Living In The Great Depression
Lately it seems the mainstream media is obsessed with ‘us twenty-somethings’ [a virtual social class to which I can still claim membership for one more year]. I think it’s because we’re obsessed with ourselves, and when given an opportunity to write in visible ways with respectable bylines we pick ourselves as the central topic. Or the articles are written by older people [I generally visualize the great old lords of the mainstream media as ‘older people’ due to the fact they usually have poor email skills when I work with them like just writing ‘thanks’ to a long email with questions in it, the way an eight year-old might] and they have some kind of resentment toward ‘us’.
Or they’re just business-savvy and they know we are obsessed with ourselves and that whenever they write an article – say, this Wall Street Journal piece about ‘Where Have All The Good Men Gone’ we will all of us ‘share’ it on our Facebooks and discuss post-feminism and get all heated about it and they will gain mad hits. Like, when the WSJ published this article I really don’t know if they endorsed the article [if not the message, minimally the validity of the argument] or if they were just psyched to throw its author under the bus [where ‘bus’ is ‘people on the internet’.]
Anyway, on the surface level the article is not too original. It’s more identification of what seems to be [according to the media] a ‘problem with our generation’, that being we have ill-defined social roles, we are ‘failing to grow up’, generally there is mention of men playing video games as if this were indicative of some huge failure to cope, that these well-educated people are spending their first adult decade doing ‘unpaid internships’ or being a barista while blaming the recession, that because they feel entitled to some kind of ‘creative control’ in life they are doing strings of meaningless ‘freelance projects’ while becoming increasingly anxious about the future.
Key to the accusation, especially in this piece, is that ’20-somethings’ are like somehow not achieving milestones formerly associated with adulthood, chief among them financial independence, a stable romantic partnership/marriage, plans to reproduce, ownership of property, etc. It is a little bit of a creepy thing to notice; I’m not exactly part of the accused demographic, being that I’m kind of too old to wholly qualify for that generational umbrella, I have a full-time writing job and health insurance and my own apartment and I literally can’t remember the last time I had to ask my parents for money. I do remember the 1990s with inappropriate vividity and not the sort of ironic retro-nostalgia with which other young people I know seem to be curious about jelly shoes, pogs and flannel.
But I am [commence full-body cringe, lip-curl shove-my-dear-cat-away-for-a minute-in-paroxysm-of-self-conscious-guilt-at-looming-stereotype] uh ‘pushing 30’. My parents were pretty measured about this shit and yet when my mom was my age I was already born. I am not married; marriage does not appear imminent. This is probably because I am shit at doing laundry and dishes, at paying bills on time, or at spending my free time doing anything more efficient than watching My So Called Life DVDs which I indulgently purchased despite my electric bill being late and you don’t even want to know what I owe on my fucking taxes. Actually neither do I, that’s why I’ll probably file late yet again this year, continually setting aside time to ‘go get that shit taken care of’ at an accountant and spending the time sleeping off a hangover or purchasing nail polish [because I need ‘me time’, natch].
I spend a lot, a lot of time attending parties where I am, increasingly, the oldest person in the room. Like, literally, this past weekend I went to a birthday party where people asked me ‘when do you graduate’ and I was like ‘from what’ because it took me a fucking second to realize what they meant. I had fun alternating between coy responses, lies I’d sling to test their plausibility, and blunt honesty so I could enjoy the shock response. I will not always be young enough to pull this off. I will not be young enough for much longer. I’ve got a good six months. Hang on I need a drink while I get my head around that.
Increasingly I find myself entertaining fantasies the type I would have once found fucking loathsome; I would like to meet a man who is a ‘systems analyst’ or a ‘process consultant’ or an ‘adjunct professor’ or ‘head researcher’ [what the fuck are those things] and get married move to Park Slope and have those kind of parties that aren’t actually ‘parties’ but are grown-ups sitting or standing around a very clean living room, drinking wine and eating canapés [what the fuck are canapés]. Maybe ‘tapenade’, I know what tapenade is. Water crackers. Brioche that I made and people praise it and I say ‘oh, it’s nothing.’ Maybe it’s even frozen or I ordered it from a restaurant and I lie to everyone so they think I’m a better homemaker.
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If you’ve been looking for a chance to say something then this very well could be it.
I wish to God I’d had a list like this when I was 23.
Answer phones better than anyone else has answered phones before. Relay messages so brilliant, they bring people to tears. Turn the coffee run into the choreography of Swan Lake. Become best friends with every intern and every underling and every taxi driver you encounter.
I remember taking the pen and notebook from that woman outside the courtroom, flipping to a clean page in the book, and writing, JESSICA IS SAD in big, bold, uncoordinated letters. “My sister is going to be a good writer someday! Look at how nice her lines are!”