The Humiliating Infantilism of Adulting

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A woman teaches adults how to fry an egg. The man in the center background is obviously looking at her pants, not at her pan.

Can anyone identify the target audience for the Union Leader, New Hampshire’s most superfluous newspaper? Once proudly offering intellectual refuge to the state’s many racists and stockbrokers, now it can only whimper in its joyless support for Governor Sununu, George Will, and the rest of the castrated neocons who stand in token opposition to the Trump Administration. You know you have surpassed your own irrevocable irrelevance when Mallard Fillmore is your gutsiest pundit. If you think it can’t possibly be that bad, then consider this: on Sunday, the Union Leader published an obscenely uncritical, unironic piece on the grotesque, dangerous, and unmistakably leftist phenomenon of “adulting”.

Much to my chagrin, I did not have to update my spellcheck system to accommodate this word, for Microsoft has already added it to its dictionary. For those who are blessedly outside the know, the Leader explains that “adulting is a term often used by millennials and Gen Z’ers for completing everyday adult tasks like paying bills or cooking their own dinner.” The most illiterate generation of the last century has also produced the most prolific wordsmiths, who have devised a term for the basic competence expected of people who are not committed to institutions. The Union Leader goes on to observe that “colleges and universities across the country are offering classes to help students to help master basic life skills.”

[Hold up. Let me get this straight: we have identified a need for “classes to help students to help master basic life skills” at the university level? Implying that there was a shortage of students who had learned to “master basic life skills” at the university level? I thought the university was a place of exceptionality, of preternatural skill, of uncommon success!]

Well, if Seth Abramson can find work there, then clearly they don’t have very exacting standards. But more to the point is the contradiction you observe: as our children stand before the threshold of adulthood, we tell them they are exceptional and gifted, yet they cannot demonstrate their ability to function. As the article in the Union Leader explains, these courses on “adulting” do not cover any extraordinary abilities; instead, and it is worth repeating, they cover “everyday adult tasks like paying bills or cooking [dinner]”. If you are old enough to be enrolled at a university, then how is it possible that you don’t know how to pay your own bills or cook your own dinner? With respect to my readers, who may expect me to indulge in stylistic flourish, I confess that I am struggling to gussy up my horror in purple frippery. The simplicity disdains every convolution.

[Ah, but there is nothing more susceptible to complication than simplicity, is there? It would seem that the highest achievement of American culture is the needless complication of every element of human existence, from medicine to education to . . . “basic life skills”. Only in this nation, a nation as dysfunctional and self-destructive as this, could the ability to prepare one’s own dinner require instruction in adulthood. What were the nature and the tone of this article on “adulting”, anyway? It couldn’t have been a straightforward piece of reporting, I trust?]

None other. The article appeared in the business section, of all places, inches above a notification that Comcast is planning to raise everyone’s cable bills by nigh-on four percent in the coming year.

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Just because you don’t know how to tie your own shoes doesn’t mean you don’t know how to ask a bank for loans to start a business. Maybe you can teach “adulting” classes for a fee!

[And inches beneath a separate article inviting aspiring entrepreneurs to enroll at the University of New Hampshire? Forgive me, but why would anyone who reads both of these articles ever consider paying upwards of $30,000 a year to attend classes at UNH, which doesn’t even teach “basic life skills”? Furthermore, if aspiring students have yet to master the abstruse art of “paying bills”, then why would the notification about Comcast’s rising rates be of any interest to them?]

Maybe the Union Leader was hoping to attract the parents of children who are drowning in student debt, but who just can’t get the hang of preparing their own meals? Seriously: an unconscionable share of that article pertains to the methods of frying an egg, yet at no point does the author question our cultural structure, wherein an adolescent is somehow permitted to accept thirty grand in yearly student loans yet is incapable of preparing breakfast. The only plausible conclusion is that there is something inherently flawed, something pervasively and incurably malignant, to a society that has permitted, and knowingly encouraged, both of these irresponsible behaviors.

[So, what are you saying? Is there no way out of this fundamental culture of arrested development? Is the United States fucked six ways to Super Bowl Sunday?]

Well, it probably depends on what you mean by fucked—or, perhaps more accurately, who is being fucked. Contrary to popular belief, the millennials aren’t completely hopeless: they remember their parents, those bumbling and maladaptive imbeciles who happily swallowed even the bitterest and most tasteless propaganda. They see the unmistakable contrast between the dystopian struggle of their own lives and the haunting, nostalgic memory of their folks. They know there is something elementally awry about a society that permits the newest generation to suffer so severely, and they know there is something unforgivably sinister about a society that permits that same suffering set to take classes to learn how to fry an egg. They know, and if they don’t know, then they perceive, even if only at a subconscious level.

[Are you suggesting that it is the next generation, the offspring of the miserable millennials, whom we should fear?]

“We”? Meaning, those of us who recognize the grotesqueries inherent to this cannibalistic culture and who want nothing more than to demolish it for good, even if that means the obliteration of the organized society beneath? Or, meaning those of us who would defend the brittle construction and hopeless defense of that society—to our children’s last breath, but not to our own—even if it means the perpetual damnation of our own species? To the latter, the next generation is to be feared and disdained, even prevented; to the former, it is to be awaited and dreamed, even beckoned forth.

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Originally published in the Citizen of Laconia in March of 2012.

[Well, if the incompetence of the American government continues, then we might not have to wait for our redemption. Why don’t we close it out here with a look at something you wrote in March of 2012, in review of a film titled Project X? Eight years ago, you were disgusted, nearly to the point of suicidal despair, by the film’s glorification of bacchanalian, braindead American adolescents. With all that you have learned since that fateful night on which you watched the film, would you omit a single one of our observations here, no matter how cynical, no matter how cruel?]

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Not a one. If anything, the article you’ve just read is only the sequel to what I wrote then, and this only the precursor to what I will write eight years from now. Once I hoped that things would get better very soon; now I fear only that things will progress.

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