Thursday, January 14, 2010 , Posted by Johnny Fuery at 1:30 AM

Originally Published 2005-03-08 16:16:54

Lola sent me this. Food for thought. My own experience has been nothing like that described below, but yet, I am inextricably effected -- the girls I've dated only seeing Love with a capital L as an option and ignoring pragmatic concerns (or compatibilities); the fact that I'm 27 and single; the wondering I've done about what life will look like after 30. (Is "settling down" my only option? What if I don't find someone to "settle down" with? What, in fact, am I going to do after 30? With life, with play, with everything?)

I find myself looking down on twixters a little -- like their parents probably do. Not for the same reasons, perhaps, but my judgment is still there. Ironic, because I largely fit the profile of one from the outside. I still feel like a late adolescent feeling my way around concepts like purpose and spirituality, yet am genuinely confused by fellow twixters who spend so much time being lost. I think they like it, in fact. "Just pick something!" I want to scream... as if "something" is better than being lost. It is, of course, my own self-judgment turned outward, but still... I think it's true. If confusion brings angst and the sense that you've missed out on something, then why not just pick something and thoroughly explore it? Wouldn't that be better than being miserable?

Heck, if you're still miserable, at least you'll be making more money/friends/knowledge which will make the next angst-laden decision a little easier to make sense of.

Then again, I guess that's the point of this article. It's all a learning process, and maybe everyone tends to end up where they belong anyway.

Now *that* was a faithful statement. Go figure.


> Copyright 2005 Time Inc.

> Time Magazine


> January 24, 2005




>LENGTH: 5804 words


>HEADLINE: Grow Up? Not So Fast;





>BYLINE: Lev Grossman, With reporting by Nadia Mustafa; Deirdre van

Dyk/ New

>York; Kristin Kloberdanz/ Chicago; Marc Schultz/ Atlanta




>Michele, Ellen, Nathan, Corinne, Marcus and Jennie are friends. All of

>them live in Chicago. They go out three nights a week, sometimes more.

>Each of them has had several jobs since college; Ellen is on her 17th,

>counting internships, since 1996. They don't own homes. They change

>apartments frequently. None of them are married, none have children.


>of them are from 24 to 28 years old.


>Thirty years ago, people like Michele, Ellen, Nathan, Corinne, Marcus

>and Jennie didn't exist, statistically speaking. Back then, the median

>age for an American woman to get married was 21. She had her first


>at 22. Now it all takes longer. It's 25 for the wedding and 25 for


>It appears to take young people longer to graduate from college,


>into careers and buy their first homes. What are they waiting for? Who

>are these permanent adolescents, these twentysomething Peter Pans? And

>why can't they grow up?


>Everybody knows a few of them--full-grown men and women who still live

>with their parents, who dress and talk and party as they did in their

>teens, hopping from job to job and date to date, having fun but

>seemingly going nowhere. Ten years ago, we might have called them

>Generation X, or slackers, but those labels don't quite fit anymore.

>This isn't just a trend, a temporary fad or a generational hiccup.


>is a much larger phenomenon, of a different kind and a different



>Social scientists are starting to realize that a permanent shift has

>taken place in the way we live our lives. In the past, people moved


>childhood to adolescence and from adolescence to adulthood, but today

>there is a new, intermediate phase along the way. The years from 18

>until 25 and even beyond have become a distinct and separate life


>a strange, transitional never-never land between adolescence and

>adulthood in which people stall for a few extra years, putting off the

>iron cage of adult responsibility that constantly threatens to crash

>down on them. They're betwixt and between. You could call them



>Where did the twixters come from? And what's taking them so long to


>where they're going? Some of the sociologists, psychologists and

>demographers who study this new life stage see it as a good thing. The

>twixters aren't lazy, the argument goes, they're reaping the fruit of

>decades of American affluence and social liberation. This new period


>a chance for young people to savor the pleasures of irresponsibility,

>search their souls and choose their life paths. But more historically

>and economically minded scholars see it differently. They are worried

>that twixters aren't growing up because they can't. Those researchers

>fear that whatever cultural machinery used to turn kids into grownups

>has broken down, that society no longer provides young people with the

>moral backbone and the financial wherewithal to take their rightful

>places in the adult world. Could growing up be harder than it used to



>The sociologists, psychologists, economists and others who study this

>age group have many names for this new phase of life--"youthhood,"

>"adultescence"--and they call people in their 20s "kidults" and

>"boomerang kids," none of which have quite stuck. Terri Apter, a

>psychologist at the University of Cambridge in England and the author


>The Myth of Maturity, calls them "thresholders."


>Apter became interested in the phenomenon in 1994, when she noticed


>students struggling and flailing more than usual after college.


>were baffled when their expensively educated, otherwise well-adjusted

>23-year-old children wound up sobbing in their old bedrooms, paralyzed

>by indecision. "Legally, they're adults, but they're on the threshold,

>the doorway to adulthood, and they're not going through it," Apter


>The percentage of 26-year-olds living with their parents has nearly

>doubled since 1970, from 11% to 20%, according to Bob Schoeni, a

>professor of economics and public policy at the University of



>Jeffrey Arnett, a developmental psychologist at the University of

>Maryland, favors "emerging adulthood" to describe this new demographic

>group, and the term is the title of his new book on the subject. His

>theme is that the twixters are misunderstood. It's too easy to write

>them off as overgrown children, he argues. Rather, he suggests,


>doing important work to get themselves ready for adulthood. "This is


>one time of their lives when they're not responsible for anyone else


>to anyone else," Arnett says. "So they have this wonderful freedom to

>really focus on their own lives and work on becoming the kind of


>they want to be." In his view, what looks like incessant, hedonistic

>play is the twixters' way of trying on jobs and partners and

>personalities and making sure that when they do settle down, they do


>the right way, their way. It's not that they don't take adulthood

>seriously; they take it so seriously, they're spending years carefully

>choosing the right path into it.


>But is that all there is to it? Take a giant step backward, look at


>history and the context that led up to the rise of the twixters, and


>start to wonder, Is it that they don't want to grow up, or is it that

>the rest of society won't let them?




>Matt Swann is 27 He took 6 1/2 years to graduate from the University


>Georgia. When he finally finished, he had a brand-spanking-new degree


>cognitive science, which he describes as a wide-ranging

>interdisciplinary field that covers cognition, problem solving,

>artificial intelligence, linguistics, psychology, philosophy and

>anthropology. All of which is pretty cool, but its value in today's


>market is not clear. "Before the '90s maybe, it seemed like a smart


>could do a lot of things," Swann says. "Kids used to go to college to

>get educated. That's what I did, which I think now was a bit naive.

>Being smart after college doesn't really mean anything. 'Oh, good,

>you're smart. Unfortunately your productivity's s___, so we're going


>have to fire you.'


>College is the institution most of us entrust to watch over the

>transition to adulthood, but somewhere along the line that transition

>has slowed to a crawl. In a TIME poll of people ages 18 to 29, only


>of those who attended college left school by age 21. In fact, the

>average college student takes five years to finish. The era of the

>four-year college degree is all but over.


>Swann graduated in 2002 as a newly minted cognitive scientist, but the

>job he finally got a few months later was as a waiter in Atlanta. He

>waited tables for the next year and a half. It proved to be a blessing

>in disguise. Swann says he learned more real-world skills working in

>restaurants than he ever did in school. "It taught me how to deal with

>people. What you learn as a waiter is how to treat people fairly,

>especially when they're in a bad situation." That's especially


>in his current job as an insurance-claims examiner.


>There are several lessons about twixters to be learned from Swann's

>tale. One is that most colleges are seriously out of step with the


>world in getting students ready to become workers in the postcollege

>world. Vocational schools like DeVry and Strayer, which focus on

>teaching practical skills, are seeing a mini-boom. Their enrollment


>48% from 1996 to 2000. More traditional schools are scrambling to give

>their courses a practical spin. In the fall, Hendrix College in


>Ark., will introduce a program called the Odyssey project, which the

>school says will encourage students to "think outside the book" in


>like "professional and leadership development" and "service to the

>world." Dozens of other schools have set up similar initiatives.


>As colleges struggle to get their students ready for real-world jobs,

>they are charging more for what they deliver. The resulting debt is a

>major factor in keeping twixters from moving on and growing up. Thirty

>years ago, most financial aid came in the form of grants, but now the

>emphasis is on lending, not on giving. Recent college graduates owe


>more in student loans than their counterparts of a decade ago,


>to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. In TIME's poll, 66% of

>those surveyed owed more than $ 10,000 when they graduated, and 5%


>more than $ 100,000. (And this says nothing about the credit-card

>companies that bombard freshmen with offers for cards that students


>cheerfully abuse. Demos, a public-policy group, says credit-card debt

>for Americans 18 to 24 more than doubled from 1992 to 2001.) The


>it takes to pay off those loans, the longer it takes twixters to


>the financial independence that's crucial to attaining an adult

>identity, not to mention the means to get out of their parents' house.


>Meanwhile, those expensive, time-sucking college diplomas have become

>worth less than ever. So many more people go to college now--a 53%

>increase since 1970--that the value of a degree on the job market has

>been diluted. The advantage in wages for college-degree holders hasn't

>risen significantly since the late 1990s, according to the Bureau of

>Labor Statistics. To compensate, a lot of twixters go back to school


>graduate and professional degrees. Swann, for example, is planning to

>head back to business school to better his chances in the insurance

>game. But piling on extra degrees costs precious time and money and

>pushes adulthood even further into the future.




>Kate Galantha, 29, spent seven years working her way through college,

>transferring three times. After she finally graduated from Columbia

>College in Chicago (major: undeclared) in 2001, she moved to Portland,

>Ore., and went to work as a nanny and as an assistant to a wedding

>photographer. A year later she jumped back to Chicago, where she got a

>job in a flower shop. It was a full-time position with real benefits,

>but she soon burned out and headed for the territories, a.k.a.


>Wis. "I was really busy but not accomplishing anything," she says. "I

>didn't want to stay just for a job."


>She had no job offers in Madison, and the only person she knew there


>her older sister, but she had nothing tying her to Chicago (her

>boyfriend had moved to Europe) and she needed a change. The risk paid

>off. She got a position as an assistant at a photo studio, and she


>it. "I decided it was more important to figure out what to do and to


>in a new environment," Galantha says. "It's exciting, and I'm in a


>where I can accomplish everything. But starting over is the worst."


>Galantha's frenetic hopping from school to school, job to job and city

>to city may look like aimless wandering. (She has moved six times


>1999. Her father calls her and her sister gypsies.) But Emerging

>Adulthood's Arnett--and Galantha--see it differently. To them, the

>period from 18 to 25 is a kind of sandbox, a chance to build castles


>knock them down, experiment with different careers, knowing that none


>it really counts. After all, this is a world of overwhelming choice:

>there are 40 kinds of coffee beans at Whole Foods Market, 205 channels

>on DirecTV, 15 million personal ads on and 800,000 jobs on

> Can you blame Galantha for wanting to try them all? She

>doesn't want to play just the hand she has been dealt. She wants to


>through the whole deck. "My problem is I'm really overstimulated by

>everything," Galantha says. "I feel there's too much information out

>there at all times. There are too many doors, too many people, too




>Twixters expect to jump laterally from job to job and place to place

>until they find what they're looking for. The stable, quasi-parental

>bond between employer and employee is a thing of the past, and neither

>feels much obligation to make the relationship permanent. "They're


>aware of the fact that they will not work for the same company for the

>rest of their life," says Bill Frey, a demographer with the Brookings

>Institution, a think tank based in Washington. "They don't think

>long-term about health care or Social Security. They're concerned


>their careers and immediate gratification."


>Twixters expect a lot more from a job than a paycheck. Maybe it's a

>reaction to the greed-is-good 1980s or to the whatever-is-whatever

>apathy of the early 1990s. More likely, it's the way they were raised,

>by parents who came of age in the 1960s as the first generation

>determined to follow its bliss, who want their children to change the

>world the way they did. Maybe it has to do with advances in medicine.

>Twixters can reasonably expect to live into their 80s and beyond, so

>their working lives will be extended accordingly and when they choose


>career, they know they'll be there for a while. But whatever the


>twixters are looking for a sense of purpose and importance in their

>work, something that will add meaning to their lives, and many don't

>want to rest until they find it. "They're not just looking for a job,"

>Arnett says. "They want something that's more like a calling, that's

>going to be an expression of their identity." Hedonistic nomads, the

>twixters may seem, but there's a serious core of idealism in them.


>Still, self-actualization is a luxury not everybody can afford, and

>looking at middle- and upper-class twixters gives only part of the

>picture. Twixters change jobs often, but they don't all do it for the

>same reasons, and one twixter's playful experimentation is another's

>desperate hustling. James Cote is a sociologist at the University of

>Western Ontario and the author of several books about twixters,

>including Generation on Hold and Arrested Adulthood. He believes that

>the economic bedrock that used to support adolescents on their journey

>into adulthood has shifted alarmingly. "What we're looking at really

>began with the collapse of the youth labor market, dating back to the

>late '70s and early '80s, which made it more difficult for people to


>a foothold in terms of financial independence," Cote says. "You need a

>college degree now just to be where blue- collar people the same age

>were 20 or 30 years ago, and if you don't have it, then you're way

>behind." In other words, it's not that twixters don't want to become

>adults. They just can't afford to.


>One way society defines an adult is as a person who is financially

>independent, with a family and a home. But families and homes cost

>money, and people in their late teens and early 20s don't make as much

>as they used to. The current crop of twixters grew up in the 1990s,


>the dotcom boom made Internet millions seem just a business proposal

>away, but in reality they're worse off than the generation that


>them. Annual earnings among men 25 to 34 with full-time jobs dropped


>from 1971 to 2002, according to the National Center for Education

>Statistics. Timothy Smeeding, a professor of economics at Syracuse

>University, found that only half of Americans in their mid-20s earn

>enough to support a family, and in TIME'S poll only half of those ages

>18 to 29 consider themselves financially independent. Michigan's


>says Americans ages 25 and 26 get an average of $ 2,323 a year in

>financial support from their parents.


>The transition to adulthood gets tougher the lower you go on the

>economic and educational ladder. Sheldon Danziger, a public-policy

>professor at the University of Michigan, found that for male workers

>ages 25 to 29 with only a high school diploma, the average wage


>11% from 1975 to 2002. "When I graduated from high school, my


>who didn't want to go to college could go to the Goodyear plant and


>a house and support a wife and family," says Steve Hamilton of Cornell

>University's Youth and Work Program. "That doesn't happen anymore."

>Instead, high school grads are more likely to end up in retail jobs


>low pay and minimal benefits, if any. From this end of the social

>pyramid, Arnett's vision of emerging adulthood as a playground of

>self-discovery seems a little rosy. The rules have changed, and not in

>the twixters' favor.




>With everything else that's going on--careers to be found, debts to be

>paid, bars to be hopped--love is somewhat secondary in the lives of


>twixters. But that doesn't mean they're cynical about it. Au


>among our friends from Chicago--Michele, Ellen, Nathan, Corinne,


>and Jennie--all six say they are not ready for marriage yet but do


>it someday, preferably with kids. Naturally, all that is comfortably

>situated in the eternally receding future. Thirty is no longer the

>looming deadline it once was. In fact, five of the Chicago six see

>marriage as a decidedly post-30 milestone.


>"It's a long way down the road," says Marcus Jones, 28, a comedian who

>works at Banana Republic by day. "I'm too self-involved. I don't want


>bring that into a relationship now." He expects to get married in his

>mid- to late 30s. "My wife is currently a sophomore in high school,"




>"I want to get married but not soon," says Jennie Jiang, 26, a

>sixth-grade teacher. "I'm enjoying myself. There's a lot I want to do


>myself still."


>"I have my career, and I'm too young," says Michele Steele, 26, a TV

>producer. "It's commitment and sacrifice, and I think it's a


>Lo and behold, people have come to the conclusion that it's not much


>to get married and have kids right out of college."


>That attitude is new, but it didn't come out of nowhere. Certainly,


>spectacle of the previous generation's mass divorces has something to


>with the healthy skepticism shown by the twixters. They will spend a


>years looking before they leap, thank you very much. "I fantasize more

>about sharing a place with someone than about my wedding day," says

>Galantha, whose parents split when she was 18. "I haven't seen a lot


>good marriages."


>But if twixters are getting married later, they are missing out on


>of the social-support networks that come with having families of their

>own. To make up for it, they have a special gift for friendship,

>documented in books like Sasha Cagen's Quirkyalone and Ethan Watters'

>Urban Tribes, which asks the not entirely rhetorical question Are

>friends the new family? They throw cocktail parties and dinner


>They hold poker nights. They form book groups. They stay in touch

>constantly and in real time, through social-networking technologies


>cell phones, instant messaging, text messaging and online communities

>like Friendster. They're also close to their parents. TIME'S poll


>that almost half of Americans ages 18 to 29 talk to their parents




>Marrying late also means that twixters tend to have more sexual


>than previous generations. The situation is analogous to their

>promiscuous job-hopping behavior--like Goldilocks, they want to find


>one that's just right--but it can give them a cynical, promiscuous


>too. Arnett is worried that if anything, twixters are too romantic. In

>their universe, romance is totally detached from pragmatic concerns


>societal pressures, so when twixters finally do marry, they're going


>do it for Love with a capital L and no other reason. "Everybody wants


>find their soul mate now," Arnett says, "whereas I think, for my

>parents' generation--I'm 47--they looked at it much more practically.


>think a lot of people are going to end up being disappointed with the

>person that's snoring next to them by the time they've been married


>a few years and they realize it doesn't work that way."




>When it comes to social change, pop culture is the most sensitive of

>seismometers, and it was faster to pick up on the twixters than the

>cloistered social scientists. Look at the Broadway musical Avenue Q,


>which puppets dramatize the vagaries of life after graduation. ("I


>I could go back to college," a character sings. "Life was so simple


>then.") Look at that little TV show called Friends, about six people


>put off marriage well into their 30s. Even twice-married Britney


>fits the profile. For a succinct, albeit cheesy summation of the


>predicament, you couldn't do much better than her 2001 hit I'm Not a

>Girl, Not Yet a Woman.


>The producing duo Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, who created


>legendarily zeitgeisty TV series thirtysomething and My So-Called


>now have a pilot with ABC called 1/4life, about a houseful of people


>their mid-20s who can't seem to settle down. "When you talk about this

>period of transition being extended, it's not what people intended to

>do," Herskovitz says, "but it's a result of the world not being

>particularly welcoming when they come into it. Lots of people have a

>difficult time dealing with it, and they try to stay kids as long as

>they can because they don't know how to make sense of all this. We're

>interested in this process of finding courage and one's self."


>As for movies, a lot of twixters cite Garden State as one that really

>nails their predicament. "I feel like my generation is waiting longer

>and longer to get married," says Zach Braff, 29, who wrote, directed


>starred in the film about a twentysomething actor who comes home for


>first time in nine years. "In the past, people got married and got a


>and had kids, but now there's a new 10 years that people are using to

>try and find out what kind of life they want to lead. For a lot of

>people, the weight of all the possibility is overwhelming."


>Pop culture may reflect the changes in our lives, but it also plays


>part in shaping them. Marketers have picked up on the fact that


>on their personal voyages of discovery tend to buy lots of stuff along

>the way. "They are the optimum market to be going after for consumer

>electronics, Game Boys, flat-screen TVs, iPods, couture fashion,


>vacations and so forth," says David Morrison, president of

>Twentysomething Inc., a marketing consultancy based in Philadelphia.

>"Most of their needs are taken care of by Mom and Dad, so their income

>is largely discretionary. [Many twentysomethings] are living at home,

>but if you look, you'll see flat-screen TVs in their bedrooms and

>brand-new cars in the driveway." Some twixters may want to grow up,


>corporations and advertisers have a real stake in keeping them in a

>tractable, exploitable, pre-adult state--living at home, spending


>money on toys.




>Maybe the twixters are in denial about growing up, but the rest of

>society is equally in denial about the twixters. Nobody wants to admit

>they're here to stay, but that's where all the evidence points. Tom

>Smith, director of the General Social Survey, a large sociological

>data-gathering project run by the National Opinion Research Center,

>found that most people believe that the transition to adulthood should

>be completed by the age of 26, on average, and he thinks that number


>only going up. "In another 10 or 20 years, we're not going to be


>about this as a delay. We're going to be talking about this as a


>trajectory," Smith says. "And we're going to think about those people

>getting married at 18 and forming families at 19 or 20 as an odd

>historical pattern."


>There may even be a biological basis to all this. The human brain

>continues to grow and change into the early 20s, according to Abigail

>Baird, who runs the Laboratory for Adolescent Studies at Dartmouth.


>as a society deem an individual at the age of 18 ready for adult

>responsibility," Baird points out. "Yet recent evidence suggests that

>our neuropsychological development is many years from being complete.

>There's no reason to think 18 is a magic number." How can the twixters

>be expected to settle down when their gray matter hasn't?


>A new life stage is a major change, and the rest of society will have


>change to make room for it. One response to this very new phenomenon


>extremely old-fashioned: medieval-style apprenticeship programs that

>give high school graduates a cheaper and more practical alternative to

>college. In 1996 Jack Smith, then CEO of General Motors, started

>Automotive Youth Educational Systems (AYES), a program that puts high

>school kids in shops alongside seasoned car mechanics. More than 7,800

>students have tried it, and 98% of them have ended up working at the

>business where they apprenticed. "I knew this was my best way to get

>into a dealership," says Chris Rolando, 20, an AYES graduate who works

>at one in Detroit. "My friends are still at pizza-place jobs and have


>idea what to do for a living. I just bought my own house and have a



>But success stories like Rolando's are rare. Child welfare, the

>juvenile-justice system, special-education and support programs for

>young mothers usually cut off at age 18, and most kids in foster care

>get kicked out at 18 with virtually no safety net. "Age limits are


>the time limits for welfare recipients," says Frank Furstenberg, a

>sociologist who heads a research consortium called the MacArthur


>on Transitions to Adulthood. "They're pushing people off the rolls,


>they're not necessarily able to transition into supportive services or

>connections to other systems." And programs for the poor aren't the


>ones that need to grow up with the times. Only 54% of respondents in


>TIME poll were insured through their employers. That's a reality that

>affects all levels of society, and policymakers need to strengthen


>safety net.


>Most of the problems that twixters face are hard to see, and that


>it harder to help them. Twixters may look as if they have been

>overindulged, but they could use some judicious support. Apter's

>research at Cambridge suggests that the more parents sympathize with

>their twixter children, the more parents take time to discuss their

>twixters' life goals, the more aid and shelter they offer them, the

>easier the transition becomes. "Young people know that their material

>life will not be better than their parents'," Apter says. "They don't

>expect a safer life than their parents had. They don't expect more

>secure employment or finances. They have to put in a lot of work just


>remain O.K." Tough love may look like the answer, but it's not what

>twixters need.


>The real heavy lifting may ultimately have to happen on the level of


>culture itself. There was a time when people looked forward to taking


>the mantle of adulthood. That time is past. Now our culture trains


>people to fear it. "I don't ever want a lawn," says Swann. "I don't


>want to drive two hours to get to work. I do not want to be a parent.


>mean, hell, why would I? There's so much fun to be had while you're

>young." He does have a point. Twixters have all the privileges of

>grownups now but only some of the responsibilities. From the point of

>view of the twixters, upstairs in their childhood bedrooms, snuggled


>under their Star Wars comforters, it can look all downhill.


>If twixters are ever going to grow up, they need the means to do


>they will have to want to. There are joys and satisfactions that come

>with assuming adult responsibility, though you won't see them on The

>Real World. To go to the movies or turn on the TV is to see a world

>where life ends at 30; these days, every movie is Logan's Run. There


>few road maps in the popular culture--and to most twixters, this is


>only culture--to get twixters where they need to go. If those who are


>and older want the rest of the world to grow up, they'll have to show

>the twixters that it's worth their while. "I went to a Poster Children

>concert, and there were 40-year-olds still rocking," says Jennie


>"It gave me hope." --With reporting by Nadia Mustafa and Deirdre van

>Dyk/ New York, Kristin Kloberdanz/ Chicago and Marc Schultz/ Atlanta



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