Archives for March, 2012
Welcome to Part 2 of the two-part series on the meaning of the international trend toward more adult children living with their parents. I have been generating questions and answers based on my reading of Katherine Newman’s new book, The accordion family: Boomerang kids, anxious parents, and the private toll of global competition, and the recent Pew report on the same topic. Part 1 is here. Even in difficult economic times, aren’t there options for young adults other than living with their parents? Theoretically, yes, but you would have to give up some things to pursue them. You could share a place with friends if you could find compatible people and a decent place. Still, that could end up costing you more than if you move back home. Also, your friends may be less inclined than your parents to make dinner for you or throw some of your clothes in with the rest of the laundry.
When I was in college and then in graduate school, there was consensus among my peers on the topic of living with your parents – it wasn’t done. I finished grad school in 1979, so the tumult of the 60s, with the war protests and the women’s movement and civil rights advocacy and the counterculture, was very much a part of the sensibility of my times. What I had not known until yesterday, when I finished reading Katherine Newman’s new book, The accordion family: Boomerang kids, anxious parents, and the private toll of global competition, and the recent Pew report on the same topic, was that 1980 was the year when the lowest percentage of young adults (ages 25-34) in the U.S. lived with their parents. Only 11% did so. That number was about 28% in 1940, and by 2010, it had crept up from 11% in 1980 to just under 22%.
I bet you have a favorite ad – something that is so creative and so witty that it makes you smile every time you see it. There is some real ingeniousness in the world of advertising. But there are also deep pockets of unoriginal thinking, and they have been marring the marketing landscape for well over a decade.
A few days ago, a Toronto newspaper printed an amazing in-depth story about a 55-year old single woman who is in no way a celebrity or a public figure. When I printed it in a tiny font, it came to six pages. The single woman profiled in the story, Shelagh Gordon, is no longer with us. She died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. A reporter from the paper saw the obituary and became curious. Eventually, 14 reporters interviewed more than 130 of Shelagh’s friends and family members.
In China, it used to be almost unheard of for a woman to stay single her entire life. Until the end of the 20th century was in sight, less than 1 percent of Chinese women were lifelong singles. No more. All that is changing. Even if you know nothing about China, I bet you can guess the reaction to the greater numbers of women living single in China. Yes, it is panic! Panic by the government, panic by the single women’s neighbors and family members. Relentless attempts by all such parties to nudge and push and shame the women into marrying. As for the single women themselves? It is less clear how concerned they are about staying single.
Solo living is finally getting its due – not as a sad, sad song, but as a cause for celebration – or at least a reason to wake up and pay attention! In a recent issue of Time magazine, the cover story was about 10 ideas that are changing your life. The #1 new idea? “Living alone is the new norm.” To mark this development that has been decades in the making, but only now getting spotlighted, let’s generate a playlist of tops songs for going solo. If you want to, think about the songs that would be on your list before you read any further.
In my previous post, The Topic that Turns Smart, Creative People into Mindless Spouters of Clichés: Part 1, I quoted from Toure’s ode to marriage in the “daily rant” feature of the Dylan Ratigan Show. Go ahead and read that first part, so you will have in mind the context for this post. Here in Part 2, I will review just a few of the problems with Toure’s platitudes. Let’s start with the one about how people who are married are “being propelled each day to fight the good fight it takes to provide for your family, rather than wanting to succeed because it boosts your ego, your status, and your self-image.”
Suppose I challenged you to write the most cliché-drenched ode to marriage you could possibly imagine. Don’t do any critical thinking. Don’t worry about whether what you have to say is true, or logically consistent, or whether it could be potentially offensive to millions, or whether it might serve as the basis for a women’s studies essay on cultural criticism or a Saturday Night Live skit. Just pour it on thick.
Part 1 of this two-part article was about studies which compare the depression levels, at just one point in time, of people who are currently married, divorced, widowed, or had always been single. The studies show that the currently married and the always-single have similarly low levels of depression, whereas the previously married (divorced and widowed) tend to report more depression. Because we do not know how depressed the various people were before they got married or unmarried, we can’t really know whether marriage had anything to do with how they felt. That’s true regardless of whether the experience in question is depression or bipolar disorder or physical health or anything else. Longitudinal research, in which the same people are evaluated at several different points in time, is a better way of figuring out whether getting married matters. Here, briefly, are the results of three different studies examining whether people who marry become less depressed.