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Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Letter to the blogger

"M," an occasional commenter on the blog from way back, back when this blog had a comment system that actually #@!$!@#! worked, sent me an email about last week's New Times Post post. Here's what she had to say and my response follows....


I just read your post about modern 20 (and 30?) somethings. I can't comment there, so I'm sending this... I have a few issues with points you make(and which I guess the NYT makes). I guess it boils down to: why do things have to happen like they used to? Was it better that way? The only thing I would argue that is needed now is job security and to not have the feeling that a college degree is useless. The rest should be up to the individual to desire. People opt out of marriage and kids for many, many more reasons than "I don't want to make a commitment" and
"they're expensive". It's more of a problem if you want a house and kids but feel you can't afford them, but I think people who really want those things will go ahead and manage somehow.

I am so happy I live in a time where I can be a single independent woman and not be a pariah, where I can pretty much make of my life what I want. It is a freedom. But while you acknowledge it, you don't seem comfortable with it. You say you're happier now, but from things you've said, you seem to still feel insecure with how things have turned out.

I don't think that not being married and not having kids means you are immature and stuck in a perpetual adolescence. Supporting yourself is pretty grown up. So people like me might use their disposable income on concerts and travel rather than a mortgage or raising kids, but I value
those things more anyway. Seeing the world is the way I try to get something out of my little life. And that's my choice, which I feel is great to have. If I did, say, value a career more, I think that would be open to me as well.

Reading what you wrote, and a bit of the NYT article, I wonder if the values and mindset here [FYI: M lives in Holland. -Ed] are just way removed from those in the US and it's become what I'm used to. I am used to women working and thinking about kids post-30 and then going back to work and not necessarily being married to the father. But people are free to do what they want and I think you are judged less here for not having those things. And also careers aren't such a big thing, unlike the US where a lot of who you are is bundled up in what you do and how successful you are. Fortunately, job security is less of an issue here, but people still change jobs often.

Why stay in one place your whole life? It sounds horrible, and this is coming from someone who really shouldn't talk when I've been at one job long enough to seem like a dinosaur in the company. Everywhere has issues with retirement funds though. In the NL they keep talking
about raising the retirement age. Ok, maybe I'm a bit immature there, I'm in a bit of a "it's far in the future, I'm not gonna worry about it" bubble and maybe I should be worried, but really, so much will change between now and then, that even if we fought for things now, it could all be (and likely will be) overturned by the time we actually retire. All the more reason to live now and not dream of doing all that stuff

Anyway, apologies for vomiting this at you, but.... yeah.




I think you're right about American values vs. European values. Despite my love of a "cosmopolitan lifestyle," there's still a nagging sense that I should be travelling down a more cliched path. Maybe it's the subtle messages from media or advertising or the occasional snarky jokes from my more conservative relatives. I consider myself fortunate to live in "America's Most European City," where we all have the option to linger around coffee shops and act snooty just like they do in Paris. Regardless, I'm sure that there's societal pressures that pester Europeans in the same age group as ours when it comes to settling down and raising a family.

Like you said though, things are changing, and for the better. It's becoming increasingly common, as the NYT article points out as well, for Americans to raise kids at a later age or forgo that whole thing entirely. You're not singled out entirely for not doing these things, like an indvidual might have been a generation or two prior. Women are no longer labeled "spinsters" for not getting hitched by the age of 22. We all have more options these days when it comes to these matters.

And, yeah, we have bigger fish to fry. Social security, job security, retirement security....uhhhhh, other securities that are slipping my mind right now. Every generation faces a crisis or two and I still prefer ours to, say, the Civil War or the Great Depression.

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