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Thirtysomething to thirtynothing
The Globe and Mail ^ | 7/12/07 | Siri Agrell

Posted on 07/13/2007 7:40:11 AM PDT by qam1

Imagine a television show that revolves around a group of married men and women. They run their own advertising agencies, raise kids in suburban homes, argue about who should do the dishes and obsess about whether to have affairs.

They are also just past their 30th birthdays.

When the show Thirtysomething made its debut 20 years ago, in September, 1987, the hour-long drama was praised for its realistic portrayal of angst among then-30-year-old members of the baby boom generation, with characters who bemoaned the impact of always having "too much."

If a show with the same title were made today, it is a fairly good bet that excess would not be an issue. Few of the characters would be married, many would work as Web designers or graphic artists, they would all be renting condos, and at least one would be considering freezing her eggs for future in vitro fertilization.

In the course of 20 years, Thirtysomething has been reduced to Thirtynothing, as the members of the generation currently approaching their fourth decade of life realize they have achieved few of the trappings associated with adulthood.

"We live in this era of a delayed adolescence, but it should be over at 30," said Oonagh Duncan, whose play Talk Thirty To Me is currently showing at the Toronto Fringe Festival.

"Everyone's coming to grips with the fact that they're an adult, but it's not what they thought being an adult would feel like."

Ms. Duncan decided to write the play while struggling to deal with her own 30th birthday, a milestone that sent her into a tailspin of reflection and self-doubt.

Hoping to discover that she was not alone, she interviewed an array of Canadian 29-year-olds.

All of them admitted they were having trouble reconciling where they were in life with where they thought they should be.

"I thought that I would know what I was doing," one man told her. "That the experimentation would be over."

"I just changed careers, went back to school," another said. "Got no house, no wife, no kids, no car and 71 cents in my bank account. Not where I thought I'd be at 30 if you asked me when I was 20."

During the play, Ms. Duncan intersperses these confessionals with figures from Statistics Canada, which flash on a screen on stage: "The average 30-year-old has had 7.5 jobs," "has an average income of $29,013," and carries "between $1,500 and $19,200 of debt."

These numbers help to give context to her own fears, she said, but also to show her generation - and their parents - that age-related disappointment is not unusual.

"Everyone talked about how they were broke and don't have a family yet and their parents think they're a screw-up," she said of her subjects. "The expectations of 30 have not really changed. Everyone says, 'Where's my picket fence and RRSP?' but they all just got out of school."

Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, explored the root of this conflict in her new book, Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled - and More Miserable Than Ever Before.

In it, she uses three decades of psychological surveys to compare the assets, personalities and priorities of the baby boom generation when they were in their late 20s with those of a group she calls "Generation Me," men and women born in the 1970s and early 1980s.

The latter group, she found, have higher self-esteem, assertiveness and narcissistic tendencies, but also report higher anxiety levels and are more likely to suffer depression.

Ms. Twenge, who is 35 and considers herself part of Generation Me, understands this profile, saying people her age were encouraged to be individuals without thinking about where it may lead them.

"We grew up in a world where we could take it for granted that the self came first," she said. "The downside is that a lot of people spend their 20s doing things they think will make them happy, but end up lonely and depressed."

Part of the problem, she believes, is the chasm between where her generation finds itself today and the lifestyle their parents had achieved by 30.

"Most parents bought their house in 1968 for $65,000, but it would go for $800,000 today, so they don't really get how hard it is to get by," Ms. Twenge said. "At the same time, they are very rightly pointing out, 'Look, you're not putting down roots, you're not making any commitments, what are you going to do when you hit 30 and you haven't held a job for longer than a year?' "

But the priorities of today's thirtysomethings have little to do with those of their parents.

A Pew Research Center poll released in January showed that 81 per cent of 25-year-olds in the United States said getting rich is their generation's most important life goal. Fifty-one per cent said the same thing about getting famous.

While researching her play, Ms. Duncan was told by several straight-faced subjects that they had expected to be a movie star or millionaire by age 30. Others seemed genuinely upset they had not become legends by their late 20s.

"I always thought I would die at 27," one woman named Kendra said. "I never pictured myself older than 27, so on my 28th birthday, I was like, 'Wow, here I am. I didn't really make plans for this.' "

Mike Gayle, the British author of the angst-filled novel Turning Thirty, admits on his website that he actually expected to marry Madonna by the time he hit the big 3-0.

"I've lost count of the number of times I've read interviews where some twentysomething celebrity begins a sentence with the words: 'By the time I'm 30 ...' then reels off a long list of things they hope to achieve," he wrote on his blog. "I think we've all done that at some point."

Ms. Twenge said the tendency to dream big is not new, but lasts longer with today's young adults. "Kids in the 1930s dreamed of being baseball players, but reality intruded a lot sooner," she said. "Now we grow up thinking we're going to be rich and famous, and when we hit 30 and that hasn't happened yet, we wonder what's going on."

That reality can send many people into what has been dubbed a "quarter-life crisis," something New York journalist Doree Lewak is trying to avoid while researching her book, The Panic Years: A Survival Guide to Getting Through Them and Getting on Your Married Way, to be released next year.

"Thirty is the first birthday in our lives when we really start to take stock of where we are and where we should be," the 27-year-old said recently.

For her, the panic is related to the personal aspects of her life, not the professional.

A successful journalist and published author, Ms. Lewak said that she had concentrated so fiercely on success in her work that she delayed settling down and having kids, the ultimate measure of success in her parents' eyes.

On her past birthday, she received a gift certificate for a dating service.

"All these subtle hints from your loved ones really help," she said. "There's a tremendous pressure from family, I call it panic by proxy."

But while Ms. Lewak believes there are ways to remain calm in the face of 30, she says the anxiety is really just a part of being raised with sky-high expectations.

"It just comes down to wanting it all."

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News
KEYWORDS: allaboutme; babyboomers; genx; growupalready; psychology
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1 posted on 07/13/2007 7:40:13 AM PDT by qam1
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To: qam1

grow up!

2 posted on 07/13/2007 7:42:33 AM PDT by Ancient Drive
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To: qam1; ItsOurTimeNow; PresbyRev; Fraulein; StoneColdGOP; Clemenza; m18436572; InShanghai; xrp; ...
Xer Ping

Ping list for the discussion of the politics and social (and sometimes nostalgic) aspects that directly effects Generation Reagan / Generation-X (Those born from 1965-1981) including all the spending previous generations are doing that Gen-X and Y will end up paying for.

Freep mail me to be added or dropped. See my home page for details and previous articles.

3 posted on 07/13/2007 7:42:41 AM PDT by qam1 (There's been a huge party. All plates and the bottles are empty, all that's left is the bill to pay)
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To: qam1

I’m 32. I guess whenever I start to question the accomplishments in my life, I can at least look at the people in this article and feel a whole lot better.

4 posted on 07/13/2007 7:43:25 AM PDT by LanPB01
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To: qam1

Rosann Barr’s show was nicknamed -’two-thirty something’

5 posted on 07/13/2007 7:43:43 AM PDT by pikachu (Be alert -- we need more lerts!)
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To: qam1
When I was 20, I thought that by the time I was 30 I would be married, have children, have a serious career, own my own home and have paid off my school loans.

Check, check, check, check, check.

It's not that hard.

6 posted on 07/13/2007 7:45:10 AM PDT by wideawake (Paul, Tancredo, Conyers: Cowards of a feather abstain from voting together.)
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To: qam1

I turn 40 this November. My kids are ages 21, 14, 12, 10. People my age are, for the most part, do not have kids the same age as mine. I typically find that my friends parents are 5 to 10 years older than me.

7 posted on 07/13/2007 7:48:51 AM PDT by Frapster (Don't mind me - I'm distracted by the pretty lights.)
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To: qam1
It was a stupid TV show. Most of us who were that age at that time had nothing in common with those dumb characters shown on it.

Much of this supposed generational conflict is just the juxtaposition of one artificial media-created image of one period with the artificial media created image from another period.

People change less in fundamentals over time than the mass media superficials would suggest.

8 posted on 07/13/2007 7:50:23 AM PDT by Colonel Kangaroo
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To: qam1
Most parents bought their house in 1968 for $65,000, but it would go for $800,000 today...

They were also paying for that $65,000 house on one $10 per hour paycheck.

9 posted on 07/13/2007 7:55:38 AM PDT by DuncanWaring (The Lord uses the good ones; the bad ones use the Lord.)
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To: Frapster

I’m thirty-something, and right where I imagined I’d be. Married, kids, secure job.

This sounds a lot like my younger brother, though.

10 posted on 07/13/2007 7:58:43 AM PDT by swatbuznik
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To: qam1
Bah! Whining self centered people. Gen X is not the ME generation, that was the boomers. I’m a Gen X’er and although my twenties didn’t go as planned, my thirties are one heck of a great run (and I still have more years to go). The trick is not to whine and say “I should have had a wife, a 4,000 sq foot home, and 2.3 children by the time I was thirty.” Its to realize what you do have and if you aren’t satisfied change it. Whining about it to Canadian newspapers or making cry-baby plays isn’t going to bring happiness.


11 posted on 07/13/2007 8:04:10 AM PDT by CompSciGuy (Duncan Hunter for 2008 - no flip-floppers or RINO's please...)
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To: qam1
Everyone talked about how they were broke and don't have a family yet and their parents think they're a screw-up," she said of her subjects

Guess what? You are a screw-up.

12 posted on 07/13/2007 8:08:37 AM PDT by T.Smith
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Comment #13 Removed by Moderator

To: Ancient Drive

mature, yes. but, not grow up. grown ups are boring.

14 posted on 07/13/2007 8:15:07 AM PDT by HungarianGypsy
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To: LanPB01
The book “Passages” by Gail Sheehy (she is a liberal but the book is good), goes into those passages about every 10 years when you look back and evaluate your life. It is good to do that. I am 59 and close to retirement, but I still have goals. I think people of any age should have goals and look to the future, however, it doesn’t hurt to look back and opine on good and bad decisions and coping with them.
One thing that I have learned. If you don’t like something about yourself or your life, you can change it. Just be careful when you jump into change, sometimes change is good, sometimes not. Still, making mistakes in life helps you to understand the meaning of life, as Tolstoy would say.
15 posted on 07/13/2007 8:56:10 AM PDT by GeorgefromGeorgia
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To: DuncanWaring
They were also paying for that $65,000 house on one $10 per hour paycheck.

No, probably not. The formula used then was that you bought a house that was worth twice your annual income. So the family that bought a $65K house to be comfortable had to have an income of $32K per year.

My parents bought a beautiful little house in 1963 for $37,500. Dad was making about $25000 a year then, so making a $200 mortgage payment was a breeze. The same house is going for around a million dollars today. With that traditional formula the family would have to be making four or five hundred thousand dollars a year to afford it. And this is no mansion, just a charming four-bedroom cottage. Not many thirty-somethings have an income sufficient to buy a house like that near the place they grew up.

16 posted on 07/13/2007 8:56:31 AM PDT by Fairview ( Everybody is somebody else's weirdo.)
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To: GeorgefromGeorgia

I’m 51. I’m *still* looking around with enormous, big eyes saying, “When did I become a grown up? I don’t remember that happening!” :-D

17 posted on 07/13/2007 9:12:07 AM PDT by freepertoo
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To: DuncanWaring

Uh.. So the price of a starter house is 12 times as much since 68, but wages have what? Doubled?

18 posted on 07/13/2007 9:13:12 AM PDT by Smogger (It's the WOT Stupid)
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To: freepertoo
I’m 51. I’m *still* looking around with enormous, big eyes saying, “When did I become a grown up? I don’t remember that happening!” :-D

It takes about fifty years for a human being to fully grow up. Our society's refusal to recognize that fact leads to a lot of dysfunctional behavior. That's why in many other cultures, children are shaped and guided (if not actually raised) by their grandparents.

It really does take a village...just not the Board of Commissars that Hillary has in mind. ;)

19 posted on 07/13/2007 9:19:20 AM PDT by Mr. Jeeves ("Wise men don't need to debate; men who need to debate are not wise." -- Tao Te Ching)
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To: qam1
I'm 38. 

I thought by 35 I'd have the entire planet cowering under my Iron Fist of I'm a little behind on that.

Other than that, I'm right on track with what I want.  Life is good.

I am sick though, of listening to perpetual whiners who have a better standard of living than 90% of all the people in human history, prattle on and on and on about how terrible their life is.

It should be legal to smack those people.  I can't stand being in the same room with them.


20 posted on 07/13/2007 9:23:43 AM PDT by Psycho_Bunny
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