In defense of 'twenty somethings'

By Keri Hayes

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Coming to the defense of the twenty-something image spawned by the media and scrutinized by the American public, authors David Lipsky and Alexander Abrams have created a sound argument that sheds the light of truth on the situations many of our generation face. Late Bloomers: Coming of Age in Today's America, The Right Place at the Wrong Time dispels the stereotypes associated with young adults and opts for comprehensive research and analysis to argue convincingly that people in their twenties today face a radically different economic and social climate than any previous generation.

Lipsky and Abrams narrow most of the changes in American society down to economics. The authors explain that the adult life that young people "aspire" to is based on having money. With one look at the statistics provided in Late Bloomers, it is easy to understand why the basic amenities of adult life (a house, a car, furniture) are getting harder and harder to attain. For those of us under 25, three out of five still live with our parents, one-third of us are unemployed and our incomes have dropped 20 percent in the last 20 years. Living expenses have grown inversely to this, with apartment rents now costing 50 percent more than they did even 10 years ago.

These statistics are given before the authors delve into the media treatment of "Generation X," for which they borrow a characterization made by Susan Faludi that likens the practice to a game of telephone. After one magazine or newspaper publishes a flashy story that attempts to explain what has gone wrong with today's youth, others follow quickly with their own stories, trying keep up with "the news." On top of this, television and movies move in to borrow news topics and turn them into entertainment.

Lipsky and Abrams conclude that these combined influences have given rise to the popular image of a group of young people "wearing Doc Martens, avoiding work, avoiding marriage, wearing nose rings, devoted to Soundgarden, undependable and uninterested in jobs, slaves to television, disengaged from news and politics and unable to consider or even construct an argument."

The authors avoid defending the stereotypes and attempt to explain the life patterns of our generation with facts and statistics. They go through the experiences of several young adults who have faced the typical 90s challenges: getting a job, going back to school, still not being able to find a job. The breakdown of the American family, a force that has made permanent changes and irreparable damage, is discussed in length.

An entire chapter of the book is devoted to an examination of the "indentured student"; how college loans and credit companies are making bigger claims than ever before on the livelihood of most twenty-somethings. AIDS is also attributed to a darkening of the "sexual revolution" and a major shift in sexual behavior and expression.

Intermingled with the hard facts, truthful conclusions and surprising statistics are references to authors, politicians, actors and other public figures. Lipsky and Abrams borrow from John Updike's writings for their own characterization of today's twenty-somethings. Updike wrote about his own late twenties; "We were in our late twenties then, young at being old-the best of times."

Lipsky and Abrams figure the opposite for our generation; we are old at being young. "When you're young, you run not on achievement but on promise promise is the lure of youth. But when you enter your mid-twenties, your achievements are the only things that matter. Promise is gone. And if your achievments aren't there, all you can do is avoid the question, or joke sickeningly, and remember when you were promising."

Late Bloomers finally suggests that our generation is simply late in blooming-that all the rewards we dream of will eventually come to us as long as we tough it out now. The authors fail to touch upon one very important point in their analysis, that this period of waiting for things to improve may have changed us permanently. Many of us are not content to wait out the storm so we can have lives like our parents'. We are creating alternatives, and while some of them have become trends, many of them are quite important, as they will shape the future we are about to become part of.

The book Late Bloomers is available for $18.00 at most bookstores.

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