May 21, 2019

Millennials Don't Know How to Be Adults

“On the eve of my wife’s 30th birthday—a milestone I, too, will soon hit—she posed a troubling question: Are we adults yet?

We certainly feel that way: We hold our own jobs, pay our own rent, cover our own bills, drive our own cars. Our credit is in order. But we don’t yet own a house and have no children—two markers commonly associated with fully-fledged adulthood (and two markers that both our sets of parents had reached well before they turned 30). And there are other gaps in our maturity: I don’t buy napkins or know how to golf; up until last year, I didn’t know how to change the oil in my car’s engine. Thankfully, last year we managed to throw a dinner party, our first, without burning the pork roast.

A vague anxiety over these known-unknowns is something of a generational hallmark. A Monday-morning scroll through the social media feed of the average 20-something might turn up a handful of friends sharing memes of dogs—looking bewildered, exasperated, or both—unironically captioned with something like: “Don’t make me adult today.”

Yes, Millennials have killed yet another thing. In this case, it’s something so fundamental that it may have seemed unkillable, but apparently isn’t: knowing how to be an adult.

Younger people need not look far on the internet to find popular condemnation from card-carrying grown-ups about our many shortcomings. We are, we are often told, simpering, self-indulgent, immune-to-difficulty know-nothings, overgrown toddlers who commute on children’s toys and demand cucumber water in our workplaces. But in our own social circles, such constructive criticism can be harder to find. Young urbanites tend to pack themselves into specific neighborhoods, cities, and living situations that have relatively fewer older residents. In such communities, knowledge on how to Seamless a meal to the doorstep is a dime a dozen, but first-hand experience in snaking a drain, cooking a meal for four, or operating a manual transmission comes at more of a premium. (To say nothing of the fact that a third of Americans between 18 and 34 are living with their parents.)”

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