Thursday, August 26, 2010

An Article That Annoyed Me - Updated at 6:40pm PST

So that I'm not just writing about food, here's an NYT article that I plan to dissect on this blog at some point. This "dissection" may simply be a collection of quotes from the article that stood out to me as annoying.

If you have the time to sift through ten pages of mildly insulting editorial, read What Is It About Twenty-Somethings?". While I might agree with some points of the article, I felt that most of its assumptions were based on a flawed definition of adulthood and maturity, as well as that these assumptions subtly pushed gender roles that I'm not so comfortable with. I'm not sure I can even articulate why I feel this way; there are moments where the article seems to rescind its aspersions of twenty-somethings who resort to "going back to school for lack of better options, traveling, avoiding commitments, competing ferociously for unpaid internships or temporary (and often grueling) Teach for America jobs, forestalling the beginning of adult life."

Teaching underprivileged youth in underfunded school districts isn't an adult thing to do? WHAT!?

You bet I'm insulted by this article because I fall into this category of aimless twenty-somethings. Whereas I thought moving away from my family and support system, so that I'd be forced to take care of myself and make my own decisions in addition to exposing myself to a different culture* and different ideas, was an act of maturity, apparently I was just being a big baby. Apparently, by attempting to be a financially and socially independent woman instead of settling down with a partner, I'm not mature. And this MPA I'm going after!? Masters of Public Administration? More like Masters of Pure Adulthood-Avoidance!

I'm interested what other people thought of this article, whether they made it through all ten pages or not.

* Yes, a different part of America does have a different culture.

UPDATE: This wonderful post by a friend of a friend sums up almost everything I wanted to say about that NYT article. Thank you, friend of friend who wrote this, and thank you, friend who pointed me to this.


Anonymous said...

I found this article pretty interesting, though I must admit I skimmed through much of the middle.
I think it's only insulting if you consider "adulthood" and "independence" to be the end all be all of life. I didn't take the article personally, but I got the impression that it encouraged taking youth slowly and that not settling into a monotonous "adulthood" routine at an early age was actually a good thing.
In a lot of ways, i think our generation is redefining what it even means to be an "adult", and that the whole story is really yet to be seen.

Sarah said...

I agree with you - our generation is redefining what it means to be an adult. I think we pretty much agree on most points, except that you weren't insulted by the article (which is good!) and I was (but I'm by nature kind of cranky.) I found this article insulting because the writer defines this different kind of adulthood as just a lengthy childhood; I found the suggestions that "emerging adults" need extra support to be condescending. I don't consider my rejection of one old-fashioned, exclusive definition of adulthood to be an extension of my youth. I think people who live this kind of adulthood - rejecting a traditional, stable career and family life for a different type of career or "travel" or none of the above - have always existed, as have grown adults who live in their parents' home. In some cultures, that's the way it is. Even in our own culture, living with one's parents doesn't necessarily signal immaturity. That's also why I found this article to be flawed. I feel that the writer tries to make it appear that this distinction of "emerging adulthood"/youth, rather than just a different kind of adulthood, isn't negative, but I personally felt the negativity was there, under the surface. I don't know if I made sense there or not.

Lauren O said...

Hello, Stevie's friend! Thanks for the link and the kind words!

I think we're definitely coming at this article from the same angle. I also resent being told I and everyone I know are still adolescents despite the fact that I moved on my own to a completely different part of the country (in my case, from California to Texas) where I support myself financially, just because I don't want to buy a house and have kids in the next year.

Great point about Teach for America. Seriously, what IS childish about that? Even when twentysomethings do responsible, selfless things, it's evidence that they're not grown up enough.