Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Toys R' Us Kids Of Today

Nas has a song called "Second Childhood" that I always liked.

I wonder if this New York times writer has ever listened to Nasir spit.

It seems that more and more people aren't ready to grow up. It started with the Baby Boomers and their desire to rock out even from the rocking chair, and it's continued on to their children and grandchildren. Studies show that the traditional milestones of adulthood, such as marriage, children and getting your own apartment, are being delayed by folks who realize they have other plans. Other plans that appear to be all about them.

That's right, the power of Me is increasing, and it doesn't look like there will be a reversal of mindset without some serious changes in how the world works.

Sherwin Nuland wrote a book in 1993 called "How We Die." In that book, Nuland states that the way humans view death has changed immensely with the increase in our reliance on technology. Mankind has forgotten the ugliness and commonness of death as is has been shielded from death by doctors, medicine, hospitals, hospices and Hollywood thrillers.

Nuland noted that Francisco Goya once painted a picture of a doctor reaching down the throat of child dying of some unknown disease, and it was seen as commonplace and normal. The only people who wouldn't find that type of painting disturbing today are the people who make a living trying to shock and disgust.

Nuland's premise was that many people block out the inevitability of death and cling to the myth that most folks will die deaths of dignity. People don't want to consider that the Three P's, poop, pus and pain, will in all likelihood play a huge role in their exits from this plane. While that may have been a part of growing up in the past, a part of stepping into an adult's shoes, it's no longer the case now. And it appears that it isn't the only necessary life experience being consigned to the trash heap.

Honestly, if death is no longer thought of inevitable, is it a surprise that marriage and parenthood have also been deemed optional? If they are not optional, then they are seen as experiences that need to be put off as long as possible until the more "important" things in life can be accomplished.

That is one of the key themes from the Times article; people are delaying taking the plunge into marriage, parenthood and even independent habitation because they don't see these things as necessary accoutrements of adulthood when there are so many other things to be done.

When there are so many other things to be experienced, who wants to confine themselves within the straitjackets of "mommy" or "daddy" and "husband" or "wife"? People still consider life a journey and marvel at the milestones that mark the path, but those markers have changed as society has changed what it deems enlightened behavior.

There was a time when children and spouse weren't seen as distractions but destinations. That was when people saw getting married as something you did to let the world know you were ready for serious commitment, and children were something you had to drive home that point. Now, both are seen as sacrifices of the good life.

No one is immune to these messages. Any honest married person will admit that there are times when the apparently carefree life of single folks feels mighty enticing, and when it seems like a life filled with children and domestic responsibilities is also filled with never-ending sacrifices. But, when did sacrifice become a bad thing?

When did it become so horrible to deny oneself certain pleasures in exchange for other benefits? When did it become acceptable to ask others to bear the brunt of a sacrifice that should be your own? When did folks forget that independence is to adulthood what English 101 is to a college degree: it's an unavoidable and necessary pre-requisite.

This new generation of Peter Pans is so busy enjoying the feeling of wind rushing through their hair that they don't notice that the fairy dust so casually inhaled up their noses is causing them to confuse reality with fantasy. They don't seem to notice that a world where the traditional accoutrements of adulthood are abandoned is a world where it's mighty easy to come unmoored and drift aimlessly into the night. For while careers and pleasure can provide certain enjoyment, they do not provide as great a sense of satisfaction as a marriage well-preserved and children well-raised.

At least not to me.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Right On

LisaMJ said...

I read this article the other day. It was interesting. In a way it made me feel better. I'm not married and don't have kids, I haven't had many options for that so it makes me feel better to not be alone.

We are a ridiculously youth centered culture though. I heard Joan Rivers talking about aging the other day, and she is fighting it tooth and nail and seems very put out that she cannot get work like she used to. She has no intention of ever slowing down it seems and she is in her late 70's or early 80's. It is funny b/c my 80 year old Aunt just admitted to herself that she is old and I know 24 year olds who call themselves old. It is really schizoid.

One good thing about people postponing having children and getting married is that generally people are more mature and better able to handle being married and rearing children at a later age. Also, given how long people are living now, waiting might be a good thing. Look at the Gore's married nearly 40 years and then splitting up? I've read that such divorces among people married 20, 30, 40 years are on the upswing. So maybe there is something to be said for waiting to get married at 30 or 40something and being able to make it through to death do you part as opposed to marrying young and splitting up in your golden years. Or even worse marrying serially b/c you got married too young split up young and marry again and again. People are even starting to use the term "starter marriages" which is very disturbing. Better to wait and be sure.

As for moving out, maybe you can look at it as more of a return to the old days. I personally got out as soon as I could and still have bad dreams about having to move back, but some people used to never leave home and it was looked on as the norm. They'd get married and the couple would figure out which family to live with (probably depending on the customs of their culture or in the US on who had more resources) and several generations of a family, would all live together. In a way it seems kind of nice. Then again, there is something to be said in this day and age for standing on your own to feet (even if you do get some help from time to time).

Big Man said...

I don't believe waiting until later makes marriage stronger. In fact, I'm of the mindset that people become less malleable and willing to adapt as they age and that is very dangerous in marriage.

I think the changes in society, in how we define happiness and responsibilities, is what is leading to older couples splitting. Folks want to recapture their youths and spend too much time focusing on the choices they regret. Men want to find something new, shiny and perky, and women are pissed at the things they sacrificed to make their marriages work.

I"m not knocking waiting to get married, that was my original plan, but I do think that it's a myth that if you wait longer, your marriage will be easier and last longer. It really, really won't. Your marriage is about you and what you do, not about all that other stuff.

Deacon Blue said...

LisaMJ makes a good point that intergenerational cohabitation wasn't all that strange. And even when the kids moved out, they didn't move far...sometimes, they were still on the property, even if in a different physical space.

I think what we have now is a very volatile mix of the "me me me" mentality, as Big Man points out, added to the challenge that we have lived in a mindset of the middle-class dream for well over half a century now, and that dream is falling apart as riches continue to be concentrated at the top more and more, and as the systems and protections that allowed for a middle class to be created are increasingly compromised.

What that means is that people (a) don't want to move on to adulthood as soon and (b) cannot do so as effectively even now (compared to the relatively recent past) even when they want to

Big Man said...

Good point Deac

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading your blog, but you have changed it to dark. I have problems focusing on the color. I know it may appear small but I was born in 1953. There are other blogs I want to read, but when they are this dark, it is difficult, and I think you have many great and good things to blog about.

blackgirlinmaine said...

While I don't think everyone should take the path that I did, 1st marriage at 18, kid at 19, etc. Lately I find myself surrounded by folks who seem to run from growing up and frankly its scary. I have friends who refuse to execpt that at 40/41 they are middle aged. Instead calling themselves young. Um...no, that's middle aged.

Most of us do not live until 90-100 so when we hit the late 30's or so we are at the midpoint of this game called life.

At almost 40 I am an oddity among my friends in that I embrace aging, for me with age has come wisdom. I don't want wish to live in a perpetual state of childhood.

I also see downsides to waiting too long for marriage and kids. Physically I think the optimal time to have babies is probably in the 20's. I had one at 19 and the other kid in my 30's and while my mind is mentally in a better place with the 2nd one, I have a hard time keeping up physically and its worse for my partner who is already in his 40's.

On some level I find it amusing women wait longer to have kids yet one you cross that late 30's barrier you end up having to put a lot more effort into it. In some cases a lot of money too!

I wonder what will happen when these folks are in their 60's and getting ready to wind down yet sattled with kids still in college or still at home?

This push to delay adulthood IMO is creating a very selfish generation which does not bode well for society at all.

Big Man said...

Anonymous

Would it help if I increased the size of the font?

Anonymous said...

I am late to this party, but I wanted to note that I think this has more to do with women's liberation and the availability of birth control than anything else. People had children as part of adulthood because they had to. Delaying childbearing wasn't possible unless you abstained from sex. Also, women were not allowed to work or even educate themselves until very recently. If a woman wanted a comfortable life, marriage was the way to go.

Now we have sex education, various prophylactic methods, women can go to college, and even have a job! Children are no longer inevitable.

So basically I don't think this is a new generation who doesn't want to 'grow up,' but rather the first generation who doesn't have to.

Raving Black Lunatic