The Kids Aren't Alright
By Ed Driscoll · January 16, 2005 11:36 PM · Bobos In Paradise
Steve Green looks at this week's Socioeconomic Trend of the Century, as discovered by Time magazine. Time has dubbed it the "Twixters", which sounds at first glance like a hideous experiment at the Frito-Lay laboratories gone wrong and only gets worse when you discover its actual description:
Everybody knows a few of them—full-grown men and women who still live with their parents, who dress and talk and party as they did in their teens, hopping from job to job and date to date, having fun but seemingly going nowhere. Ten years ago, we might have called them Generation X, or slackers [or "Steve" –Ed.], but those labels don't quite fit anymore.Steve writes about a big problem today's kids face:
The problem with young people these days... is old people. Specifically, their parents. Why, back in my day (really, I'm suffering a bad case of [Premature Old Fogey Mode] tonight) growing up was A Good Thing. By that I mean: being a kid was fine and all, but the really cool stuff was either reserved for adults or considered a special treat.Steve has numerous examples, all of which I'm in complete agreement with, perhaps because of how I grew up.
My parents had me at a relatively late stage in their lives. They grew up during the Depression, and my father had left the Big Apple for South Jersey suburbia, after a few years' detour for World War II at Fort Dix. The life they led and the music they listened to seemed very much like a holdover from the Eisenhower '50s and the JFK, Rat Pack, pre-hippy '60s. They had what seemed like fairly sophisticated cocktail parties to my young eyes in their sealed basement with a bar at one end, and my dad's custom-built proto-media room hi-fi rig on the other end. Sinatra, Crosby, Fred Astaire, and Count Basie were daily listening for my dad--and still are to this day.
Ever read Thomas Hine's classic Populuxe? That was my life, right down to the knotty pine in the basement and my bedroom--my parents unknowingly kept the Populuxe embers burning long after Madison Avenue told them to dump it all for this.
For several birthdays as a kid, my parents took me via the Metroliner to Mies and Philip Johnson's late '50s cathedral of modernism, the Four Seasons in Manhattan, which is still a treat for me whenever I'm on the east coast.
When I was in my teens, I was more of a Beatles/Who/Stones/Zeppelin and Hendrix kind of guy rather than the Der Bingle and Francis Albert (my jazz phase came later--and was more cool jazz than swing, but these days, my dad and I have a fair amount of common interest in music--at least more so than when I was 15), but I vividly remember several daydreams in class about when I'd be old enough to either live in Manhattan or take the Metroliner in myself to catch Broadway Shows, jazz clubs and swanky restaurants.
In other words, I couldn't wait to be a grown-up, and partake in grown-up culture.
But that's not a carrot that dangles as brightly for today's kids. As Steve writes:
And we wonder why some kids today don't want to grow up? We've taken all the incentives out of the process. We're subsidizing childhood, then scratching our heads at why it lasts so much longer.Well, not all of us.
Steve writes that one of the trends that slows down the rate that kids grow into adults is our obsession with safety:
I'm completely convinced that I'm a good driver today because, as a kid, I wasn't required to wear my weight in safety equipment when riding my bike. Kids today aren't learning those lessons – so it's really no wonder that they're spending their money suping up their Honda Civics (or Honda Piper Cubs, as I like to call the ones with those massive, wing-like rear spoilers) instead of putting their cash away to make the down payment on a house. I suffered enough skinned knees (and just once, a skinned face) to teach me that getting there safely is at least half the thrill. To support my point, I remember reading in Reason a few years back that people who drive safer cars tend to cause more accidents than people driving non-Volvos.In David Frum's brilliant How We Got Here he does a thorough job of analyzing the disparate trends of the 1970s, which, as he notes, far more than the 1960s, shaped how we live today. The obsession with safety was just beginning in that decade. But Frum writes that for most people, it wasn't that prevelent an obsession back then:
They lit rockets in their backyards on the Fourth of July. They bought their steak marbled with fat. They smoked. They bought cars without seatbelts. They gave boys .22-caliber rifles for their eleventh birthdays. How they would gape and stare at a contemporary playground, with its rubber matting underneath the swings, safety belts on the teetertotters, and three-year-olds strapped into crash helmets before they can mount their tricycles. How they would snicker at grown men girding themselves like test pilots to pedal through the park, at a Post Office that airbrushes the cigarette out of Humphrey Bogart’s hand lest some impressionable stamp-collector get the wrong idea about smoking, at the massive Range Rovers we buy so that we can commute to the office without fear. Back then, one did not show so much concern for one’s carcass.The safety obsession, and so many of the other trends that have created the Twixters began in that awful decade. And the parents who are creating the Twixters grew up then as well.
Where am I going with this? Nowhere, except that looking back, I'm very glad that I had parents who kept one foot in grown-up culture, even as that culture was fading away.
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