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The Rise of the Man-Boy

Every once in a while I read something about my generation’s inability to grow up that either a.) depresses me, or b.) makes me want to throw up. Today I’ve got one example of each kind to share.

According to a recent report in the Los Angeles Times, today’s 20-somethings and 30-somethings, who have moved back home to live with their parents, are largely satisfied with the arrangement and are upbeat about their futures.

A recent report from the Pew Research Center found that 3 out of 10 young adults between the ages of 25 and 34 are living with parents or other family, or have done so, during the recent recession. Given the scarcity of jobs out there, these numbers are really no surprise. You can’t move out and get your own place if you have no income. What is a surprise is that the vast majority of those surveyed said they are OK living at home with their parents.

There are many legitimate reasons why a young adult might live at home for a season, such as caring for an infirm relative, saving money, or simply going through a short-term transition.

But reading between the numbers suggests that many of these adults don’t view living with parents as a fallback position. In the survey, 8 out of 10 said they don’t have enough money to live the kind of life they want yet. This apparently means that 2 out of 10 are living the life they want in middle age by mooching off their parents. One fifth of young adults living at home have no desire to be independent and self-sustaining. In other words, one fifth of adults have no desire to be adults.

It’s times like these I begin to fear that, when we face existential threats as a nation in the decades to come, my generation will simply collapse into a collective fetal position.

The Gravest Generation

While pondering this sad state of affairs I stumbled upon the website for a company that sells adult-size footie pajamas–you know, the kind babies and little kids under the age of five often wear. Only these PJ’s are sized for grown men. Consider these offerings:

  • The Electric Jamz footies: “Yes, this is the same print that Ryan Gosling wore on the Ellen Show!!!”
  • The Yellow Fire Truck footies for those 30-year-old boys who want to grow up to be firemen.
  • A Leopard Skin model, complete with “drop seat/butt flap” for more convenience when it’s “potty time” for your adult child.

We’re in big trouble. The government subsidizes millions of kids on their way through 10 years of college and grad school. It is frat parties and Xbox all through the 20s. By the mid-thirties, they’re still living at home, trying to find themselves, and wondering what they are going to do with their lives, kept by others, insulated from struggle and hardship, devoid of purpose or any sense of responsibility for themselves or others. Increasingly single and childless, they are strangers to the urgent life and death concerns that, for example, having one’s own children allows one to understand.

If the above pajama advertisement is any indication, many today feel no shame about their failure to grow up. The luxury of prolonged adolescence is, I’m convinced, going to turn out to be a curse for this generation in the end.

Too fond of ease and entitlement, and too much unacquainted with serious responsibilities, we slouch toward a future we are in no way prepared to face, mistaking as permanent the long calm prior to the day violent civilizational conflict returns to our shores. Sept. 11 was just a preview.

Who among this generation will be ready to stand up and face that day?

This article originally appeared in the International Business Times and is reprinted here with permission. Follow Nathan on Twitter @nathanharden

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