Tuesday, July 01, 2003
Welcome to the age of lazy, shiftless, parasitic leech--hood
By Dave Jaffe
According to a study recently released by the Here's More Stuff to Worry About Foundation, many young people are prolonging their adolescence well into their 20s or later.
What this means to parents is that their son could turn 50 before his voice drops and he needs to shave.
That last may be my misinterpretation of the news story since I was distracted halfway through reading it by an urgent need to clip my fingernails. However, my in--depth understanding of the headline and part of a photo caption is that the period in which young people reach full adulthood is being delayed by a variety of societal factors, such as "American Idol."
The study asked participants to identify at what age certain milestones of adulthood should be reached and found that expectations have shifted to older years.
For example, respondents expected someone to marry by age 25.7. Compare that with someone from your great--grandparent's generation who, by age 25.7, was already dead for five years.
According to the story, this new "pre--adult period" between adolescence and adulthood is the "hot" topic being discussed by scientific researchers in the field, second only to their debate over which X--Man has the coolest powers.
Sociologists have yet to name this Delayed Adulthood period, although as the parent of a 19--year--old son who is lounging at home for the summer, let me suggest "Lazy, Shiftless, Parasitic Leech--hood."
"Russell," I said to him, "It's great to have you home from college. However, I'm concerned that you may not be prepared to face the responsibilities of adulthood, many of which involve getting off the couch."
"Dad, I'm on summer break and just want to be a little laid back."
"I understand, son. But over the last two weeks you've appeared so laid back as to no longer qualify as organic."
"That's funny stuff, Dad. Say, since you're up would you get me the potato chips and some money?"
Historically speaking, the clear definition of adulthood has blurred since, for example, prehistoric times when "adult" referred to everyone in the tribe who hadn't yet been eaten.
When I was growing up in the '60s, boys were considered adults when they joined the work force, and girls were adults when they could clear and wash the dinner dishes really well.
The depressed economy is much to blame for prolonging the adolescent stage of young people's development.
As jobs become scarce, more young people choose to go on to graduate school so that eventually they can compete better in the job market. This will only lead to more young people going to graduate school until by 2017 everyone in America will be hanging out on the quad tossing around a Frisbee.
For this reason parents need to instruct their young people as early as possible in the Three Rs of Adulthood: fiscal accountability, domestic proficiency and Frisbee.
Fiscal accountability Fiscal accountability is, of course, the most important R. Setting up a personal checking account is an effective way for young people to grasp the intricacies of cash flow without actually jeopardizing their parent's credit rating.
As a young person takes on the monthly responsibility of balancing a checkbook he or she will quickly learn that it is not actually possible to balance a checkbook. They are always off by 22 cents. Like the Las Vegas casinos, the bank considers this their "cut."
It won't do any good to argue with the teller, who is not as friendly as a casino croupier. Better to just close the account every three months, move to a new town and open a new one.
Domestic proficiency and Frisbee Domestic proficiency involves mastering such household skills as cooking on a budget, much the way Martha Stewart does only with less SEC oversight. My wife is a gifted chef and as such is totally incapable of teaching Russell the sort of single--guy food preparation skills I honed following my college days.
"Pancakes, Russ, are nature's perfect food. They're nutritious, and cheap, especially when you buy in bulk."
"Dad, don't you think a 100--pound bag of mix is a bit excessive."
"Suppose you have guests over for dinner?"
"Then we're going out."
"That's the beauty of pancake mix, son. You never need to go out. Ever!" "Can we just get on with it, Dad?"
"As a young single man I found cooking utensils, such as measuring cups, expensive and superfluous. A clean gym shoe like this scoops just as well, especially a cross trainer."
"Dad, this is really interesting—and incredibly grotesque—but can we finish this later? I have to get to my job."
"You've gotten a job?"
"Well, sure. How else am I going to save up for a car?"
"Um, good plan, son. Well, when you get home maybe we can swing by the quad and toss around the Frisbee."Dave Jaffe, who lives with his wife, two teenage sons and two dogs, cautiously welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.