21 Suggestions Twentysomethings Never Asked For
1. “Get married.”
The advice: Young people should have the “courage” to get married upon finding their one true love in this world, and obviously contribute to the $72 billion a year wedding industry. (It’s also good for the economy, guys!) After all, this is the marker by which you’re supposed to assess your own happiness and success: conventional, traditional, monogamous marriage.
Counterpoint: What adults don’t like to divulge: the quicker you find “the one,” the longer you’ll spend negotiating over family holiday schedules, gross personal hygiene habits, and who’s in charge of dinner that night.
2. “And get married young.”
The advice: In April, Julia Shaw wrote an essay for Slate about how happy she was that she decided to get hitched at 23-years-old. She then encouraged others to follow in her footsteps, because apparently people “become your soul mate because you marry them,” and not the other way around. Shaw asked, “What are the rest of you waiting for?”
Counterpoint: The only proper response is: what aren’t we waiting for?
3. “Actually, meet your partner in college.”
The advice: Susan Patton wants young women to find their husbands in college — at least, if you’re an Ivy League student — because apparently your years spent on campus are the peak of when you’ll be able to find the best quality dude. (Related: Susan Patton probably hasn’t spent much time at a present day frat party or campus bar.)
Counterpoint: Her letter to the editor, published in The Daily Princetonian earned her national press and a book deal, but college women everywhere are still wondering why they’re supposed to focus on finding a husband in college instead of worrying about… you know… their own lives.
4. “Find a ‘real’ job with benefits.”
Advice: So many people from older generations think you’re not officially employed until you hold a traditional position that gives you the stability of a regular salary, and don’t forget about benefits.
Counterpoint: Freelancing is a totally valid way to live. Tons of millennials are holding down a number of different jobs to make ends meet and follow their dreams simultaneously, sometimes without even leaving their couches and getting out of their yoga pants. R.I.P. to all the 9 to 5’s.
5. “’Lean in’ to your job.”
The advice: When Sheryl Sandberg first published “Lean In” in March, she aimed to reach wide audiences of women who are already in the workplace with her messages about leadership and professional success. Now, she’s specifically targeting women with Lean In on Campus programs. “Marry the guys who are at these viewing parties,” Sandberg said in a virtual viewing party that streamed at colleges nationwide.
Counterpoint: Instead of spending your time thinking about marrying the guy in the room… worry about competing against him. Or don’t, if you don’t feel like it.
6. “Don’t get your news from Twitter.”
The advice: In June, Ezra Klein said, “I really try not to get my news from Twitter, which has a reputation as a place where people go and find lots of great news. I find it a place you go to find, I guess, your barbecued potato chips.”
Counterpoint: It’s a good thing organizers in the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, and people who use Twitter trending topics to learn about the news everyday don’t think of the social network as a “place to find barbecued potato chips.”
7. “You can’t build a career on the Internet.”
Counterpoint: The future completely relies on computer technology and there are plenty of job opportunities in all of these fields. Two words for the skeptics: Mark Zuckerberg.
8. “Be more engaged and less apathetic.”
The advice: Back in 2007, Thomas Friedman renamed millennials “Generation Q” for quiet. The New York Times also called us lazy (more than once). Psychologist Jean Twenge wrote a whole book about us called “Generation Me.” Apparently we’re not involved enough — we’re not out in the streets protesting, we don’t care about politics, and our general empathy for others is lacking.
Counterpoint: That all makes complete sense… except for the fact that the American youth voted President Obama into office (twice), activism takes place on and offline everyday, and millennials give a shit about a lot of things. Unapologetically, might I add.
9. “You shouldn’t be in relationships until you truly ‘know’ yourself”
The advice: Last January, Taylor Swift was at the expense of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s famous Golden Globes joke. After ending her very public relationship with Harry Styles, the comedians quipped that T-Swift should stay away from Michael J. Fox’s son. Fey specifically said, “She needs some me time to learn about herself.”
Counterpoint: It seems like people either want you to have just the right amount of alone time before jumping into a serious relationship, or they want you to be married off. We can’t win! In reality, though, it’s just different for everyone.
10. “The best way to not get raped is to not get drunk.”
The advice: Some people think women are partially responsible for their own sexual assaults because they drink too much, and in order to “protect themselves” from rape they should simply consume less alcohol. Here’s looking at you, Emily Yoffe (and misguided college students who may not realize their Google search carries over into adulthood).
Counterpoint: Let’s worry about teaching rapists not to rape.
11. “Follow Your Passion”
The advice: One piece of advice Lewis Black gave to Gen-Y in August is pretty common unsolicited advice for millennials to receive, “[The] key to living a somewhat satisfactory life: you really have to pursue what it is that you want to do. Whatever it is.”
Counterpoint: Not everyone is lucky enough to realize what their passion is when they’re in their 20’s. In fact, some people never discover they have “one true passion” in life. Human beings are complex, and limiting ourselves to one path isn’t really a great way to honor that. Ideally, everyone would be able to make a living doing what we love, but not all of us know what it is that we love just yet. Not all of us can afford to “follow our passions,” because passion doesn’t always pay the bills.
12. “Don’t waste your money on rent.”
The advice: “If your money isn’t going towards down payments, mortgage loans, and building up your credit score, you might as well be flushing it down the toilet,” say parents who don’t remember what it’s like moving back home after they graduated college. “It’s a big, fat waste of money.”
Counterpoint: The thing is, not all 23-year-olds want to be sleeping in the same twin size beds they grew up in at their parent’s house. Renting an apartment all on your own isn’t always the worst investment.
13. “Reality TV is killing your brain.”
The advice: Breaking news: Keeping Up With the Kardashians and The Jersey Shore aren’t exactly accurate depictions of reality. But since 20-somethings aren’t capable of realizing that on their own, we’re under the false impression that our lives can (and should) play out like reality TV programming.
Counterpoint: Mindless television shows are purely a form of entertainment that serve as a break from our otherwise busy, stressful, and hectic lives.
14. “Enough with the selfies.”
The advice: Gen-Y takes countless selfies and uploads them onto each and every social media platform we have access to because we’re full of ourselves, says people who don’t know how to use smartphones, let alone use Instagram. According to The Atlantic, a recent study of 37,000 college students showed that narcissistic personality traits have increased at the same rate as obesity since 1980.
Counterpoint: Selfies are fun, and sometimes they’re art. People have been making self-portraits for centuries, we just have new tools.
15. “Studying humanities is a waste of your time.”
The advice: Liberal arts majors don’t make any money, and the humanities are especially becoming obsolete. According to everyone else who already graduated college years ago and majored in exactly what they wanted, you don’t learn real-life, applicable skills in literature and social science courses in 2013. Pundits want you to forget about taking out tens of thousands of dollars in student loans unless you’re going to study something in STEM fields. Or business.
Counterpoint: College can be for things other than getting the most money, like learning and refining your skills at the things you love.
16. “Don’t wait too long to have babies.”
The advice: A new Gallup poll says 58 percent of Americans think 25-years-old is the ideal age for women to have their first baby, and the majority of those surveyed think men should start having kids when they’re 27. You hear that, millennials? Have babies, and have ‘em young! It’s only right, since that’s what everyone else wants for you.
Counterpoint: If you’re not sure if you want to have babies, don’t have them now. And if you want to have them when you’re past your “biological prime,” there’s always adoption.
17. “Don’t be lazy.”
The advice: More often than not, Gen-Y is depicted as a lazy and dependent generation who needs to “work harder.” In May, Joel Stein wrote in Time Magazine, “They have less civic engagement and lower political participation than any previous group. This is a generation that would have made Walt Whitman wonder if maybe they should try singing a song of someone else,” he wrote. “What millennials are most famous for besides narcissism is its effect: entitlement.”
18. “Stop freaking out.”
The advice: “Relax, don’t worry your pretty little head about all of the stressful things going in your life. Calm down, it’s not that big of a deal. Everything will work itself out, you’re only in your 20’s — real problems don’t start until you’re at least in your 30’s.”
Counterpoint: All problems are real problems (or, as Dr. Seuss puts it, “A person’s a person no matter how small”). Millennials have legitimate cause for concern when it comes to what goes on in our lives, not to mention 40 million Americans are affected by anxiety disorders. Just because I don’t have a mortgage and a parent teacher conference on the horizon, doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to be stressed.
19. “Rock the planet senseless.”
The advice: Elizabeth Wurtzel thinks today’s 21-year-olds should be more like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin instead of “Generation Z-for-Zero.” Wurtzel wants the rest of us to join Lena Dunham and her “inexcusable thighs” (Wurtzel’s words, not mine) in doing what we’re meant to do: “rock the planet senseless.”
Counterpoint: I’ll let you know after we figure out what she’s even talking about.
The advice: A PSA to unemployed millennials from our elders: “Talk to everyone you can about the field you want to go into. Seek out accomplished professionals, make sure they know who you are, and stay in touch with them. Find mentors in college, at internships, and send out a standard ‘Hey, how are you?’ email every once in a while.”
Counterpoint: Networking is fine, but it’s important to cultivate authentic, genuine relationships with other working professionals you admire or relate to, regardless of what specific favors they can pull for you. People can see fakeness for what it really is, so it’s better for your career (and life) if you keep it real.
21. “Change the world.”
The advice: If millennials aren’t being told they’re apathetic and don’t care enough, they’re having this message drilled into their psyches: “Save the world.” From middle school community service clubs to college courses and all the way into non-profit sector, Gen-Y has been made to feel like it’s their responsibility to “change the world” in a very grandiose, overarching sense.
Counterpoint: Not only is this a problematic lesson to thrust upon an entire generation (making other people’s problems our own is a pretty “American” thing to do), but it’s also unfair. Instead of piling on the pressure to make the world a better place, why don’t we start with making ourselves into better people?