A good way to look at our changing society is through the newspaper comics. The name Daddy Warbucks alone speaks volumes about that time. Li’l Abner and Pogo gave us political points of view through clueless characters. It was President Gerald Ford who observed, “There are only three major vehicles to keep us informed as to what is going on in Washington: the electronic media, the print media, and Doonesbury, not necessarily in that order.” A few years ago there was a comic strip called the Boomers, about the Baby Boomer generation. Their children are called boomerangs because they have returned home to live with their parents. So, sure enough, here is a new comic strip called Dustin about a son who moves back in with his parents to humorous situations.
I’m not sure just how humorous this is. Parents go through all sorts of trials and tribulations taking care of their children, from changing diapers to saving up for their college education, all with the goal of getting the kids out of the house and on their way in life. But to no avail, as the returning Junior sleeps till noon, spends the afternoon drinking beer with his buddies at the ice house or pool room, comes home asking, “Hey, Mom, what’s for dinner?” The evenings are for watching TV, while late nights are spent in his room or the basement — actually, his room could be the basement — on his computer watching porn, or using his iPhone or whatever the latest toy Silicon Valley has sold him. (“Uh, Dad, could I have a loan for the new Apple iFleece?”)
There is a slight variance to this routine among daughters who return home, just take out “pool hall” and put in “health club.” In either case, looking for a job is not a top priority. “Hey, Kiddo, here’s an ad: ‘Wanted, recent college graduate to be CEO of hedge fund. Start at $1 mil. Perks include yacht, plane and penthouse.’ Sounds good for entry level.” “Dad, that is so degrading for someone with an English degree.”
Before we go any further, let’s look at this idea of a sweeping title to identify a few million young Americans. It began with the Lost Generation of the 1920s. Those members must have somehow found each other because other generations followed. Remember the Beat Generation? Back in the 1960s did everyone wear beads, smoke joints, move to Haight Ashbury and protest the Vietnam War? It would seem so. We have had Boomers, Generation X and then Y (or Gen X and Y if you are really trendy). Millennials are mostly the children of baby boomers, generally considered to include anyone born between l982 and 2004, or today ages 31 and 9, although I don’t consider 9- year-olds to be boomerangs. Fifty years from now young Americans (the Asparagus Generation or, more probably, the Radiation Generation) will think that every single college graduate in the 2000s moved back home as boomerangs. As we might expect, these titles were thought up, and used, by Mad Men trying to target specific consumers. My generation is Gen W for Walker.
Maybe you are a boomerang or have one sleeping in your basement till noon. A Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data found that 36 percent of the Millennials were living at home, the highest share in at least four decades: 32 percent of their same-aged counterparts were living at home prior to the Great Recession in 2007. Despite the so-called recovery, the number keeps growing. A record 21.6 million boomerangs lived in their parents’ home in 2012, up from 18.5 million of their same aged counterparts in 2007. But wait. These figures are skewered because the Census Bureau counts at least a third and perhaps as many as half that are college students, and college students who live in dormitories during the academic year are counted as living with their parents. That includes virtually all of those attending community colleges which in Texas is half of all students. There is hope, however, that eventually these youths will move on. Census data shows that the younger boomerangs (ages 18 to 24) are much more likely than older ones (ages 25 to 31) to be living with their parents — 56 percent versus 16 percent. This reminds me; did you hear about the guy who bought a new boomerang and went crazy trying to throw away the old one?
Meanwhile, forget about the empty nest. How many parents had planned to move to a condo — they don’t have basements — or switch to a town house? Maybe Dad had planned to turn Sis’s room into a home office or a taxidermist’s den and Mom had already moved her door-to-door Tupperware sales supplies to Bubba’s bedroom. Perhaps they had plans to earn extra cash by renting out those bedrooms to al-Quida bomb makers. Why this phenomena? Experts cite several reasons. The economy, of course. Young people just out of college are having a terrible time finding work, unless it’s as a food taster for Obama’s advisers on Syria. Also, young people are waiting longer to get married, especially for the first time. For years, if a young man didn’t have a job after school the Army had an opening, or else. There is no longer the cultural taboo of going home to live with your parents. In my day (here comes the eye-rolling), I didn’t know anyone who would stand the humiliation of graduating from school and moving back with their parents. In a later generation, one of my sons became a Marine officer, the other went to graduate schools until he qualified for AARP. My daughter got married.
In any event, parents must be patient and continue to nurture their offspring. Remember, they’ll pick your nursing home. Incidentally, that new cartoon strip, Dustin, isn’t very good. I think some guy draws it in his parents’ basement.
Ashby lives at firstname.lastname@example.org