Sumana, as often, prods me into deeper consideration of a topic–in this case, the aforementioned “Twixters:”

“I skimmed the article at a colleague’s request – she basically wanted to see whether I got enraged. My basic response: this should have been a one-page article containing the following points:

Rent as percentage of income has gone up tremendously in the past 30-50 years. It is harder and costlier to get health insurance at your job, especially at low-paying entry-level/part-time jobs, in the past 30-50 years. Thanks to rising college costs and the increasing perception that college is a necessary for a decent career, people in their twenties have way more debt now than did people in their twenties 30-50 years ago.

Ergo – the number of people who live with their parents goes up from 11% to 20% in 30 years.

There have always been families where grown children stayed in the house where they grew up, whether the kids were spoiled brats or not. In fact, in India and many non-industrialized countries, this is closer to the norm than to the exception.

Anyway. I just noticed the title of your Twixters entry. I automatically skipped the anecdotes in the article – probably some of them are babies or spoiled brats or cowering overgrown teens, and some of them are hardheaded pragmatic entrepreneurs, and some are pathological leeches. But the economics of the past 30-50 years point me towards, well, an economic explanation of this phenomenon.”

My response, plus reference-links:

“I agree with you on all points re: humans who move back into their parents’ homes after college. There are sound economic and social reasons for it, and in fact, growing up, it was what I always expected most other people to do (I became aware that I wouldn’t be doing so myself around age 12).

But I think the use of that statistic and the accompanying reasoning are largely unrelated to the author’s points; there’s a serious gap between that premise and his conclusions. Moving back home is not the same thing as ‘expensively educated, otherwise well-adjusted 23-year-old children… sobbing in their old bedrooms, paralyzed by indecision.’ In fact, not a single one of the people interviewed lives with his or her parents.

Part of my objection to the article is the author’s statement that ‘one way society defines an adult is as a person who is financially independent, with a family and a home,’ and his tacit refusal to consider other definitions–but I doubt he’d label a fortysomething couple, without children, living in an apartment in the city, as ‘twixters.’ I’d define an adult as a financially independent human who can handle responsibility. I joke about grad school as ‘putting off being a grownup,’ but in fact it’s nothing of the kind. I buy my own food and pay my own rent, work a white-collar job (albeit for absurdly low pay), invest time and money in building my job skills and carefully manage my debt. Why would owning a building or getting married before I was ready magically endow me with adulthood?

I also love the statements by people who are astounded that ‘everybody wants to find their soul mate now,’ or that twixters ‘expect a lot more from a job than a paycheck.’ Yeah, the conflict of choosing love or practicality in a marriage is COMPLETELY new! Not like it was a favorite topic of authors over a hundred years ago! And we all know that before 2002, nobody expected satisfaction or fulfillment from a JOB.

The rest of my objection–and the source of that post–comes from statements like those of Matt Swann, who is apparently bitter about this situation: ‘Oh, good, you’re smart. Unfortunately your productivity’s s___, so we’re going to have to fire you.’ Does ‘being smart’ mean taking six and a half years to get a bachelor’s degree (on one’s parents’ dime, I can only assume)? Before the 90s, did smart people have jobs where they didn’t have to produce? The title of the post came from the question ‘is it that they don’t want to grow up, or is it that the rest of society won’t let them?’ Great, now the people with ‘flat-screen TVs in their bedrooms and brand-new cars in the driveway’ are being Held Down By The Man.

I agree with you that your reduction contains the only worthwhile points in the article (or those that should have been in it, anyway). Making people like Swann out to be a) a mass phenomenon and b) deserving of pity is both irresponsible and incorrect. Implying that people my age are ‘huddled under [our] Star Wars comforters,’ without even anecdotal evidence for it, is worse. There’s no reason to write such material except as an excuse for the tongue-clucking condescension to young adults in which small, bitter members of older generations have long taken joy.”