Is Gen Y Forever Young?

2010 June 4

I know I’m almost 30, but I’m still too young to be a dad.  Definitely not old enough for kids.

So said the all-American stranger in a polo and khaki shorts to his female companion. I was merely eavesdropping from a discreet distance.

Photo by Dianna Narotski

30? Too young?  Tell that to Swaziland, where the life expectancy is less than 32. While it’s more than likely that Mr. All-American was referring to his intellectual readiness to be a father (and kudos to considering this vs. blithely signing up for babydaddy duty), it struck me as interesting that he didn’t say that he wasn’t ready, or that he felt unprepared. No, he said he was too young. Fodder for a JMH theory at the very least…

It  points to a strange arrested development state of mind that seems to permeate much of Gen Y. I look young*, I act young, I feel young, therefore, I am young. Except, if we’re young at 26 or 28 or 32, what does that make eight year-olds? Other than competition, of course.

There’s a weird cultural force at work when you have the co-existence of high heels for babies and teenage Miley Cyrus on the cover of Vanity Fair wrapped in a sheet and 30 year-old men saying that they’re not old enough to procreate (And yes, there’s a definite gender dimension to this; stay tuned for more on that topic).  It’s like a cafeteria approach to chronology – we pick and choose the aspects of being adult that we feel comforting adopting or participating in (sex, earning power, being the boss of us, etc.) and eschew the rest.  This would be a fine strategy if there wasn’t the sneaking suspicion that it’s an evasive maneuver  instead of a purposeful choice to reject (and seek out an alternative to) historical expectations of adulthood in the form of  the house/car/kids/corporate job. And that we’re still actually measuring ourselves against these benchmarks, but instead of grappling with the substance of them (Do I want this? If so, how should I go about pursing it?), we’re simply waiting for the grown-up gene to kick in of its own accord and do the heavy lifting for us. Go to sleep in the white, wake up in the black and skip all the strenuous gray in between.

Its bound to happen one of these days.  By 40 for sure. Right, Mr. All-American?

*I’m honest enough to admit that passing for sub- 22 makes me giggle. Girlishly.

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