After watching the first two episodes of the much hyped new HBO series “Girls,” a one-woman success story of writing, directing, executive producing and acting by 25-year-old wunderkind Lena Dunham, I have an observation about her character I want to share and some advice: #blindinglyselfinvolved #growupalready.
Actually, I’m not really sure whether Twitter hashtags fall on her millennial generation audience’s conversational spectrum. In the premiere, Dunham’s character Hannah hears from her practical roommate Marnie, played by Allison Williams, that “on the totem of chat” the lowest form of communication is “Facebook, followed by gChat, then texting, then email, then phone.”
“Face to face is, of course, ideal,” she laments, “but it’s not of this time.”
Whether tweeting, texting or talking about it, what IS of this time, apparently, is mooching off of your parents as long as you possibly can. Two post-college "girls" of the program’s title are in crisis as the pilot aired last week, one young woman’s dilemma is an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy, a condition far more easily resolved than Hannah’s, an intern at a literary magazine who believes she is “a voice of a generation.” Her catastrophe is her parents have declared that two years past graduation is long enough to financially cover her “rent, cell phone, credit card” in New York, and consequently, while supportive of her fledgling writing aspirations, they will be providing “NO. MORE. MONEY.”
During the late 20th century, my generation of babyboomers more or less followed a path to adulthood that spanned a series of milestones. The first achievement was finishing our formal education, and then entering the workforce. Commitment or marriage, along with leaving our parents’ home often came next, and by our mid-twenties many of us had completed the transition to full adulthood, by having and raising children of our own.
Needless to say, we all experienced do-overs, restarts and edifying epiphanies as we refined our maturity and grew into our staid-ish seniority. Nonetheless, even though many of us are starting to note signposts of approaching dotage, we have not entirely crossed off our last milestone of adulthood, raising our children to their own unsteady self-sufficiency. Despite our own rugged independence, our above-average children arrive at the marketplace with no money and nothing to sell but untested competence.
They are grown, to be sure, and most are much better educated than we were at their age, but for reasons both economic and sociological they are nowhere as self-reliant as their parents were.
Today half the young people in the US between 18 and 24 are still sleeping in their childhood bedrooms and the number of 25- to 34-year-olds living at home has increased by 139 percent since 1970. According to “Not Quite Adults” a recent report by Dr. Richard Settersten and Barbara Ray, based on research conducted by a MacArthur Foundation research network, the long post-teen life phase of self-definition and experimentation lasts at least 10 years. Much of it bankrolled by parents.
The somewhat slower development of our boomeranging offspring is not all bad. Many young people are progressing deliberatively by “getting building blocks in place for a successful career and putting off marriage and children until they get their lives in order” but the example of HBO’s “Girls” does not engender optimism.
Maybe they should try to be more like their mothers?
Bonnie Goldstein is a writer in Washington. Follow her on Twitter at @KickedByAnAngel.