Don’t let the guest towels fool you; we’re not our parents yet…


This week in The Adulthood Project I started a new book called Twenty Something: Why Do Young Adults Seem Stuck? by Robin Marantz Henig and her daughter Samantha Henig. Keeping the theme of “anti-adulthood” and the “Peter Pan” lifestyle, this book discusses why Millennials are stuck and looking into if this generation really is different than those of the past.

So this book focuses on two main questions: Why is it taking so long for twenty-somethings to grow up? How different are things, really, from the way they used to be?

Henig agrees with the typical deadlines: 1 Completing school, 2 leaving home, 3 becoming financially independent, 4 marrying, 5 having a first child. She states, however, that Millennials do indeed pass through “The Big Five” but about five years later than the Baby Boomers did. And why is there this delay? Well, she references our old friend Jeffrey Arnett and emerging adulthood.

“People need more education to survive in an information-based economy, which means staying on the student track longer. Even after all that schooling, there are fewer entry-level jobs, which means a longer wait for financial security. There is at once a sense that the years stretch out forever now that average life spans extend into the eighties, and a sense that nothing lasts given how transient some “permanent” commitments can turn can turn out to be. And on the home front, young people may feel in less of a rush to marry and have babies because of the general acceptance of premarital sex, cohabitation, and birth control, combined with more career options for women and easier access to assisted reproductive technology for those who wait” (Henig, 5).

There are also other characteristics of the Milennials such as that there are too many choices. Choice overload can undermine happiness i.e. worrying what choice to make, regret, high expectations, or thinking about roads not taken. The internet also changes every metric in decision-making, which is why some twenty-somethings feel such a profound need to stay constantly online.

Things are arguably still the same because today’s “emerging adulthood” is just the same as the Baby Boomers’ “youth”. Everyone always remembers their twenties, the timeline is still there, regret is timeless, and you don’t always get to do what you love.

Sam gives an example of how her friend Julian went to his friend’s house overnight. Julian and his friend used to party and get drunk together, but now his friend laid out guest towels and a washcloth for him. Sam compares this to how though these twenty-somethings are starting to bake casseroles, tidy their apartment, and discuss work and their commute, they don’t believe they have become their parents…well, at least not yet…