 2014 [9 favorites]


A friend of mine told me recently that he'd read it would be impossible to make Big now, because 30-year-olds still do the kind of things teenagers do.

This person has a really bad memory of what Big was about. The kid in Big is like nine or ten, not a teenager. And all the jokes in Big are based around how a child would approach living life as an adult. He goes to work for a toy company. He gets a big loft that he fills with like trampolines and stuff. He eats sugary cereal. Lots of jokes about sex, since kids are not sexual and yet the character in the movie ends up with a girlfriend and has to navigate that.

I mean I guess 30 year olds nowadays are more likely to still think toys are fun and sometimes indulge in cartoons and junk food, but otherwise it pretty much holds up.

There was also Thirteen Going On Thirty more recently, which riffed on the ideas in Big, and was fine, and did fine.
posted by Sara C. at 9:54 AM on December 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


Somehow I have heard all this stuff before.

When I graduated from university in the mid-1990's, the unemployment rate in Canada was 10.4% (9.1% in British Columbia), and the only job I could get was as a line cook. I left the country, and it took my 20-something friends years before they got on the professional ladder.

The US managed to escape the brutal, brutal economic conditions of the early 90's earlier than Canada, but for formerly blue collar workers and also blacks in the US, the hard times have never stopped for 25 years now, except for the real estate bubble-fueled mid-00's.

So the perception of aimlessness is perhaps class-based.

Anyway, Millenials and Gen Y did not invent "extended adolescence." Erik Erikson described the phenomenon in the 1960's, making Gen Y or whatever the third generation to experience aimlessness.

Things will get better!
posted by Nevin at 9:56 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Americans who think Manhattan's West Village is still where the all the cool people hang out and Soho is full of struggling artists.

These people are all boring old squares who live in remote suburbs in the Midwest.

People who actually live in New York, or near New York, or aspire to, or are even vaguely plugged into that sort of scene, think Brooklyn is the place to be. They're wrong, in that Brooklyn is now mostly hedge fund people, and as far as I can tell the real place for struggling artists and cool people is Philadelphia or actually not in the Northeast at all.

The people who think of the avant-garde and imagine the West Village are the grownups this article is lamenting the extinction of.
posted by Sara C. at 10:01 AM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


this idea that we all could, if we tried hard enough, find fulfilling and life-sustaining gigs rather than workadaddy jobs with spreadsheets or pushing a broom - well, ask yourself where those jobs even are?

This is the opposite of my point. I am not claiming that there's enough room in my area for everyone to pile in. There isn't. For most of my friends, working in a 110dB environment until sunrise would be a nightmare, and that's only the start of it. What I *am* saying is that I will not accept being judged an "adolescent" for finding a space for myself in the world where I can get paid for doing what I love.

But as for your point? Maybe there aren't enough small gigs out there for everyone to get by, but it seems to me that there aren't enough corporate office jobs or broom-pushing jobs out there for people to get by, either. Entry into the informal economy is not easy or straightforward, and you really have to be creative, hustle, and work hard to get anywhere. And even if you do all of those things, many people who try never make a dime. But the formal economy has failed us too. My expensive degrees are never, ever going to pay for themselves doing my licensed profession.
posted by 1adam12 at 10:10 AM on December 2, 2014


I have always found it amusing that "hustle" carries both the definition, "obtain by forceful action or persuasion" and, "a fraud or swindle".
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:23 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


and the fact that so many of us don't want kids obscures some of the issue, because we can continue to consume/travel/eat out/etc since we don't have kids.

I remember a few years back reading about some country with humane maternity and paternity leave (France? Norway? It doesn't matter) and I remember thinking "huh, if we had that here, maybe I'd consider having kids."

I've been staunchly child-free my adult life, so this revelation can as a bit of a surprise. I mean really, all it would really take was reasonable maternity leave? Me?

I guess so.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:35 AM on December 2, 2014 [9 favorites]


But then we off-sourced a lot of the lower-level jobs and people are scrambling for what few ones are left, and the very full-time job that people were trying to get in order to have a HIGH status house is what people need to get ANY house.

I was thinking about this the other day. You rarely hear folks who talk about BUYING AMERICAN blame the companies which choose another small fraction for the bottom line over hiring local people, it's always "cheap Chinese crap" like the Chinese have forced this upon us. That it's inevitable that corporations utterly screw workers, paying them as little as possible, hiring as few as possible, paying their leaders as much as possible. Like corporations are some wild beast we have to live our lives being careful of, a beast which cannot be controlled or domesticated. That this is the natural order of things.

Be interesting to know when we learn those things. I remember being taught to bring enough for the whole class, and not being allowed to grab five cookies, so that four other kids got none. Yet as adults the cookies aren't even on the tray, and we bicker about the crumbs if we're lucky, and many others are too short to even reach the plate those crumbs are on.

To the article: Provide people with the opportunity, and adults will magically reappear. "Bootstraps" are not opportunity, and "bootstraps" are the only route available to many.
posted by maxwelton at 10:37 AM on December 2, 2014 [16 favorites]


Yes, but the meme of "the economy sucks" obfuscates the the causes. It makes it sound like it's the weather -- something that sucks for everyone and can't be changed -- when in fact the economy is great, it's just only benefitting a small number of people.

Oh, I think there are actually plenty of instances of people hinting at just where the cause of the sucky economy lies. why, just four posts before this very FPP, there's another post listing the ten most offensively decadent homes in the world, and the comments therein seem to all be scornful rather than aspirational.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:47 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]




What if everyone had a basic income, enough for survival, and high incomes were taxed in order to provide it?

For a yearly basic income for all Americans of $20,000 the total cost would be 6.32 trillion dollars. US government income for 2014 was 6.0 trillion dollars, and the GDP was estimated to be 17.4 trillion dollars.

In other words, I wouldn't hold my breath on that happening any time soon.
posted by happyroach at 11:25 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


In the United States, you look at the guy that lives in the mansion on the hill, and you think, you know, one day, if I work really hard, I could live in that mansion. In Ireland, people look up at the guy in the mansion on the hill and go, one day, I'm going to get that bastard.

That's a really insightful and funny quote, but I wonder how true it still is in 2014? It seems like people are catching on now that the system is rigged and the "American dream" is a myth. The problem I think is that a lot of people have the wrong ideas on who to blame -- the lack of good jobs and class mobility is not, for example, the fault of Obamacare, or immigration, or feminism.
posted by Asparagus at 11:34 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Nevin: "Things will get better!"

Enjoy your delusion. Unless you're speaking about the 0.01%. People like me? It won't be long before we're eating out of dumpsters and thankful for what we find.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 11:36 AM on December 2, 2014


The problem I think is that a lot of people have the wrong ideas on who to blame -- the lack of good jobs and class mobility is not, for example, the fault of Obamacare, or immigration, or feminism.

Here I will agree. And part of the problem is that the president most at fault for this was also ridiculously popular, is being praised to the skies for another foreign policy achievement, and it's also been a generation since he was president and our memories are short.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:56 AM on December 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


For a yearly basic income for all Americans of $20,000 the total cost would be 6.32 trillion dollars. US government income for 2014 was 6.0 trillion dollars, and the GDP was estimated to be 17.4 trillion dollars.

For one thing, you're going to redirect government spending, so you don't have to find all of that as extra money.

For another, GDP is "paying" 35%, an entirely arbitrary number, to "support" government (and by extension, the society that makes earning $17.4T possible--a more accurate way of putting it is the cost right now of our broken society is 35% of GDP). There is no practical reason that cannot be a higher percentage, say 50%. Now you have $8.5T, a small price for a less-broken society.

For yet another, about 10% of our population is below the age of majority. You can probably shave some off the outright payouts to a combination of reduced payment to parents of that $20K for children under the majority age...say $10K per child with the other $10K put into trust for the child's eventual retirement.

Furthermore, nearly all of that $6T will be injected right back into the economy directly.
posted by maxwelton at 12:10 PM on December 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


On Obamacare, we'll see what impact it has on the number and importance of "good" jobs. On the one hand, it creates a huge incentive to limit your employees to 25 hours a week and your workforce of 30+ hour staff to under 49 -- that's bad for "good jobs." On the other hand, by making insurance of some sort available to a good number of people who previously had no access to insurance, it may reduce the importance of having a "good" (i.e., with benefits) job to begin with.

Regarding immigration, it's almost in bad faith to argue that the impact of extremely-high-skill immigrants is anything but good; every one of those immigrants creates several (at least) and several hundred (in the best case) "good jobs" available to Americans in their wake. But when you take the conversation to ordinarily-skilled and unskilled immigrants, it's a much harder question. For every tech zillionaire saying "give me H1Bs and L1s without limit" you have a 50-year-old American programmer or engineer saying that those H1Bs and L1s have deprived American employers of any incentive to hire and retrain him for new technologies at a living wage. On unskilled labor we we have such an appalling rate of unemployment, out-of-workforce status, and underemployment of less-well-educated Americans the "jobs Americans won't do" argument doesn't make any sense on its face -- although it could be that they have access to income support programs that immigrants cannot access, so the problem is so much one of supply as one of demand.

"Feminism" as a bare ideology doesn't have any economic impacts. But feminists as hallowed as Elizabeth Warren have examined the move from single-earner to two-earner families and uncovered the significant extent to which it simply ended up with the typical family running harder on a treadmill but making no more progress: family budgets for the same hedonic and essential basket of goods, especially housing, skyrocketed, absorbing the extra income, and the family's economic position became more perilous, as it "spent" (as it were) the earning power of the wife which the single-earner family used to hold in reserve against hard times.
posted by MattD at 12:14 PM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


No kids to feel guilty about, no mortgages to pay off, decent enough healthcare to keep them alive, jobs that let them ​scrape the money they need to feed, house and wash themselves, and only the screams of their bosses and the worried phone calls of their families to tear them away from the noble pursuit of getting on one.

The author seems to live on Bizarro Earth.
posted by anemone of the state at 12:23 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


As the age-at-marriage thing upthread suggests, this is all so class marked. I mean, I know single working class people who don't "need" to stockpile all that money, but they don't have access to the kinds of jobs you can do in comfort in a nice home of your own so they can't afford to travel, eat meals out, etc. Being a "middle" class person who can live a comfortable life or have a child is a problem - and the fact that so many of us don't want kids obscures some of the issue, because we can continue to consume/travel/eat out/etc since we don't have kids.

Oh it's absolutely class-marked. My response was simply meant as evidence that not all of the people opting out of "traditional" adulthood have instead adopted constant blackout drinking in its place. And not all of the people who've opted out have done so blindly and flailingly--some of us made the choice with our eyes wide open, and that includes being aware that it *was* even a choice for us.

Five years ago my options were "struggle to feed yourself" or "struggle to feed yourself." I'm tremendously lucky that my bad luck and the endless layoffs stopped long enough for me to have any period where the choice became "thrive alone" or "struggle with a family" at all.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:33 PM on December 2, 2014


Condolences. The bums lost. My advice is to do what your parents did; get a job, sir. The bums will always lose.
posted by GregorWill at 12:42 PM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


Gregor, I'm going to take the charitable stance of assuming you're quoting something ironically because that is the only thing preventing me from going Populist-Class-Warfare on you and asking whether you've been reading any of the above comments lamenting the sheer dearth of the very jobs that the "bums" should be trying to get.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:49 PM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


where is the odd world where people who have kids and mortgates and real jobs stop acting like adolescents and drunks and grow up?
posted by pyramid termite at 12:49 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm going to take the charitable stance of assuming you're quoting something ironically

He's quoting the Big Lebowski. Whether he did so ironically or not, I suppose only he can say for sure, though I would guess anyone who would quote that movie would not be on the side of Mr. Lebowski, there.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:56 PM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


There is not much market for articles saying "things are basically OK, at least compared to how they have always been", is there?
posted by thelonius at 12:58 PM on December 2, 2014


> I'm going to take the charitable stance of assuming you're quoting something ironically

He's quoting the Big Lebowski.


I wish people would stop doing this. If you have something to say, say it. If you don't, don't drop some quote that's vaguely relevant in your own head into the thread just so you can say you were there. And if you do feel the pressing need to quote something, for fuck's sake let people know you're quoting something. No, we haven't all seen and memorized the Big Lebowski.
posted by languagehat at 1:01 PM on December 2, 2014 [18 favorites]


The economic factors are very important in this discussion, definitely. But I can't help but wonder if there's something else happening on top of that. I feel like most people in my cohort have aimless life paths. That's the people who are underemployed AND plenty of the people with solid careers. No one has a blueprint to follow anymore. I think the internet fragmented the monoculture and the traditional routes our parents took. Dating became convoluted and difficult. People are more aware of the cost/benefit calculus for everything - marriage, kids, the sacrifices of climbing the corporate ladder. But we're left with not much to replace it. It's scary. It's not so much "extended adolescence" as it is "seeing through adulthood" in a way. We know too much now.
posted by naju at 1:01 PM on December 2, 2014 [11 favorites]


It's weird that a new generation would do things different from the previous generation. That has probably Never Happened Before in History, I bet.
posted by Tevin at 1:02 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


His email is @thugclive. And that alone is enough evidence to damn him as a wanker.

There's a huge difference between "I spend my nights puking in the club toilet" and "my whole generation does this and needs to grow up." The author has a problem with his life, but I don't see much evidence that this problem extends to the world.

Also, I have EmpressCallipygos' back when she does go all Populist-Class -War in the thread.
posted by kanewai at 1:08 PM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Oh good, I was worried we would miss the monthly hand-wringing article about the state of This Generation, but it's nice to see November's snuck in over the line. I look forward to December's, presumably tied in to said generation spending too much on video game systems as Christmas presents or some such.
posted by Wandering Idiot at 1:58 PM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


At least this guy has the good grace to accuse his generation of wasting itself on nihilistic boozing. It might easily be empirically refuted by walking through young striver neighborhoods in some cities where the night fauna is not dominated by the Northern besotted douchebag species. But at least if it were true, he'd have a point.

I come across enough critiques of millenials calling them out for shunning the house in the 'burbs, the car and the two kids, and instead indulging in such affectations as the bike and the weekly latte, and I have to wonder just how ignorant the critics have to be.

Dropping 100K on a house, or 10K on a car is not a sign of maturity. It's a sign of financial overconfidence. And a weekly latte can really help get through a time of renting a room with a futon 2 blocks from Bedbug Square.
posted by ocschwar at 2:10 PM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


um, pedantic self-correction: those criterion criteria

Our culture and the information fire-hose effect has debased all our traditional, more stable social identities. We don't really have any new, appealing, stable social identities left to replace them with. So a lot of people line up as either hyper-cynical operators with negative self-identities based on the idea that they're better than all the other suckers at seeing through the sham (sociopaths probably prefer to operate in this kind of identity chaos, actually, since it's their native habitat having no stable, true self-identities of their own), while others become desperately insecure about who they are. So we're having a monster identity crisis. That's my crack-pot, thumbnail sketch on the cultural dynamics in play.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:29 PM on December 2, 2014 [7 favorites]


I'm 32. My wife is 40. We have a comfortable apartment with a small mortgage, two cats and we spend the majority of our time playing video games. We don't have kids. Don't want them. We'd rather retain our freedom. I've thought a bit how we live like upscale college students. The only reason I can think of to feel bad about it is that society doesn't approve. I'm now old enough and mature enough to say "fuck them" to these strawmen. It's my life I'll live it however the hell I want.
posted by Talez at 2:35 PM on December 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


Oh and part of it is the connection you can get through the Internet. If you were the nerd in your home town of 300 it was either love football or be alone. When you can talk to other nerds quickly and easily and forge social connections outside the immediate community it makes it far easier to say fuck you to the expectations of that immediate community.
posted by Talez at 2:38 PM on December 2, 2014 [7 favorites]


Then they'll tell you that you're sick for seeking social validation through the screen. But here's a favourite anyway for a particularly insightful comment that resonated with my youthful experiences sans interwebs. yes, you may indeed get off my lawn
posted by infini at 2:40 PM on December 2, 2014


...said the 25 year old Vice staff writer who previously offered such offerings as 10 Ways to Make Clubbing Less Shit in 2014 and Five More Footballers Who Are Hipsters.
posted by batfish at 3:25 PM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't think there ever was anything special about "settling down", getting married, buying a house, and having kids by 25 or whatever. It's just what people did. And even if you weren't all gung-ho for it, you kinda got shoehorned into it anyway.

Why are we talking about this now? Is it the economy? Changing social values? Facebook? Or is this some ages-old dilemma that 19th-century Russians wrote about? I don't think it really matters. The narrative of "settling down", whatever that meant in whatever age you happened to live in, is the only real narrative the human race has ever come up with.

Sure, there are other archetypes, extreme cases. People with exciting or dreadful lives, significant people who accomplished great things, free spirits who did what they wanted, etc. And these are the people we write books and tell stories and make movies about. But ultimately, they're defined by their nonconformance to the golden mean which is "settling down." So if you're someone who can't or won't "settle down" and you're not a great artist or civil rights leader or billionaire tycoon, you really don't have a narrative. You're basically fucked. Your narrative becomes a narrative of no-narrative. And you either drink yourself into oblivion or you don't; it's your call.

Settling down is not some great grand thing we should all aspire to do. It's just that the human race has never really bothered to come up with anything else.
posted by evil otto at 6:26 PM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


(Try being an artist who settled down; kind of awkward narrative there, too, evil otto. Although I kind of think Flaubert may have had the right idea there...)
posted by saulgoodman at 6:55 PM on December 2, 2014


I'm 32. My wife is 40. We have a comfortable apartment with a small mortgage, two cats and we spend the majority of our time playing video games. We don't have kids. Don't want them. We'd rather retain our freedom. I've thought a bit how we live like upscale college students. The only reason I can think of to feel bad about it is that society doesn't approve. I'm now old enough and mature enough to say "fuck them" to these strawmen. It's my life I'll live it however the hell I want.

Why hello there, lifestyle twin! We only have one cat though.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:56 AM on December 3, 2014


No, we haven't all seen and memorized the Big Lebowski.

You're in the wrong thread, brother.
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 5:18 AM on December 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


I turned 18 in 1996, and was convinced at the time that the "real world" wasn't worth living in if adult life consisted of busting my hump to make rich assholes richer while getting paid just enough to keep me on the treadmill and hoping for a shot at a better deal.

And yet here I am, busting my ass to make rich assholes richer so I can pay the bills while writing yet another novel. Sometimes I suspect I should have just killed myself while I was still young and pretty enough for my passing to be "tragic" instead of pathetic.
posted by starbreaker at 7:28 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's a difference between settling down and growing up... lots of people do one without the other, and it's gotten progressively more difficult for the last couple of generations to do either. Handwringing about 30-year olds who like to spend their free time playing video games instead of manicuring their mortgaged lawns immediately puts me in mind of the scumbag baby boomer meme.
posted by usonian at 9:15 AM on December 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Find me one thing in the real world that is as much fun as getting drunk in front of eight straight hours of Skyrim and I'll do that instead. I guarantee that using the last of the paper towels to mop up baby vomit while worrying about that crack in the ceiling that's starting to spread isn't it.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:04 PM on December 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


The author's trouble isn't that he has the choice to settle down and be respectable, but is regretful that he made a different decision, but that he has lost the choice that was readily available to the previous generation.
Regardless of whether you personally would make that choice, and acknowledging social progress that has reduced pressure to do so, by removing the option for people in his cohort, has left those who would have willingly 'settled down' the poorer.
And there are likely many, many people who are unhappy about that, like the author, apparently.
posted by bystander at 12:05 AM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


You know, I've checked off every possible box in the "adulthood" list: I got married, I have a full-time job, I have a house, and a kid. I even have plenty of grey hairs proving that I'm old. I still feel like I belong at the kiddie's table sometimes. Maturity is not some thing you have or don't have.

I think the author is ignoring a simple truth about the past, which is that people did all of these "grown up" things not out of some innate maturity or desire to be adults, but solely because everyone did those things and *could* do those things.

I firmly believe that 90% of people fall into the rest of their lives based on the situations they were in growing up and the opportunities that they encountered. I'm positive that if I had taken on a hobby other than computer programming in my teens — a hobby that also just happens to be a potentially lucrative career — there's no way I would be living my apparently stable and mature existence.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:43 PM on December 6, 2014


Also: ocschwar: "Dropping 100K on a house" where would that even be possible??
posted by Deathalicious at 8:45 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


You can still get houses for under $100K in lots of the US that's not the DC-Boston corridor or the Pacific coast.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:15 PM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


Baltimore has houses not that much more expensive than that. Coworker got a three bedroom rowhouse in a good neighborhood for 125k.
posted by josher71 at 6:29 AM on December 8, 2014


You can still get houses for under $100K in lots of the US that's not the DC-Boston corridor or the Pacific coast.

Which doesn't help if you can't find work there, and most likely the reason you can't find work there is because there are no jobs there and that's why you can get houses for under $100K is because everyone's getting out of town because you can't find work there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:45 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Nah, you can get not-crackhouse houses under 100K in such jobless postindustrial hellscapes as Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, or Dallas/Fort Worth. I just looked.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:16 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Nah, you can get not-crackhouse houses under 100K in such jobless postindustrial hellscapes as Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, or Dallas/Fort Worth. I just looked.

Which still doesn't help the people who are currently living in the DC-Boston Corridor or the Pacific Coast because how much are the moving costs associated with uprooting your entire life?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:27 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


That wasn't really the question, though. The question was where do you find houses at a certain price.
posted by josher71 at 7:42 AM on December 8, 2014


Yeah, I didn't mean to offer any larger arguments about the difficulty of life for young people today. Only to offer an answer to Deathalicious's query, and to respond to your statement.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:46 AM on December 8, 2014


Yeah, you can definitely get houses for under 100k here in Florida, as another data point.

Four bedroom, two bath with a two car garage for $98K in Tampa, even, which is not a "jobless postindustrial wasteland" as far as I know.
posted by misha at 9:20 AM on December 8, 2014


Two points of order:

1. I did not see Deathalicious' query, and for that I apologize for butting in.

2. I did not use the phrase "jobless post-industrial wasteland," and for that I would appreciate not having words put into my mouth.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:26 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I did not use the phrase "jobless post-industrial wasteland," and for that I would appreciate not having words put into my mouth.

This might be a metatalk issue but I didn't see the putting words in your mouth angle at all.
posted by josher71 at 9:48 AM on December 8, 2014


I did not use the phrase "jobless post-industrial wasteland,"

That's a fair cop. Sorry.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:44 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


A house for sub 100k in Atlanta in a reasonably safe neighbourhood is not reality as I know it.
posted by hazyjane at 11:02 PM on December 8, 2014


If you believe realtor.com, one of the zip codes with a fair number of sub-100K houses (30349) has crime rates only marginally higher than Atlanta metro overall (which is still pretty high) and lower than Fulton County in general. It looks, from numbers and not living there, like a pretty normal black middle class area, except that I imagine the jet noise from Hartsfield gets old quickly.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:06 AM on December 9, 2014


Sub 100K houses are not as common as they used to be here in Pittsburgh but they still can be had.
posted by octothorpe at 10:24 AM on December 9, 2014


How much houses cost in different cities is a red herring, though, because for the most part people live where they live, and they don't relocate to a different part of the country for the chance to buy a cheaper house. If you live in New York, the knowledge that houses in Pittsburgh or Dallas are still reasonably priced means nothing.

I do think, however, that this is probably one of the things that drives the "delayed adulthood" concept where you have people in their 30s in major cities who still haven't "settled down", whereas this isn't as much of a phenomenon in smaller cities. Because housing is still relatively affordable, and in general the buy-in to the bourgie lifestyle isn't set quite so high.
posted by Sara C. at 10:35 AM on December 9, 2014


one of the zip codes with a fair number of sub-100K houses (30349) has crime rates only marginally higher than Atlanta metro overall (which is still pretty high) and lower than Fulton County in general.

The especially weird thing about cities, neighborhoods, housing, and all that garbage -- especially if we're talking about middle class white people -- is that there are all these coded ideas about what areas it's OK to live in (largely because of race and class), and those ideas are discussed under terms like "safety" and "good school districts" because it simply isn't polite to say "I don't want to live around a bunch of brown people".

I live in an LA neighborhood that still has plenty of affordable housing. The crime rate is no higher than that of LA County in general, and in my experience of living here is no better or worse than a lot of the other neighborhoods middle class white people like. The schools aren't perfect, but I've seen the scores my neighborhood elementary school gets, and either they're not as bad as you'd think, or the low marks come from metrics where we're obviously getting dinged by the number of ESL students. Which is not going to affect a middle class white kid's experience of going there.

And yet... my neighborhood has (since WW2) been predominantly Hispanic. So you hear the same "safety" and "but what about the school district?" concerns trotted out by middle class whites who wouldn't consider moving here.

Well, great, more for the non-racists, then, I guess.
posted by Sara C. at 10:44 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I actually know quite a few people who moved here to Pittsburgh just for the sake of being able to buy a home. Especially in the tech world, it's pretty common for people to move out to Silicon Valley, make some money and then move back home to be able to afford to get married and raise a family.
posted by octothorpe at 10:56 AM on December 9, 2014


Well, yeah, if you're originally from the area, it might make sense to move back from a more expensive city when you're ready to settle down. I know a lot of people who did a few years in New York or LA or SF and then moved home around the time they got married/pregnant, because it's easier to buy a house, family is close, things are cheaper, you want to raise your kids the way you grew up, etc.

But that's a different thing from announcing that people who live in cities are immature children, and we should all just move to Pittsburgh where the living is easy. I don't want to live in Pittsburgh. I've never been there, have no connection to there, and there's nothing there for me. If you live in Pittsburgh and like it, more power to you. But it's not really germane for the rest of us.
posted by Sara C. at 11:41 AM on December 9, 2014


But that's a different thing from announcing that people who live in cities are immature children, and we should all just move to Pittsburgh where the living is easy.

Um, I do love in a city. Pittsburgh is actually a real city. As are Cleveland, Detroit, Minneapolis, etc. There is actually life and jobs and culture outside of the bubbles of LA, NYC and/or SF.
posted by octothorpe at 11:56 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Octothorpe, if Sara C. apologizes for her word choice, would you then be able to consider her larger point about how telling people to just completely uproot their entire life and moving to some place just for the sake of being able to own a house is maybe not the most practical suggestion for them?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:38 PM on December 9, 2014


Many people relocate because they can get better economic outcomes elsewhere, both to and from coastal cities, and everywhere else. The market exists to allow this, obviously if everywhere was priced the same, there would need to be another way to sort out who gets access to the most desired locations.
I'd suggest that dismissing living in other cities as inconceivable because you have roots in your current one might be a minority view point, as there is a very high level of mobility in the USA.
People make choices for a range of reasons. For some, living in a less costly locale even though it lacks amenity to family and childhood friends trumps high costs but with closeness to those things.
It seems reasonable to me people would choose either, and might make different choices at different times in their lives. Saying that moving cities isn't practical if you desire home ownership is poor advice if your priority *is* more affordable home ownership. Suggesting someone with that priority stay put in an unaffordable housing market is much more likely to be impractical, as they will be less likely to achieve their desired outcome.

Disclosure: I have lived both near and far from my family and coastal cities. I currently trade off a long commute for affordable housing in an overall desirable place outside an expensive coastal city. It meant time at home with young children instead of both parents working full time, a nice house, good, safe schools and community. But that long commute.
posted by bystander at 6:09 PM on December 9, 2014


Bystander, it is the fact that, as you say, "people make choices for a range of reasons" that makes casting dispersion on people being unwilling to move just to afford home ownership to be an unfair thing to do. No one is actually "dismissing" living in other cities as an option, people are only dismissing the perception that home ownership itself is the sole arbiter of "adulthood".

In short - some people, for whatever reason, are willing to move to a city which will allow them to afford to own a home. Other people, for whatever reason, are not. However, both these groups of people are "adults" - they just happen to have made different choices for a range of reasons. And just as you believe it to be unfair for people to cast dispersion on the "less popular" cities, the people who don't wish to move also believe it to be unfair to tie "adulthood" to whether or not you own a home in the first place.

that's all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:18 PM on December 9, 2014


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