Sunday, October 09, 2005

Getting Closer

I went over the copy editor's remarks and put in some last changes to the manuscript on Thursday--all day long, at the Riverhead office. I'm so excited for the book to really come out. Less than four months now.
The opening piece in the New York Times Magazine today was all like, "What's up with this emerging adulthood thing? Isn't it just an artifact of the Boomers' alarmist perception of young people?" Which is good as far as it goes. But all too familiarly, the writer, Ann Hulbert, whose most common subject is parenthood, glosses over the political and economic aspects of the phenomenon, in the final paragraph, thus:

[Turn of the century writer Randolph Bourne] went on to make a point that seems especially relevant these days, when college kids are saddled with debt - an adult experience if ever there was one - and young people are juggling jobs and lives in unscripted ways. For 25-year-olds looking back on life since 17, Bourne reflected, there are "so many crises, so many startling surprises, so many vivid joys and harrowing humiliations and disappointments, that one feels startlingly old; one wonders if one will ever feel so old again."

I can certainly relate to the description of the emotional state of being 25--the age I am today. Yet I think Hulbert makes a serious mistake to separate the effect (young people vague, unfocused) from the underlying causes (college debt, juggling jobs). It's like saying, oh, those Dust Bowl Okies! So unrooted! So confused! Such nomads!
Of course, that's just why I'm writing this book.


Anonymous said...

The association of debt with adulthood is somewhat bizarre, for a number of reasons. Young people are constantly being told that having credit cards and "learning to manage money" will make them more adult, but it really ends up making them dependent on a bank (instead of on their parents, etc.). It's really more of the patronizing and cliched talk that one hears--this idea that young people just need to learn to manage money or "understand" their credit. Past a certain point, the issues of budgeting and managing money become irrelevant. Young people need more opportunities to work in jobs that don't take up half of the time they have to do schoolwork. -eah

J Starkey said...

I find it completely off-base to say that young people are simply "meandering" longer and "drifting" well into our twenties, as if this is entirely attributable to a social phenomenon that twentysomethings are choosing to accept adult responsibility later in life. The truth is that it's not a good time to be 26. We're inheriting mountains of national debt, mountains of personal debt, increasing cost of living and a dearth of well-paying jobs that were promised to us by working hard through college and grad school. To mistake the "boomerang" phenomenon as a problem of a generation that lacks drive and is just not ready to be adults is obtuse. We move home because we have to. We have more debt than any other generation of college students. And being alive is not getting any cheaper.

Anya said...

j starkey--the subtitle of my book is "Why Now is a Terrible Time to Be Young."
seems like we're really on the same page.