The Null Device


A Spiked article on the epiphenomenon of people putting off "growing up"; from twenty- and thirty-somethings dressing as candy-raver kids, collecting stuffed toys and retro playthings and reliving an idealised second-time-around adolescence at institutions like "School Disco", to "boomerang kids" moving back in with their aging parents.
The reinterpretation of personal commitment as a risk represents a health warning to anyone foolish enough to desire passionate engagement. The equation of love with risk is fuelled by a tendency to accommodate to the problems experienced by adults in their relationships. One pragmatic response to this state of affairs is to declare that the expectations that we have of intimate relationships is unrealistic. 'Be careful, you may get hurt' is a message that reflects the temper of our times. The anxieties that surround relationships have encouraged many adults to avoid or at least to postpone thinking about making a commitment to others.

Meanwhile, those who do move out of home are largely choosing to live alone, rather than in de-facto relationships:

The rise of the singleton appears to be a global phenomenon, impacting on industrial societies throughout the world. Back in 1950, about three per cent of the population of Europe and North America lived alone. Since that time, virtually every industrial country has seen a massive rise in the number of single-person households. In Britain, seven million adults live alone - three times as many as 40 years ago. The 2002 edition of Social Trends estimated that by 2020, one-person households will constitute 40 percent of the total number of households.

(I lived with my parents (in Ferntree Gully the outer darkness) until my mid-20s, using the money I saved to buy music gear, CDs imported books and other extravagances. Then I fled the suburbs, and (other than a brief stint in a sharehouse), have been living by myself. I have yet to meet anyone I fancy enough to want to live with (let alone buy real estate with). I guess this trend means that I'm not weird, just ahead of the curve.)

Some are saying that "extended adolescence" lasts until one turns 35; though if you're over that age, fear not, as you have another 10 years of "middlescence". (And once the hip GenX "middlescents" reach 45, they'll surely come up with another term for 45-to-55s who spend their lives at play.) And TV shows and movies are idealising being young or young-at-heart; being grown-up (at least in a sincere sense) is unhip.

Though is that really so pathological? Should people move out of home at 18, get married and have children in their early 20s, get a serious job, wear their hair at an appropriate length and spend their money on paying off the 5-bedroom suburban dream home as God/Nature/John Howard intended, rather than on PlayStations and backpacking trips to Thailand and Hello Kitty knickknacks and iPods and CDs and Cooper Minis and futurephones and ironic Dangerfield argyle jumpers? Or is the traditional definition of adulthood itself unnatural, a construct of the Industrial Revolution/the Victorian Era/the Calvinist work ethic?

There are 9 comments on "Peterpandemonium":

Posted by: dj http:// Fri Aug 8 00:40:43 2003

I've found that living in share houses is one way of not growing up. Even though i am really busy at the moment, i don't have to go somewhere to be able to inflict my stupidity on someone.

I still haven't mastered my insincere seriousness, so i think i've got quite a while yet.

Posted by: Ben Fri Aug 8 02:27:29 2003

As long as 'they' are buying Products then 'they' will be left alone.

Posted by: acb Fri Aug 8 03:54:16 2003

I recall that, not too long ago, someone in the Howard government proposed something along the lines of taking extra tax out of young people's incomes and giving it back to them in credit towards home loans or something. This seems like a social-engineering ploy to punish the tendency to postpone "growing up".

Posted by: gjw Fri Aug 8 05:53:14 2003

Recall that Our Great and Compassionate leader himself lived with his folks until his thirties.

Posted by: dj http:// Fri Aug 8 05:55:21 2003

FFS! they already screw me by taking my super out of my pay packet, which i know i could invest better than my industry fund can.

Posted by: gjw Fri Aug 8 06:40:15 2003

Recall that Our Great and Compassionate leader himself lived with his folks until his thirties.

Posted by: gjw Fri Aug 8 06:40:49 2003's longest interval between double posts ever.

Posted by: Graham Fri Aug 8 09:15:06 2003

Yeah, well, I'm not even thinking about buying a house until this insane housing boom cools off. In five years, mebbe.

Posted by: acb Fri Aug 8 16:00:42 2003

The super thing actually makes sense, if you assume that most people would not have the good sense to invest enough of their income safely. Or at least the alternatives (letting the imprudent starve to death or taxing the hell out of the workforce to support the swelling ranks of retirees) are more problematic. Especially as when the baby-boomers retire, there'll be something like 1.9 taxpayers to support each retiree.

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