Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Twentysomethings, Parents, take heed...

Okay. It's back to my shoe closet.

There's just No rest for the weary. [sigh]

Are you sick of what I call The Voice [not the paper]? That ever patient, sweet, breathy, singsong way of talking, popular in PC communities where anger management classes are available to middle schoolers. People adopt it to mask their fury. It's a form of passive aggression, its intent to drive you nuts, push you to your limit, i.e, make you feel aggressive toward them, so they can accuse you of lacking control. "I'm sorry you feel that way" just rolls off their tongue, its dulcet, lilting tones grinding away at your frustration. I've often wondered where people get the training for such speech. It's one of the things that drove me away from midcoast Maine.

Just came to mind. That's all...


There's a A Cautionary Tale in today's NY Times, a MUST read for Twenty Somethings and their parents, maybe all parents. The photo at the beginning of the piece says it all. [Poor baby in that big ol house all day!] And please do read the whole thing. If you don't you'll miss the moving buildup to the tearjerker finale. Then you simply must read at least the first twenty brief comments below the article and cast your vote!! Especially number 19, I think it was, which had the most votes earlier this morning (like over 1,000, including mine) from readers.

Here's a bit of what No. 19 from Idaho had to say:

"You've got to be kidding. The father and grandfather preach nepotism and the son/grandson turns down $40,000 -- to start? Father/Grandfather have no leg to stand on complaining that their baby hasn't got a chance. Boo hoo. What a bunch of overprivileged, overstuffed losers. And what a lazy bum is their offspring. I can't believe this big baby is front page news of the Times.

Most people have to work their whole lives just to end up with a salary over $40,000 -- and then it's time to retire and eat tuna fish in their final days. But this over privileged kid thinks its just really rough out there? "
[I like this guy's edgy humor. Tuna fish indeed!]

Here's the thing: I know parents exactly like the Nicholsons, and their kids. As a divorcee on the short end of a stingy stick wielded by both my ex and my inlaws, I could never afford to actually BE one of these finagling parents. I saw the advantages such kids might have over mine, kids with well connected, "grease -the -skids- for- the- kids" parents, and so tried, when I could, albeit rarely, to do the same. (I am, after all, resourceful.) I don't believe now such trying to keep up with the Nicholsons did my kids a bit of good. If anything, it confused them as to who they were and what their reality was. I spent years as a kind of suburban, pretend- this- is- normal, Shabby Chic single mom trying to deny that divorce and an unsupportive extended family had pulled the rug out from under my kids' possibilities for such a painless, easy life. It would have been better for all of us had I told them the truth from the start (and I might have if I had faced it myself).

The truth? That aside from whatever help they could get from their loving mom, they were basically on their own and were bound to be lucky (as I felt I had been) if they were good hearted and worked hard. That those other "family members" would never take the initiative to be what my kids needed (deserved) them to be: loving, supportive, there for them in a real sense. They were people with their own fears and denials to wrestle, or not wrestle as it turns out. Their own nests to feather. Their own kidskids to grease. From stories that came home from post divorce family gatherings, everyone pretended otherwise, but my hopeful, intuitive children sensed the lie and felt the disappointment, the imbalance, not wanting to believe it either. (My father in law once put it to me after my son was born that children of divorce were "doomed". It felt like a threat, the insufferable prig. When my cheating husband walked out on the marriage, stating it was "nothing personal" he "just didn't want to be married anymore" like it was a shirt he no longer wanted, my father in law insisted it was because I was always remodeling the house. We can pause here for a brief cackle if you like.)

All this created the kind of cognitive dissonance in my children that undermines a person's sense of foundation and empowerment. Most of those people (both families) would forever blame me or my children for their father's sins in order to avoid looking at their own or taking any responsibility for my kids' needs. That was the truth, the unchangeable truth. I should have stated it flatly and publicly instead of believing it was unchristian to do so.

Armed with such truth, my two now twentysomething children may have been better prepared to face their own weaknesses more squarely and practically. I mean, I've always believed, at least since I assumed responsibility for who I was, that my young life, while filled with disappointment, huge responsibility, challenges and pain, was also filled with wonderful times and limitless, albeit hysterical, humor; it made me who I am: strong, honest, creative, intrepid, smart, intuitive, confident. How is that bad? What made me think sheltering kids from certain truths would help them be better survivors? Some lame shrink's childhood ideal of no conflict? It's conflict that makes us know who we are. Telling a heartsick kid that someone who consistently hurts or disappoints them really loves them "in their way" is crap. Cause it isn't love, is it?

Despite such confusion, and perhaps because we were, in effect, fairly poor by local standards, my kids did manage to acquire a passable work ethic (they got the arty gene as well, a mixed blessing?) and a deep sense of noblesse oblige, a somewhat modified version since they came to understand the nature of "privilege" on the late side (that to be white in America, for instance, is to live a privileged life). Not so most of the self-important, ruthlessly self-esteemed (everything is a "GOOD JOB!"), entitled sons and daughters of the class for whom doors always seem to open with ease. I have witnessed this first hand.

This is not to say the entitlement epidemic hasn't affected the other classes too. It was years ago we learned that teens across the economic board (including one of my own) were no longer taking summer jobs. No need. So booshwa. I can borrow the money for college! The Boomers themselves, while not unaccustomed to hard work to get where they've got to, are some of the most spoiled and worst overconsumers (hence, polluters –via planned obsolescence and convenient plastics) on the planet; we believe with all our hearts we're entitled to be so.
(Consumption = Pollution; capitalism's dirty little secret. See this little gem again. And do take note particularly how HE defines the American dream.)

So what do you say today we'd "keep it real" (as if they knew how). Why not offer a little genuine entitlement gear for all you twentysomethings out there for whom WORK is an undignified chore unless it comes with a fat salary and plenty of perks and kudos from the boss, benefits, plenty of vacay time, and the promise of ego gratifying advancement.

Here you go, love. Slap this poncy thing on your head and go round telling yourself you deserve to be so ennobled, so entitled. That you earned all that privilege. Be my guest. See if it doesn't get a little tiresome after awhile...

I can tell you that the rest of us find your whining, KnowNothing condescension mighty tiresome indeed.


[Muttering to self] I just don't know when I'm ever gonna get around to writing about the nouveau mysogynists with all this other stuff happening.

Finally: Looking for Work? Got Talent?

Who'd a thunk that during the worst recession since the Great Depression America's Symphony Orchestras would find themselves shorthanded? But apparently they do. I find this astonishing. So all you folks out there looking for work who wish you'd listened to Mom and continued on with piano, or trombone, or whatever it was you forsook in favor of another Nintendo game, time to get those old instruments out of mothballs and practice up! Nursing is apparently NOT the only career niche needing qualified applicants!

Now where'd I put that shoe?

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