Thursday, September 16, 2010

Peter Pan Generation: Second to the right, then straight on 'til late morning, early afternoonish. Text me first.

The other day, I called my mother in a panic.

Mom: Hello, dear.
Eleanor: Am I a fuck up?
Mom: It’s so unattractive when you use that language.
Eleanor: Am I?
Mom: Are you what? Unattractive? When you talk like that, yes.
Eleanor: No, Mom. A fuck up.
Mom: You know I don’t know what that means.
Eleanor: Useless, directionless, a failure at being grown up.
Mom: Oh sweetie, you’re just…a free spirit.
Eleanor: A free spirit? Dear God. You know who else used to be called free spirits? Fucking flower power hippie children. I can’t be a hippie, Mom. I hate people. I hate them.
Mom: Your anxiety attacks are fascinating.
Eleanor: …Thanks.

This proceeded with the “what do you want to do with your life?” question to which I responded, “live off my parents until I find my rich husband. Or get hired as a professional friend.” These are also the same careers I wanted when I was 7. I often joke about my blog being the voice of “disenfranchised youth and functional alcoholics,” because that’s how I view my life; I still think of myself as “youth,” regardless of my governmentally instituted “young adult” status. If I’m not responsible enough to rent a car, then I don’t have to be responsible for anything.

I am a proud member of the Peter Pan Generation.

I cannot possibly be an adult. When I was in school, I was only a piece of America’s “future.” I was preparing for the future – I wasn’t there yet. And as I look around at my current state, I don’t think this is really the “future” they were talking about. If the future is now the present, then don’t be expecting this economy to turn around any time soon. The adults of the future, who are now the young adults of the present, are not really adults at all. There’s still a part of me that wants to give up the day-to-day life and be a vigilante crime fighter. Is that who you want spear-heading the years to come? Didn’t think so. That’s who you want at least 20 feet away from you at all times.

Recently, the New York Times posted an article entitled, “What Is It About 20-Somethings?” where the author discusses several different explanations for why the 20-somethings of today’s America are taking so long to grow up. Changing social circumstances, new discoveries in neurological developments, and the workplace shift from skill-based trades to information-based jobs: it all boils down to the same issue. My generation is in denial.

There are five generally accepted milestones of achieving adulthood in our society.
In 1960, 77 percent of women and 65 percent of men had, by the time they reached 30, passed all five milestones. [In 2000,] fewer than half of the women and one-third of the men had done so.

Let’s take a gander at these life goals that I’m supposed to be working avidly towards.

1. Completing school: Well see, there you go. I have not one, but TWO pieces of cardstock paper protected by overpriced custom frames. Level 1, completed.

2. Leaving Home: Okay, well I did that. Then I went back, not unlike 40% of my generation, so back off, and then I left again. I think this level is only really complete when your old bedroom is a gym, or crafts room. Or in my parent’s case…a room belonging to a family you don’t know. Level 2, completed – but I think I lost a life in the process. Hopefully one of the next levels will have an opportunity for a 1UP.

3. Financial Independence and Stability: This is where I stumble. This is the level I can’t seem to get past. I get pretty far, past those stupid skeleton bird things, and past the big chomper on the chain, but just as I get my confidence up, a plant spits a fireball at me and I’m dead. Back to the beginning. Calling Daddy, making small talk before he finally just goes, “how much do you need now?” Level 3, GAME OVER.

4. Marriage: To this, I say with eloquence: do what now? I have my own apartment. I manage my bills, avoid evictions, I grocery shop, or don’t, and consequentially skip entire meals, sometimes I even clean. This is, however, only for myself. And it would be horrifying to admit how often my dishes go undone, and laundry piles up. The only relationships I’m even halfway good at are with my local bartenders and sandwich shop owners. Whose love, I believe, is only semi-conditional. I’m not hating on the concept, but sometimes I wonder if people realize once you marry someone, they’re there…ALL THE TIME. Throwing their laundry in with yours, eating the food you bought without telling you, putting the mixing spoons back in the wrong drawer even after you’ve told him a hundred times where the mixing spoons go. You can’t send them home. They are home. And I think marriage makes people boring. Don’t believe me? Go on my Facebook newsfeed.

Unmarried McAwesome: is going cliff diving in Costa Rica, and then is going to meet up with Indiana Jones for a secret excursion.
Married LeNolife: is spending Friday night with her new puppy, and making Banana Nut Bread.

See? And the crazy thing is, Married LeNolife used to go cliff diving! But then she had a party in a white dress and moved in with a guy who sells real estate and now they have a puppy and that’s all they talk about, and that’s all they will talk about until she gets knocked up. And then THAT’S all she’ll talk about. Which brings me to the final level:

5. Having a child: Clearly I’m out of the running of achieving adulthood. I couldn’t get past the fire plant. But if this is the rest of the game, I think I will just see the sights around Level 3, and hit up the sky bars to collect all those coins arranged in the shape of dollar signs and hidden power stars. Remember when I talked about how I skip meals because I’m too lazy to go to the grocery store? Remember when I said I don’t ever do my laundry until I’m absolutely out of clothes to wear a fourth time? Remember when I talked about never doing the dishes? I can’t even take care of myself, let alone be responsible for another human life; a little one, who can’t read the “don’t drink the poison” signs on bottles, and doesn’t understand sarcasm. Having a kid is the kiss of death for a social life. We’re 20-somethings! We’re young enough to do all those really stupid things that are gonna make great stories in our 30’s. What better a time to get arrested than when you’re in your 20’s? Why would I give up spending a night in jail to spend 4 hours trying to get my kid to stop writing on the wall with my eyeliner? Not for me, thanks.

Our parents lived in a different world. The American Dream was all about building a life with a family and kids, going to college or going to war; the world was in a state of reconstruct, and it was up to them to do the reconstructing. The Peter Pan Generation’s American Dream is to study abroad undecided for as long as possible. 'Don’t pick a major until you’re stateside,' that’s the life for us. Then once we've got that ambiguous bachelor’s degree, we spend a summer pretending to look for a job, all the while complaining about this damned economy, and then just go back to school for a graduate’s program because, well, what else is there to do? Move back in with my parents? Hell no, I still haven’t studied in Australia!

In my generation, most 20-somethings are “remain[ing] un-tethered” to romantic partners or permanent homes. We avoid ties like we avoid responsibility, like we avoid dinner with the parents. Essentially, the Peter Pan Generation is just a bunch of wild cards running around the country, changing direction as often as we change hairstyles. Jumping from “passion” to “passion,” a habit that was reserved for the artists and drug addicts of our parents’ generation. No wonder they’re looking at us like a bunch of coked out vagabonds. It’s been their experience that if a kid is listless, impulsive, and lacking any interest in planning for the future, he or she is probably addicted to crank. It’s hard to explain that most of us aren’t meth-heads, we’re just overly optimistic, and immensely confused. In evaluating my own life, I treat my skills like receipts to an auditor on my kitchen table. Take the box, dump the whole of its contents out on the surface and sardonically state, “good fucking luck.” This is what I’ve got – you tell me what to do with it.

Whether it’s fear, laziness, economical circumstance, or some crazy neurological development process, and let’s not rule out the ever-popular mommy-and-daddy-issues, the fact is that my fellow 20-somethings and I are simply in no rush to be grown ups.

Because grown-ups become pirates. And we kill pirates.

Lookie, lookie – I’ve got Hookie. I couldn’t help it. Sorry.

"What Is It With 20-Somethings?" by Robin Marantz Henig


  1. WOW! You're not holding anything back are you? I love being quoted however inaccurately, but of course the jist was there.

  2. well i certainly can't come to a conclusion as to why i'm not a meth head.

    i do live near oakland after all...

    and can i just say that this part, "Move back in with my parents? Hell no, I still haven’t studied in Australia!" speaks more to me and my friends from h.s. than i'd like to admit. i know way too many people that have lived in FAR too many countries and had way too few jobs. #imjustsaying

    also, you're not a fuck up. that i promise you. :) i'd hire you for my professional friend! well...once i get a job to pay you with i will. :D (but actually you're already kind of a professional friend because a) you're really good at being a friend and b) you're highly professional)

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  4. If growing up means it would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree,
    I'll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up...
    Not me!

  5. If those are the levels of life, I don't believe I was even playing the game. Still in school, not financially independent, not married, no kids. I did move out. It's like I got the second star on Mario 64 without ever bothering to get the first.

  6. What does it mean if I keep asking my mom to move in with me?

    Maybe you can intern as a professional friend? I need serious friendship from an experienced individual, however I can't afford to pay you.

    Love the millennial musings!

  7. My favorite thing about being gay is that I'm not as heavily inundated with the "steps to achieving the 'American Dream.'" I understand why people cling to such cliches, it gives you a plan without having to think about what you really want.

    I, for one, find the idea of living in the suburbs to be repulsive. All these people getting married and having children and I don't think they even stopped to question whether they should or not. They all just kind of fall into the same pattern and the same life. I really can't fathom why people are having kids in their early twenties. I actually look down on most of the people I see from high school on Facebook who have already had kids... especially if both people are still living with parents and they aren't even together anymore. MTV has that horrible show about teens who weren't responsible enough to use contraception or to have abortions. I feel pretty much the same way about overpopulation of humans as I do with the animals at shelters. The animals at least don't know any better.

    The whole job and stability thing really gets me. I can't stand service and retail jobs which are pretty much the only experience I have. I payed like $3,000+ to go to France for 2 weeks to intern at the Cannes film festival and no company I have applied to has cared at all. Some days I feel hopeless because I can only see myself working in a creativity based job. I get worried that I can't make it into the film industry or make a career from writing... and when I think about the alternatives I seriously think about killing myself. I do not want one of those cliche lives most of my peers are doomed to live.

    I'm going to do a version of the marriage thing. I found the most compatible person I think is possible for an outcast/individual like myself. When it's legal in California again, we'll get married but we are looking to lead a healthy, naturalist, and kinky life together. I plan to make a movie based around our relationship called Two Perverts in Love.

    I can't help but be a dreamer. I hate the world I see. I prefer fictional characters and fictional worlds. I want to try to change it but I'm a pessimist. I just hope I can live and work in the realm of the arts and hopefully in a liberal bubble.

    I don't really care whether or not I'm what an adult is "supposed" to be. I'm more concerned about being happy adf feeling creatively productive. I wish it were the 60s though so I could be like the Cockettes and just go on disability for being "crazy" and just not have to work and instead just make art and create.

  8. "Kill the Lawyer!"

    "I'm not that kind of lawyer..."

    As always, thanks for the insight. And the memories.