Not gonna lie: I’ve written some pretty scathing commentary on the state of my generation. I’m not going to link to that stuff because I’m embarrassed of it now, but I feel it’s worth pointing out that I’m in no position to deny my curmudgeonly musings of the not-so-distant past. I’ve definitely taken a perch on Mt. Holier-than-Thou and accused my peers of immaturity and self-indulgence. In retrospect, and upon reading Robin Marantz Henig’s most recent cover story in the New York Times magazine, I realize the great irony of my criticisms.

The truth? I epitomize absolutely everything that is allegedly “wrong” with the 20-somethings of today.

Maybe I’ve felt the need, in the past, to smacktalk my fellow 20-somethings because I’ve recognized myself so clearly in every negative observation. Maybe, in realizing that I am more of a walking archetype than a unique little snowflake, I’ve felt the need to call out my (unmarried and cohabitating/ un-carreered/ oversharey) self via everyone around me. But, in my defense, I think I’m entitled.*

Henig writes:

“Sociologists traditionally define the “transition to adulthood” as marked by five milestones: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child.”

Yeah, I know—that marrying and having a child are used to define self-actualization pisses me off, too. But, of course, Henig is quick to clarify:

The whole idea of milestones, of course, is something of an anachronism; it implies a lockstep march toward                                          adulthood that is rare these days.  Some never achieve all five milestones, including those who are single or childless by choice, or unable to marry even if they wanted to because they’re gay. Others reach the milestones completely out of order, advancing professionally before committing to a monogamous relationship, having children young and marrying later, leaving school to go to work and returning to school long after becoming financially secure.

She then notes the research of a psychologist named Dr. Jeffrey Arnett, which supposedly uncovered a trend toward “emerging adulthood” and has been cited by, like, a zillion other scholars. In other words, Arnett is now famous for pointing out what anyone who has ever watched a non-period Winona Ryder movie from the ’90s could figure out on their own: 1.) the course toward adulthood isn’t so linear and clear-cut as it was in the past; 2.) it makes people all angsty and shit.

Full stop? Oh no; enter a ten-page feature on Arnett, emerging adulthood, and how 20-somethings are possibly screwed but maybe not. Satisfied? No, I wasn’t either.

While Henig does us, as both readers and potential 20-somethings, the courtesy of acknowledging the sociological causes for our apparently unactualized state (educational degree inflation; fewer entry-level jobs; decreased puritanism w/regard to premarital sex and birth control; the redefinition of womanhood beyond babymaking and husband-tending), she does little to address the ridiculous class-specificity of the “emerging adulthood” argument. Not everyone comes from a coddling, public-television-watching, two-parent household, lady. Just sayin.’

But really, what yanks my chain is that the energy, innovation, outside-the-box thinking, and DIVERSITY that could also be said to define my generation (of, you know, directionless 20-somethings)  is necessitated by the precise sort of path-derailment that this absurdly long thinkpiece endeavors to unmask. It’s a shame that Henig misses the beat.

*Get it?! Because we 20-somethings are SO ENTITLED! Zing!

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