The Sticky Fingers of "Emerging Adults"
July 29, 2005 4:08 PM   Subscribe

"A generation ago, adult children visiting their parents' homes might have left with a Tupperware container of lasagna. Today, many of them stealthily make off with toiletries, groceries, sometimes clothing and even furniture. It is an apparently widespread practice, born of a sense of entitlement among young adults - and usually amusedly tolerated by parents - that gives new meaning to the phrase 'home shopping.'" Guilty as charged.
posted by JPowers (55 comments total)
My first reaction: that's crazy.
posted by russilwvong at 4:10 PM on July 29, 2005

I can't even get my mom to give me her crappy '86 BMW.

Ok, reading the article, must learn technique.
posted by snsranch at 4:13 PM on July 29, 2005

I'm guilty as well.

my parents have a whole closet full of stuff (toiletries mainly) they buy at Costco and whenever I'm home visiting them one of the first things I do is raid the closet.
posted by pruner at 4:13 PM on July 29, 2005

My mom goes to Costco and *insists* on giving me a bag of stuff every time I go over there.

Plus, I occasionally steal wine.
posted by interrobang at 4:17 PM on July 29, 2005

When I left home twenty years ago (at 17) I borrowed my dad's truck and he helped me load up the old dinette set, couch, loveseat, and end tables that were in his basement storage, and that was that.

There's no conceivable way I would even consider taking anything out of his house now. I'm just shocked and appalled that people would do that.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:17 PM on July 29, 2005

That's just weird. I can't imagine an adult taking anything from their parents.

That said, my mom DOES like to give me anything she isn't using and thinks I'll have a use for. I have to donate the majority of it to the Kidney Foundation.
posted by BoringPostcards at 4:19 PM on July 29, 2005

My mom practically forces me to relieve her of things in the house...some stuff I've started to take without asking. Mostly books and sentimental junk, but...
posted by schyler523 at 4:19 PM on July 29, 2005

Maybe it's because my parents are by no means wealthy or even upscale, but I would feel like a real shit for pilfering toiletries from my mom. She has grandkids to spend money on now.
posted by 2sheets at 4:25 PM on July 29, 2005

there will be plenty of time to take your parents stuff when they're dead, you ungrateful little self-entitled bastards.
posted by crunchland at 4:29 PM on July 29, 2005

Even when my mom visits me, she brings stuff like that - 409, Tide, toilet scrub brushes... I think, more than just being generous, she's providing me with a subtle hint that I should clean my apartment. Fortunately, I'm just as generous and give all that stuff away. I will not fall to the passive-aggressive!
posted by Moral Animal at 4:32 PM on July 29, 2005

I'm stealing bandwidth just by commenting on this article, which seems to be the electronic equivalent of a marshmello.
posted by buzzman at 4:36 PM on July 29, 2005

I'm stealing bandwidth just by commenting on this article, which seems to be the electronic equivalent of a marshmello.
posted by buzzman at 4:36 PM on July 29, 2005

My roommate often seems to bring home tons of stuff from her parents (I don't know if they foist it on her instead of hauling it to Goodwill, or if she actively snags it) that winds up all over the kitchen, dining room, and closets. It's rarely useful stuff like toiletries and cleaning supplies (though every once in awhile, a half dozen bottles of dishwashing liquid will just mysteriously appear under the sink); it's usually pointless crap like sno-cone machines and lamps that never get plugged in and sets of '70s-era stoneware that have not, in fact, been eaten off of since the Carter administration. We have candles stashed in every nook and cranny too, which I suppose at least keeps everything smelling nice. Still, about 90% of it could be hauled out of the place and I daresay she'd never miss it. (God knows I wouldn't!)

Personally, I can't imagine taking stuff out of my parents' house that I wasn't given explicitly -- granted, they live in other time zone, so that would mean I'd have to fit it in a suitcase, but still. Whether it's their toilet paper or their artwork, it's not mine to take.
posted by scody at 4:38 PM on July 29, 2005

I dont know about stealing stuff, but when I go to my parents they give me stuff and money, and I usually have to insist on not taking it unless I really need it. I would never imagine actually taking anything without their permission.
posted by SirOmega at 4:41 PM on July 29, 2005

When will the Styles section run out of stupid people to write about? It has to be soon, right?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:43 PM on July 29, 2005 [1 favorite]

I have absolutely no problem taking things that my father payed for. For several reasons. 1. He's loaded. I mean, worth somewhere north of a million with more rolling in every day. And this is after his retirement. 2. He's incredibly stingy. 3. I need the stuff and I'm pretty close to broke. 4. The most expensive thing I've ever liberated is a steak or two from the freezer; the rest is toiletries, food, towels, etc. 5. He's lucky that, considering the way he treated me all through childhood, I'm swiping his stuff instead of pumping a couple ounces of buckshot into his skull. 6. The stuff I've taken would be freely given by any halfway decent parent. 7. I don't see stealing from the wealthy - whether they're related to me or not - as necessarily immoral. Now, if you broke into Bill Gates's house, poisoned the guard dogs, and made off with some paintings to finance a trip to the riveria and the purchase of a few kilograms of cocaine, then, yeah, I'd object. But if you need medical care that you can't afford and you scam microsoft into thinking you're an employee so that you can get insurance to cover the care... then no, I've got no problem with it..
posted by Clay201 at 5:20 PM on July 29, 2005

I leave my parents' house with some stuff, sometimes. But they take stuff from me too. In my family if one of us (including sibling and cousins) has something (and isn't using it) that someone else needs it is given freely.

There is one particular dresser-drawer that has been in atleast 4 households.
posted by oddman at 5:22 PM on July 29, 2005

He's lucky that, considering the way he treated me all through childhood, I'm swiping his stuff instead of pumping a couple ounces of buckshot into his skull.

Jesus H. Christ. I suppose going into therapy and just sending him the bills is out of the question?
posted by scody at 5:34 PM on July 29, 2005

My hypothesis: the writer saw "Sideways" and (over?)heard a relevant personal anecdote in pretty short order, then decided it was a phenomenon that needed to be recorded to help define the current generation. I think this hypothesis implies a corollary to the effect that ThePinkSuperhero is wrong--there will always be more of these articles!
posted by kimota at 5:53 PM on July 29, 2005

Oh, lard, it must be a slow newsday...
posted by bobloblaw at 5:54 PM on July 29, 2005

My mother gets insulted if I leave her house empty handed.

"Mom, I don't need anything."
"Here, just take a couple of apples for the kids."
"I already have apples home."
"Then take one for the ride."
"Mom, I live around the corner."

This goes on every day. I just appease her now. Which is why I have sixteen cans of chicken broth in my pantry.
posted by grey_flap at 5:59 PM on July 29, 2005

Surreptitiously taking furniture? Christ; my mom would fucking kill me.
posted by Tlogmer at 6:02 PM on July 29, 2005

Shit, I may be an adult infant but I don't fucking steal from my mother.
posted by Dean Keaton at 6:05 PM on July 29, 2005

I have enough trouble taking the things that my parents offer me, let alone taking things on my own. At 24, I'm able to take care of myself, and the prospect of pilfering my parents' possessions (sorry) is ridiculous. That just smacks of immaturity and a lack of respect. If it's an open give-and-take, that's one thing, but this sounds like "well, I want it, so hey- free stuff!" which is what I'd expect from a toddler, not grown adults.
posted by sysinfo at 6:13 PM on July 29, 2005

What a bunch of spoiled brats.
posted by caddis at 6:32 PM on July 29, 2005

My first reaction: that's crazy.

My first reaction: Times is really scraping for readership.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:38 PM on July 29, 2005

And these are the children that will one day lead the nation.

We're all doomed.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:41 PM on July 29, 2005

I don't take without asking and can't say I know of anyone who does. I am known to use the hair products of people I stay with though. Then again, my mom practically begs to give me her (old, strange, of questionable value) stuff.

Mom - Would you like this shirt I got at the deep discount center?
Me - No, Mom, but thanks for the thought!
Mom - Oh, but it's so cuuuuute on you, I asked the woman at the store and she said it's in style with young women now...
Me - Thanks, Mom.

I should say my mom is like 63 and I think giving me things helps her feel useful and wanted. If so, that's fine with me, though it does make me sad sometimes.
posted by lorrer at 7:04 PM on July 29, 2005

My mom forces furnature, plants, and wall hangings on me.
I help myself to her liquor.
And I beg her, to no avail, for her guns.

What a cool mom!
posted by Balisong at 7:15 PM on July 29, 2005

I don't know about you guys, but my parents are internet-savvy.
posted by blasdelf at 7:16 PM on July 29, 2005

It's very easy to tell the adults from the children in this thread.

/weeps for the future
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:26 PM on July 29, 2005

Is it bad that my parents don't actually have anything that I want?

I like my hovel just fine, thank you.
posted by hototogisu at 7:52 PM on July 29, 2005

...except some of the children in this thread are older than the adults.

/weeps for the past
posted by wendell at 7:54 PM on July 29, 2005

My parents won't let me leave without a suitcase full of food staples and toiletries. All that stuff is much more expensive in Boston than in Toronto and my mom can't bear the thought of my paying the Boston prices. If it makes her happy, let her buy me walnuts and shampoo.

When I'm coming to visit they start watching for sales on stuff I like and buy it for me. This costs me more than it saves me -- with a suitcase full of rice (ok, it's not all rice) there's no way I can take the subway home. I have to get a cab. The cab costs more than the rice, of course.

That said, I wouldn't steal anything that they weren't offering to me. And I'm still a student, living on next to nothing and sometimes actually nothing, which is why they do it. Furthermore, I buy her stuff that I know she woudn't buy for herself, though I'm sure it's not enough to make it even out. I'll even it up when I have a job and she retires, at which point she'll be welcome to my toilet paper.
posted by duck at 7:55 PM on July 29, 2005

Well, I'm a college student myself. Any time I visit home, my mom usually sends me back with a few things like laundry detergent, leftovers, and the like. Especially if it comes in family-size multi-packs, like a dozen bars of soap.

I'm fine with it, it saves me a few precious dollars, and she's happy doing so. Comes from her mother, who, to this day, sends leftovers or sentimental things to her anytime any of us visit.

As for taking without asking, I keep it to a can of coke for the road. Nothing I'd mind if she did to me. If I wanted anything more, I'd ask.
posted by Saydur at 8:06 PM on July 29, 2005

The article is BS. I have never known a woman that would steal used undies.
posted by mcchesnj at 8:55 PM on July 29, 2005

My mom tends to give me my dad's booze. Other than that, I always ask, and have never been refused (except with the jigsaw with the blade you can rotate- they gave me the one with the fixed blade instead and let me take the good C-clamps)
posted by Hactar at 9:01 PM on July 29, 2005

Wow, weird. I can't imagine taking anything from my parents house either. In fact, the opposite. In the last year I've given them a car, a computer, food, a cell phone, and manual labor when they were putting up a garage. Plus other bits and pieces (mostly car parts and plants).

When I moved out and had no money they gave me some furniture to to use in my starter apartment. It was all stuff they had in storage and would never use. Still, I was damn thankful for it - they didn't owe me anything and I didn't ask.

I once borrowed some money from them, but paid it back two weeks later with interest (my mom was mad about that, she didn't want the interest).

Maybe it's because I make twice as much money as they do, but even when I was barely making above minimum wage (or unemployed for six months) I would never had imagined stealing from them. Heck, it took me a lot of swallowing my pride to ask them for money one time.

I guess it's just differences in how people are raised. How values are instilled. My parents instilled a lot of independence in me, pride in taking care of myself and my life. Pride in not having to rely on help from other people.
posted by krisak at 9:35 PM on July 29, 2005

My mom has a pile of stuff and list of chores for me at any given time. If I can sneak out with less than four hours per day of menial labor and with no more items than will fit in a standard shopping bag, then I call it good visit.
posted by cali at 11:11 PM on July 29, 2005

Jesus H. Christ. I suppose going into therapy and just sending him the bills is out of the question?

Oh yes, very much so.

When I was on his medical insurance and got treated for depression, I had to get the shrink to say that I had a sleep disorder, lest my father see the paperwork and go completely apeshit.

Now that I'm no longer on his insurance, I could send him a bill for emergency open heart surgery and he'd refuse to pay.
posted by Clay201 at 12:21 AM on July 30, 2005

and the prospect of pilfering my parents' possessions (sorry) is ridiculous

Don't you mean "preposterous"?

(not that sorry)

Dumb article for an even dumber (supposed) trend. My mother falls into the "here, take this!" category, even though I'm long past the point of being a starving student. Of course she's since moved to the middle of nowhere--Nebraska--so I'm taking great joy in turning the tables on her and putting together outlandish care packages full of stuff she can't get there. As for liberating things from the (ex-step-)parental nest...well, I did do that, long ago, but does it count if it was revenge theft? OCD + asshole stepfather + jam-packed storage unit = one-stop shopping for all the crap he'd accumulated over the years.
posted by Vervain at 1:19 AM on July 30, 2005

This trend had never entered my mind, but now that I think of the 30-year-old overgrown adolescents that I know, okay... don't even ask about when I worked in insurance and adults used to be brought in by their parents to buy car insurance. I wanted to say, "Don't you think you have a problem that your 25-year-old son isn't competent enough to buy his own car insurance?"

On the other hand, my parents have gotten the household contents of their parents, and in my mother's case it seems no one has ever thrown anything away for generations. So, for example, last time I went home I asked if I could take some placements. They have an entire cabinet of placements; more than 20 sets at least. But I _asked_ and _they_ picked which ones to give me.
posted by loafingcactus at 2:05 AM on July 30, 2005

Actually, I think the comments in this thread have less to do with people's independence or lack thereof, and more to do with the extreme surplus of material goods modern society produces and accumulates. Although I am a poor graduate student, I often stop and realize how much STUFF I have compared either to people I met in Beijing (who weren't poor, but just didn't have massive amounts of stuff) or even compared to what my grandparents and great-grandparents had. I see an interesting dynamic between my Depression-era grandparents, Baby Boomer parents and Gen X sibling (and I), in regards to stuff. My grandparents were all pretty thrifty and often saving against the possibility of another emergency. My parents are not profligate in their spending at all, but they certainly enjoy accumulating stuff. My sister and I are philosophically against lots-of-stuff, particularly as we are sensitive to the environmental cost. But just as Gen X has dropped out of the baby boom rat race to some degree, I think Gen X rejects the expenditures of the Baby Boomers. I think that drives this phenomenon in part (that this current parental generation has a lot of stuff to give their adult children).
posted by Slothrop at 5:06 AM on July 30, 2005

Placements? What are placements?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:34 AM on July 30, 2005

I'm solidly GenX (age 38, IIRC), and my wife and I basically take a "buy quality, not quantity" approach to stuff. We figure the less stuff we have, the better off we are.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:36 AM on July 30, 2005

My mother yells at me when I take stuff that I OWN from her house.

"You can't take your Legos back to Cleveland with you!"

"Why not?"

"... I don't know."
posted by sciurus at 11:01 AM on July 30, 2005

I'm 32 years old and self-supporting and I would never just "take" something from my parents' home. I've known peope (including a sibling) that have a "what's theirs is mine" attitude towards their parents money and property, which I've always felt was kind of arrogant.

There's something about Costo and parents that makes them generous. My folks never offer to pay my bills or fill up my tank with gas but, somehow, they're always offering to take me to Costco. God bless them.
posted by nevafeva at 12:31 PM on July 30, 2005

sciurus, I asked my father for my birth certificate once. He told me no. His reason? "It's like a pink slip for a car---it proves I own you!"
posted by nevafeva at 12:42 PM on July 30, 2005

When my Mom comes to stay from overseas, she puts in for the bills and does some shopping if she has time because I feel it's important for her not to use this place like a hotel. She gets no say in the matter when I feel it's time for an orgy of cocaine and whores, because, like I told her, when she stays in my home she lives by my rules. If she doesn't like it, she can stay in her room until she bucks up her ideas, where I have left a thoughtful collection of retirement home brochures.
posted by Sparx at 3:23 PM on July 30, 2005

When my mom was moving into a smaller house & I still lived out of state she mailed me boxes and boxes of stuff that she didn't know what to do with: my grandmothers Irish lace tablecloths mixed in with attractive orange frog printed 1972 fabric, etc. It was hilarious going through them all. Now we live in the same town and she gives me newspaper clippings and leftovers and I occasionally ask to borrow her weedwhacker. I wouldn't dream of taking anything from her house that she didn't offer and if my kids stole from me I would kill them, which I'm sure they know. Stealing isn't cute or funny and I don't care who you're stealing from. Also, what the hell has happened to the NYT Style section? Can't they just go back to pictures of dresses and overly wealthy newly married types?
posted by mygothlaundry at 6:08 PM on July 30, 2005

The article is BS. I have never known a woman that would steal used undies.

I'm pretty sure she says they were new.

My mom was just talking about how when she had a job in high school and college and was paying her own way through school, her parents expected her to hand over a portion of her money. And when she got married and moved out, they expected her to leave them the car she bought with the money from her first teaching job. So, I wonder whether she (and other boomer parents) resolved to do the opposite with their own kids, thus this tolerance for having their stuff taken. I don't take things from them without asking, though they have always been extremely generous.
posted by Airhen at 7:13 PM on July 30, 2005

From the article: Parents of previous generations maintained an authoritative stance toward their adult children, but now relationships are more equal, more like friendship...

WTF? I don't steal from my friends either.
posted by grouse at 2:29 AM on July 31, 2005

Every time I go home, my Dad and I inevitably end up wandering through the basement and the shed, with him pointing out things that they don't need and me refusing to take them off his hands. Usually these are things that I have already been offered numerous times before. I mean, I'm sure that someday I'm going to really need a broken glider seat, but that day has not yet come, y'know?

Anyway, it seems that humanity is split between people who steal from their parents and people who have to exercise every iota of willpower to avoid having all of their parents posessions forced upon them.

I have to say that I do usually leave with something useful. Last time I got a hose hanger. I needed one of those.

Oh, I have the same thing with my grandparents now too, since they live nearby in the summer. I have to say though, my grandparents offer higher-quality stuff, and significantly less of it. We usually take stuff they try to give us.
posted by rusty at 7:56 AM on July 31, 2005

As a offspring, I would no more pilfer things from my mother's house than I would pilfer things from the jewelry store. It just isn't done. Also, my mother is crazy and heavily armed. I mean, I'm not stupid. ;) That said...the woman is incapable of coming to visit me without bringing me a suitcase or more of stuff. Stuff which I don't want, don't need...things that get handed off to the women's shelter as soon as she's gone. Bless her heart, the woman has been trying to get me to dress in pastels my whole life, and yet, I stubbornly refuse to wear them.

As a mother...if my child stole anything...from me (or anyone else for that matter), it would get ugly very fast. I'm sure, outside of a few sentimental things, there is nothing I would refuse him, were he to ask...but to assume that because I gave birth to an individual that then all of my property rights somehow become assigned to that individual is just rude.
posted by dejah420 at 9:21 PM on July 31, 2005

rusty- what is a hose hanger?
posted by Hactar at 11:01 PM on July 31, 2005

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