A Generation Of Nostalgics

Andrew Sullivan —  Jul 16 2012 @ 3:21pm


Paula Marantz Cohen wonders why her college students are always reminiscing fondly about their childhoods:

My students are still children. Yet they have been prematurely stressed by life—or at least, by the prospect of life—and are already missing simpler times. I ascribe this to the difficult job market and to the expense of a college education, which makes many of these students feel that they must succeed.  But I also think it has to do with a parenting style that preceded the recession. The extreme parenting that began some 30 years ago—where parents became invested to an unprecedented degree in realizing their children’s fullest potential—made those children more anxious about failure. Parents lavished so much time and money on them that it raised the stakes on their achievement. Thus, the very childhood which these students miss so much may also be where the seeds of their anxiety—and hence of their current nostalgia—were planted.

The above graph illustrates a survey of 100 weekday attendees of the newly reopened McCarren pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn:

According to our highly unscientific but still fascinating survey conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday, grown-up New Yorkers prefer to focus on their pursuits in fashion, television, graphic design, and the like — just seven people told us they're simply jobless. Thirty-three percent — a plurality of those asked — listed an artistic field as their profession, most of which they called "part-time" or "freelance" positions. Twenty-three percent had a free day thanks to jobs in the service industry (bartenders, waiters, chefs, and retail associates), while eleven had a free summer because they're teachers or school counselors. …

Jeff, a 29-year-old aspiring cameraman, is mostly unconcerned either way, and just grateful for his paradisiacal present. "I'm unemployed, so I'm here a lot," he said. "Best summer of my life."