I recently read a blog post by a ChicagoNow blogger. I wrote a lengthy comment in response. Since then, there have been other comments, but no one has specifically addressed what I wrote, not even the author of the post, Stephen Markley.
I’m not used to this. On Windy Citizen, commenters talk to each other all the time. We get into really great and interesting discussions on a semi-regular basis. Certainly, in fact especially, a long comment like mine wouldn’t have gone completely unnoticed. Maybe Dave Winer is right and no one reads lengthy comments anymore (even though I have proof that this is not so). But no matter.
Maybe a community feeling doesn’t really exist on ChicagoNow or maybe it just doesn’t exist on that particular blog. But I know it exists here.
With that in mind, here’s the original post that I commented on.
And here’s my comment:
Stephen, I think this is really well written and you make excellent points, but I think that Ryan [Ryan’s comment is this one] also has a point. There has to be a happy medium in there somewhere.
As great and fun and life-affirming all your adventures are, getting married, having children, owning a home and other trappings of “adulthood” can also be a great adventure and a challenge. Also, who’s to say that it has to be a McMansion and an SUV in the suburbs? I know lots of young, married couples who are not living these lifestyles at all, even the ones with children. They are managing both the “adult” aspects of their lives while also traveling, staying informed, reading a lot, going out with friends, etc., etc. About the only difference is the number of sexual partners about whom they can share stories with their friends. But if you think the sexual lives of married people are boring, you’d be wrong.
I ask you also to consider that while you’re gleefully declaring culture wars to be “bunk,” you’re creating a new one. The new war seems to be between people like you and people like me (and other people I know around my age). Though I am 30, I got married at 25 and while we don’t have kids yet, we have purchased a home (in the dreaded suburbs of which you speak, after being in the city for 10 years) and are fairly settled and “adult” in many ways. But it doesn’t mean we’re dull and boring and it doesn’t mean our whole lives revolve around consumption. People think getting married, buying a home, etc. has to mean that you have to change the way you feel and the way you behave. It doesn’t have to be that way and it isn’t that way for many people.
Let us also not forget that the choices we’re talking about here are largely non-existent for large swaths of Americans. Only if you, your parents or your friends have the financial means can you gallivant around the country or the world without giving much though to a regular job or much less a career. Only if you were very lucky all your life to go to good schools and a decent college and actually graduate from them do you have the skills, knowledge and connections to get hired fairly easily for even part-time or temporary jobs. Only if you didn’t have children out of wedlock or in general, at a very young age, can you freely roam about without worrying about having mouths to feed. Only if you can afford it are you able to move to a different part of the country and experience a thriving metropolis and everything it offers. Only if you have a great, stable family can you remain a “non-adult” who doesn’t have to care for a younger sibling or an ailing grandparent. So let’s not pretend like all people of a certain age have the same choices to make about whether to succumb to adulthood or not.
Finally, as much as people poo-poo what we think of as adulthood, it does truly have the power to be a stabilizing force in society. People who have children are less likely to be reckless. Children also are a great way to learn patience and compassion. Home ownership creates stability as well. Having a career or even just a job benefits society in the sense that more taxes are being paid and more wealth is being created (which one can use anyway one wants to; donate it all to charity if you’d like). And nothing teaches one DAILY how to consider someone else’s needs above your own like a marriage.
Overall, I think a lot of this back and forth boils down to a pressing need to justify one’s lifestyle to others. You alluded to it by saying how many people e-mailed you that article. But while this war makes for great NYT articles or blog posts, is it really necessary? In fact, one of the hallmarks of adulthood might be learning to be self-possessed enough to NOT need any outside validation. Here’s hoping we can all at least reach that milestone, if not the others.
I look forward to your thoughts.
Image credit: Zazzle