MR Round Table: Is 25 the New 21?

The Writers | October 21, 2014

Team Man Repeller discusses; leaves fake ID stories out of this


25 is the New 21, at least according to one author for The Atlantic. “For some parents,” reads her story’s tagline, “the deadline for a kid’s financial independence has gotten an extension.” As a group of women who fall somewhere between 22 and haven’t-you-turned-29-twice, the article made us wonder exactly where on the spectrum of age, independence, emotional maturity and dog year calculations that put us.

Leandra Medine: Is 25 the new 21? I don’t think that 21 was ever a time where…

Amelia Diamond: You don’t think 21 was ever the 25?

LM: I also don’t think 25 is the 25. I think that as a rule children stay under the wings of their parents until they’re married or with children. At least in a city like New York.

AD: I have two friends, and other than that, I don’t know anyone except for our parents’ generation, who put themselves through college…

LM: I didn’t put myself through college

AD: I know but at 18, maybe younger, my mom was on her own. I would say I only have 2 friends who really assumed full adulthood upon college graduation and I would argue those two had actually assumed it before graduating. I don’t know anyone else.

Kayla Tanenbaum: I think what this article is responding to is how many people—not just in New York, because I think New York is a whole different situation—but how many people after college move back home. I feel like that number has increased.

AD: Do you think marriage is “the age”? Not an age, but…

LM: You become an individual, yeah.

KT: That makes sense because there are all of the reports where more people than ever, under 26, are not married.

Esther Levy: I think that now a lot of people are going for their secondary degrees. Now in the workplace some people are under the impression that it’s not enough to just have an undergrad degree. People are going to law school, to business school, whatever it may be. That also contributes to debt.

LM: But you’re also seeing a backlash to education in the age of Zuckerbergian success and Facebook, where you drop out of school and become a billionaire?

EL: I think that’s a very small percentage.

AD: I think more people are going to school than ever before.

KT: The only people that talk about people not going to college are these trend pieces about saying “The End of College” or whatever, but most people in America think that, for now, if you want to move up in the career world, you have to finish college.

AD: On a non financial scale—I know this article focused on finances and what that meant as far as responsibility and growing up—but something we’ve touched on over and over and so has the media, is that our generation assumes the identity of independence early, we take on a more adult air, but that we’re actually growing up slower. People are getting married later. I just had someone in high school ask me, “Do people ‘your age,’ 26, still do the hook up thing with no titles?” It’s like… yeah. We do. Which is what 16-year-olds do. We’re on a different trajectory than our parents, who were married and maybe had kids by age 25.

Charlotte Fassler: People aren’t on these standardized career trajectories now the way that they were in our parents’ generation. There was more pressure to pick a job, support yourself, and now I think millennials have this much more individualized view of what they want their careers to look like. Now there are more jobs that don’t have standardized hours where you go to an office, but you are working in a generally creative environment.

AD: It’s like the digital age has professionalized that sort of bohemian/artist lifestyle. I feel like almost everyone I know, at age 25 or 26, quit the jobs that they had—they had been going to law school and they quit that, or med school, and they’re all focusing on these individual and totally legitimate entrepreneurial endeavors, which I don’t think was really as much of a possibility before the time of Twitter and Instagram and the Internet, as weird as that sounds. Back in the day, if you were going to law school, that was your plan.

LM: Sophie’s a perfect example of that. She went to law school, she worked at a firm for a year, and then she launched a line of ice pops.

KT: That really wasn’t my experience at all at school. I was one of the only people I knew graduating without a job lined up. Maybe it’s just the kind of people I went to school with, and I know we’re not trying to talk about finances but I feel like we can’t have this conversation without saying that for the most part—this isn’t true of everyone, of course—the people who do go into more creative fields usually have some kind of assistance from their parents because to have a job that pays so little and is so insecure you kind of need another source of income. You can’t get it from that job.

LM: Right, and that’s the exact example that the story uses.

KT: And they feed into each other. The people who are getting support from their parents enable them to have these jobs…

LM: This is sort of part of the investment phase.

KT: Do you think that enables the employers to pay so little? Maybe there should be an unpaid intern revolt.

LM: We’re kind of a generation of underachieving overachievers, right? We have these fancy educations and a lot of us go to grad school, but then the minute we’re offered a job we’re like “22k a year? What? No health benefits? Okay, I’ll take that! Yes!”

KT: And with the Internet, there’s more room for successful people. Whereas before, you either made it as an artist and were showing at one of the top galleries or you weren’t and there was no kind of Internet fame. Freelance writing, too, has exploded with the Internet.

AD: They say that every generation looks at the generation below it and has fears about them—“When I was your age…”

LM: Well, because as humans we look for proofs of concept.

AD: I keep thinking back to my own dad, who didn’t actually have a real job until my mom was pregnant with me when he was 30. Before that he was just doing his thing in New York City. Everything was cheaper back then. This writer doesn’t seem to have any anxieties about it, they seem to just be putting forward a general “this is how it is now…”

LM: I don’t think it ever wasn’t like this.

AD: That’s similar to what I’m saying, the other gens just look at it from different points of view. It’s different jobs that are being played around with now.

EL: I think it’s definitely a generational thing. My dad has been working since he was 14, he got married at 21 and had his first kid at 23.

LM: That’s the other thing. Women were opting out a ton, Gen X has been Opt-Out generation. As a result of that, those women felt financially independent because they were depending on their husbands, not their parents. My mom got married at 22 and my grandparents lived in Israel at the time, they were super poor, couldn’t support her if they wanted to, but she married my dad and she was financially independent, technically speaking, or at least by the rules of this article. Maybe the same is true for me because I got married when I was 23, and I’ve been financially independent since I graduated when my parents took me off allowance. I lived at home for six months, but then I got engaged, then I got married, then I got health insurance through Abie’s job and poof: I’m financially independent.

KT: I feel like getting married that young is not the norm.

LM: No, it’s not at all. But it was.

KT: I don’t know which came first, is it that our generation marries later than others because we don’t have financial independence and we live at home? Is that causing the delay in marriage? Or is it the reverse, where we have no pressure to have the stability because no one wants to get married and settled down until they’re in their late 20s.

LM: Well, it’s a backlash because we’re also living through the ideological generation of feminism as mainstream, and so women aren’t getting married because we feel like there are other options or because it is our duty to punctuate a certain point.

EL: There are tons of women now—especially in New York — that aren’t getting married. People don’t take the jobs where they aren’t going to be 100% happy so they take less money.

LM: That’s the other thing. The narrative of the American Dream has changed. You’re not living the American Dream if you’re financially successful; you’re living the American Dream if you are spiritually successful.

KT: Which I think is better.

CF: Another big part of it is that a lot of parents who are fortunate enough to have the success to be able to put money towards fueling their children’s passions oftentimes come from families that did not provide them with that at all. Maybe some people would say, “I worked really hard. My kids should do the same thing I had to do,” but I feel like now more than ever parents have these different kinds of relationships with their kids, which is much more nurturing.

People talk about helicopter parenting, with the distance and coldness that came with previous generations—the way that our grandparents raised our parents—it makes parents this time around much more willing to help their children in a way they did not get help. I think there is this mentality of a skipped generation. One generation works really hard so that the one below them can have a better life. It winds up reading as laziness sometimes. This subject brings up a lot of tension: does financial support breed laziness or is it fueling creativity?

LM: What’s that saying? Necessity is the mother of invention. We don’t necessarily—I don’t think anyone in this room—feels that blaring sense of necessity. We, thankfully, don’t work 15 jobs to supplement our salaries.

EL: We’re talking about this privilege. The article mentioned it, but you can’t discount it. We’re speaking about a small percentage.

CF: This article is directed at a small number of people. It comes from a completely privileged standpoint.

KT: But I wonder how much of that is our laziness and how much of that is the economy. I feel like our parents, if they did well in college and they graduated and were looking for a job, there was one to be had. Maybe not their dream job, but it would exist. I feel like a lot of qualified people don’t have jobs, and it’s not only laziness.

[Keith enters]

Keith: The whole breakdown of you should be X, Y, Z, and then at a certain point real life starts at 25. My niece is 26, moved to Florida at 26, found two jobs in less than a week, rented her own apartment, and now she’s way more independent.

EL: Do you think it’s like, “Now that I’m 25 I have to get my shit together?”

Keith: Yes, because most 25 year olds are still acting young.

LM: They’re messing around in da club.

Keith: They’re poppin’ bottles.

AD: Who’s paying for those bottles, though?

Keith: The parents. Some of these kids are living paycheck to paycheck because they can always go back home.

LM: Do you feel like people think 25 is the marker because that’s when you can start renting cars? It literally mobilizes you.

CF: Well, now with Zipcar…

KT: What’s the Affordable Care Act cutoff? Maybe needing your own healthcare is incentive to get a job.

LM: What’s interesting is that a lot of the comments under the Atlantic’s story are just lamenting about how expensive college has gotten.

CF: I think a lot of the backlash with this article, according to the comments, is that they only talked to six parents who all clearly are in the same financial bracket and have the same viewpoint on the subject. This article is representative of a very small group of people, but does address a larger…

KT: Isn’t it true that in Europe people live at home longer? I remember when I did a homestay in Spain, my host family’s children, who were both in their mid-20s, lived at home because neither was married.

LM: That’s also a tenant of traditional Judaism. My parents were much more comfortable with my staying home until I got married, if they could have controlled it had the situation been different, they would have tried

KT: I definitely feel like my parents pull the strings because it’s their money, which is something I struggle with. My mom always threatens me: “If you don’t do X, Y and Z, you’re going to move home.”

AD: I feel like I use that threat against my parents. I’m always threatening to move home. I get that the financial viewpoint of this article is limited to a specific and niche demographic, one that in New York City may feel like it’s the norm but really isn’t, but what I’m really interested in, because this seems like a broader observation, is that 25 seems to be the new 21 emotionally, not just financially. Maybe they’re connected, like you said. We’re not as pressed to settle down and find someone. But it seems that within one individual there are two viewpoints: a hard and intense focus on a fulfilling career, and then the flipside of that, where these same people are working so hard for careers yet their social life is pretty hedonistic and all about having fun and being young. This is the age to be selfish. Worry about your friends, worry about partying, but you’re not looking for a partner.

KT: Yeah, I definitely feel like a minority among my friends for living with my boyfriend

EL: I feel like a minority being married among everyone. It’s delayed adolescence. Everyone I know, they all have jobs, they all live at home. Their option is that they’d rather spend their paychecks on going to dinner and getting clothes than rent. They can spend all the money on temporal pleasures.

LM: Adolescence, or this timeframe where you get to be a kid is also a relatively new establishment. If you think back, a kid would turn 12 and be shipped off to work.

KT: I read an article somewhere that said that a lot of that has to do with marketing. Teenagers, or the concept of being a teen, is a relatively new phenomenon. Teens have a lot of buying power in terms of trends and being able to take more risks, so this whole teen culture has only existed in the past 50 years and before that you were a child, and then you were not a child. There’s this in-between now.

CF: My question is, who’s to say that it’s a bad thing to have this prolonged adolescence? Do we think it’s a bad thing to have a younger mentality for a longer amount of time?

LM: That’s also really true. There’s so much innovation and creativity is often born out of this juvenile frivolity.

AD: I always tell younger college students: Hang on to your summer after graduation. Don’t get a job. You will get one, even if you’re homeless for a little bit, don’t get a job. I went into post-grad hungry and psychotic about becoming an adult. My last semester of senior year all I wanted to be was independent, out of college. Now I look back on the importance on being stupid in your final days.

LM: I was very hungry for those self-indulgent, messy, mistake-ridden years right after I got married because it felt so definitively over in such a jarring way because I was only 23. I’ve been married for two years now, I’m very happily married, and I don’t miss being a kid. Being an adult shits on being a kid. It’s so much fun to be able to punctuate the sentences of your own life.

AD: The freedom to feel that you can go and make your own dumb purchase and not have anyone except yourself to get mad at you is liberating. It’s terrifying but liberating.

EL: Being married is so different for me than for my parents. I don’t feel like I have an extra burden or responsibility. I’m just living with the person I love. I don’t have children. I’m working, and I feel like that adolescence carried over for me into marriage.

LM: Question. If men menstruated, what are the odds that a heavy flow wouldn’t be a huge coup? What are the odds that men wouldn’t be like, “Yo, I fucking bled through 15 different pairs of underwear this week.”

KT: Tina Fey has that quote that if men gave birth, then there would be paid maternity leave for six months…

LM: But I feel like specifically with our periods, we bleed for seven days a month. It’s horrific and it smells bed and it’s uncomfortable. And yet the general public never actually knows when you’re on your period. Do any of you that I have my period right now?

KT: I do.


KT: Just kidding.

LM: If this were a function of being a man, everybody would always know. There would be period bars.

AD: There are period bars. It’s called Sixteen Handles. Anyway, I always say that once I hit 26, I didn’t feel like I was old–actually, I do I have grey hair and I can’t see—but I feel like 26 is more of this serious age. At 25 you can say you’re in your early 20s, you can still fuck up. You’re young. 26 is this very scary year where you’re technically in your late 20s. You don’t get the same sympathy. If you mess up at 26 it’s like, “Well that was a bad decision.”

KT: Do you think that it’s because mathematically you’re more than a quarter century old?

AD: I think so, and that’s why I was asking, why 25? It’s a neat number in the middle of a really young 20 and an adult 30.

CF: I know people who have had the same crisis when they were turning 26, of feeling all of a suddenly that there was this pressure on them, that they hadn’t figured out this path.

AD: I think the thing about being 25, whether you’re in finance or if you’re a starving artist, because you’re so young, because the platform is so wide—look at Lena Dunham, Petra Collins, the people who started Snapchat—the scale of young people doing extraordinary things is tipping and that provides a lot of pressure.

KT: Especially because you don’t have to be a professional to have professional success.

LM: I don’t think this is because kids are evolving faster now. I think they’re just being taken more seriously now. The talent has always been there. It’s been dormant, but it’s been there.

AD: Which would mean on the success scale, 21 is the new 25… But is 25 the new 21?

LM: I’m going to continue forward with 21 was never 25. 25 has always been the age.

KT: I really disagree. I think it’s a lot more acceptable to be in an immature place at 25 than it was 30 years ago.

LM: Is that bad thing?

KT: No. It’s s bad thing in terms of the huge difference in privilege it’s perpetuating, exacerbating the trend of erasing the middle class. But the work and the creativity and everything else coming out of this, it’s not bad at all.

AD: I guess I just hope 25 is the new 21 because if so, then I am not a fuck up.

  • Really interesting read, Team MR. So many things going on here.

    Our parents were definitely of the generation of DIY college funding. I don’t know how my mom did it: Ivy League education, star runner, taking the hardest Biochemistry courses on campus, working two jobs to pay for said Ivy League education. If I had half the responsibilities, I think I would crumble.

    I think today there for certain is less of a survival instinct. College is no longer perceived as a privilege but a right. And I know so many kids who think they deserve to go to their “dream” school — regardless of financial circumstances — just because they came out of their mother’s vagina. Boom, born, now send me to where I fucking want to go = the attitude.

    It’s important to note that in general our generation feels and is extremely entitled. It’s not so much about working hard and assimilating to the pre-determined mold (as you ladies said), it’s about trying to fuse passion with livelihood. Like by birthright we just deserve to get what we want.

    And I think this has everything to do with the internet. On the web, we can quickly become who we want to be. We can earn credibility in certain circles, make “connections,” and collaborate with others in similar positions across the world.

    I was speaking with my friend the other day who runs an Instagram account that has gotten the attention/praise of Vogue among other publications. We were talking about our personal goals for the summer and upcoming year and we were speaking to the dichotomy between our educational and online lives. Oddly enough, our online “duties” have quickly trumped efficacy over education in terms of job preparedness. Whether this is actually the case or not, that’s what it can sometimes feel like. Sometimes it’s challenging to realize that, at the end of the day no matter what editor is praising you (in his case, not mine), you are a student that has a term paper due tomorrow.

    I guess in that way school becomes a very expensive hobby.

    • P.S. And then the whole other thing is trying to explain “web stuff” to parents. I tried to explain it once to mine and it was like we were lost in translation. They have no idea what I am doing on here, who I am speaking with, what projects I am working on. And if I ever do make a career out of it, I will eventually have to tell them.

      That’s another interesting point, actually. That if you have to live off your parents’ dollar for a small time after graduation and you then get writing opportunities/other opps on the internet and the ‘rents don’t “get” the internet, then it’s harder getting your feet off the ground because you’re not working for something published periodically, in print.

    • Charlotte Fassler

      I definitely agree with you. The standards of education in our country have changed and there is this preset mentality that a college education equates a promising and successful future. I know countless adults who did not attend what we would snobbishly consider “top tier” schools or even college at all who are incredibly successful.
      Now there is a pre-determined path that creates a mentality centered on the importance of pursuing a higher education.
      Definitely this comes from our parents who somewhat used college as a form of escapism from their own parents (I am speaking in regards to my own parents and many of their friends who could not wait to study and pursue an individual path– thus they have instilled based on their own experience how important college is)– However, now that kids are closer to their parents than ever and with the fascinating point you make about keeping up a web presence which can almost distract you from your seemingly staunch and old fashioned (by contrast) school work– I wonder if we are going to see an uprise in kids opting out of college?

      • Right. I certainly don’t think there will be more people opting out of college education (it is, after all, quite necessary), but I do think in terms of job acquisition it may become less relevant.

        Being clever in a couple of tweets may get you that internship rather than indicating you attend a brand name school.

        Essentially the internet is giving new dimension to the way in which young people can display ability — and perhaps more importantly, share that ability with others.

        • Charlotte Fassler

          yeah but I do feel like with the internet breeding so much success it creates a certain type of pressure and feeds the insecurities of other millennials. Seeing so many young people who are successful in their craft while you are sitting in a classroom maybe in a small town itching to get out can be frustrating.
          I always think about how thankful I am to have gone to a school in a city, because truly I don’t think I would have finished otherwise. 4 years is a long time. But this is totally a personal preference.

          • That’s certainly true. The success has become of your friends becomes more visible, too, since it’s largely been fostered on social media sites which are purposed for sharing.

            I think this goes back to that entitlement argument, too. That others are like: “Well, fuck, that girl has the same wi-fi connection as I, why am I not being asked to being a guest Instragrammer for ______!”

            But with this new medium we still have to recognize that talent is talent. Yes, we have new ways of connecting with our idols, our mentors, our whatevers, but that doesn’t substitute hard work or intellect or ability, either.

            And largely I’ve found friends to be really supportive, too. Like: “We should all meet the next time we’re in NY/SF/LA/X because we all are doing crazy shit on the web and imagine what we could do together!”

    • Daria

      So true! Our parents worked several jobs to pay for college and considered it a privilege, while our generation thinks it’s a right.

      I also see a lot of girls doing masters or a second education just because they think working is “not my thing”.
      That’s of course for girls from privileged background. But it is still a trend.

      My father has 3 degrees but his justification was always – “I needed to go to business school for my banking career”, not – “I want to study early XX century photography because that’s cool”.

      In that sense we are more self-centered in a way that we care about enrichment, not achievement and success.

    • The whole idea that our parents were able to pay for college on their summer job pisses me off because it’s true and because people don’t understand that it no longer works that way. College was SO MUCH LESS EXPENSIVE when our parents’ generation went. I worked two jobs and went to an in-state school full time in undergrad and there is no way I would have been able to pay for my tuition on that – living expenses, yes, barely, but absolutely not tuition. Meanwhile, our parents’ generation was able to pay for all of their education while working part time during the school year and having a minimum wage, full time job during the summer. It really doesn’t work that way anymore and it’s frustrating that we get pegged as a generation that doesn’t try as hard as our parents because that’s just not true (in a lot of cases).

    • “just because they came out of their mother’s vagina. Boom, born, now send me to where I fucking want to go = the attitude.”


  • wow collection u have.

  • Gré Tee

    I think 25 is definitely the new 21, but I feel like it shouldn’t be… let me explain. I know that nowadays things have changed, and while I was pretty much on my own by 21, I can’t deny the loads of support I still got from my family, but I still feel like I was more adult back then, than many of my friends are now (I’m 26). I think it’s completely fine to have a longer education, or make a conscious decision not to be self-sustaining yet for whatever reason, or co-habiting with your parents when you are 30, that is totally valid. But I feel like loads of 20 somethings just keep on delaying, delaying, and then when they wake up they are 30 and they basically have just graduated, and I don’t know… I just feel that that is kind of weird. I feel like loads of people really want to get there, but have no idea how to do it, and do not have the emotional maturity to do so. Now… I have no idea if this is bad or good or if it is not so good, how we can make it good 🙂 but I feel like at least the emotional maturity should be there or start developing at around 22-27 and how that can be achieved? That’s a whole other story 🙂

  • Tara Jayne

    Well, I paid my way through University and I am the only one in my friend group who did so. Not out of some exceptional degree of independence, but because my parents didn’t support me getting an Arts degree. I graduated at 22 (am now 27) and feel like I have been on a higher trajectory life plan ever since, out of necessity. I had to take a job I wasn’t interested in and didn’t apply to my degree to survive (and pay off my student loans) which kind of negates the point of getting the degree in the first place (much to my father’s delight).

    I feel that I am the exception and not the rule, circumstances driven by circumstance. Most of my friends are lifelong students living like students, but with the budget and freedom to travel. I am in a long term live-in relationship and spent last weekend picking out fabrics for a new couch.

    There are pros and cons, both of which I have yet to define. But in my experience, yes, it seems to be the case that achieving independence is coming at a later age for most. And it is my hope that the staving off of responsibility will result in stronger families and happier marriages in ‘the end’.

    • Kayla Tanenbaum

      I feel like the putting off marriage thing isn’t about a number, per se, as it is about waiting to become yourself. I think before, people got married and THEN got their lives figured out, marriage was the first step. Now, marriage is a symbol that you know who you are, who you want to be, what you want to do, so you can settle down. Some people (ahem, Leandra) figure that out at 23, others maybe it’s 33.

      • Tara Jayne

        I think you are right. I am not married and don’t feel I’m ready to be. So I am the rule, not the exception, in that regard.

        When my parents were married at 20 they were both poor and underemployed and really unable to deal with it. And on top of that they had four kids by the time they were 28.

        That kind of life plan does not appeal to me at all. I think choices like those are made and determined in accordance with your race, culture, and class *most* of the time.

        • I would agree with you. I don’t think marriage really comes into play in this argument as this projection of millennial privilege/independence so much as it has to do with changing (or static) views on religion, race, wealth, etc.

          This is not always the case, but I feel like most people who are marrying young these days are not doing it out of the fact that they’ve “found themselves” and the like, but because of an adherence to certain religious or cultural beliefs.

          • Tara Jayne

            Yes I think that Kayla is right when speaking about the class that dominates this blog, and I think there has been a shift in the decisions *those kinds of people* make, they have the freedom, ability, *choice* to stave off marriage and they exercise it. Perhaps you could say that they (most of us) are ‘avoiding the responsibility’ out of privilege and ability.

          • Tatum

            i feel like we are so free to chose who and if and when we marry, that once we do it, there is a lot of pressure for it to last. we don’t marry for stability but for well-considered personal reasons like love, so it seems like a bigger failure, and immature, if it turns out to have been a bad decision.

            also for me, i am really bad at making a decision and sticking with it, and in a big city, there are so many men available all the time, that it is so hard to stay with one for the rest of your life, with all their flaws, but so easy to have different ones to fulfill different needs. i am not even saying that i have a ton of guys at hand, but just the concept of being unable to be stisfied with my decision is something i really struggle with, with everything, from what to study, where to live, and who to be with. there are just so many options. i guess one used to marry someone and oversee little things instead of always asking oneself if the flaw is so annoying that i have to break up and be with a “better” man, or if there are qualities that make up for the one annoying thing.

            to some extend, it has probably to do with meeting the right person whose flaws you accept to accept, but i am sure that there is no one right person for you, but it is time and space and ideas that make you “suddenly” stick with one, if even ever.

  • It seems to me I should plead for the “we are all made of different time patterns” theory …

    It seems natural to me that someone should get married very early in life and feel life hasn’t changed much (“you only get to live with the person you love”), but I also know couples (younger than me, not that it matters) who’ve changed their behavior after having got married, to a more adult appearing performance (There are people who think your speech patterns and vocabulary and behavior should change upon getting married, moving together for real and/or having children, so they do it) and they are so many it must be a thing to let yourself be transformed by such important events in life. Not that it means they have all become more adult, no, sometimes they just talk like they suppose real adults should talk.

    While I did move out at 18, many of my school friends did not: it is a common practice to inhabit the upper floor of your parents’ house where I come from, so many people do it and sooner or later, they live there with their partners and kids. It’s not so much a generation thing as it is a national (property market) thing. But this doesn’t say anything about our respective independence: my friends may have ignored their parents and acted and felt all adult from the very beginning, while (at 18) I needed to be independent only as far as my studies (money and rent) were concerned – all the other adult things still waiting for me.
    I needed a few more years to grow up and now I suppose 25 (plus/minus a few) should be the age we get to know ourselves well enough to let other people (partners and/or kids) into our lives. Obviously, many people will accomplish this sooner or later than 25 and many will think it’s not that important. I would disagree with those since I know many older couples who got married because everyone did and it soon went from bad to worse – why should we follow any social automatisms if we are free to think about it all and then decide?

    To avoid excessive length: I’d suggest we all follow different time patterns and should only be aware of what we are doing – that should be good enough.

    (turns out Kayla has already said what I am trying to say … well then: I agree!)

  • Jennifer Lorente

    I think its all about the way our parents raised us and the way society is structure now days. Many years ago people were
    not forced to go to school and get a minimum education, now days we have a specific age that we are allowed to drop off school. I almost feel like we get this feeling of false independence since a very young age…like when you know that everything you say when u go to the doctor is confidential, when you can get a part time job and all of a sudden you no longer need your parents to give you money for the movies, or when you turn 18 and you are able to smoke, get tattoos and go to bars…However, when the time of being responsible and going on your own comes, we all say that we are still trying to figure out what we wanna do and we all claim to be confused. That confusion could be caused by the internet, we have soooooo many options to wrong professionally and to do
    different things that we are passionate about that it could be overwhelming. I think that we are all going through a process of trying out new things all the time, therefore we may need more time to figure out what we want.
    Years ago, you would have fewer options, either you
    become a doctor a lawyer, a banker or you would start working and try to support yourself. It’s a scary process, adolescence is being delayed and we are okay with it just because it may be convenient and easier

  • lavieenliz

    I know some people that are 25 that are married and have kids, and others that are 25 going on 12

  • Maria

    I am sooo quoting Amelia’s “I guess I just hope 25 is the new 21 because if so, then I am not a fuck up.” I’m turning 24 tomorrow and am not feeling terribly grown up yet.

  • Quinn Halman

    A lot of people I speak to have the misconception that I just went on my trips or got my clothes because I said a simple “please”. I was raised with the notion that if I wanted something, I would earn it because if I didn’t put in the effort, I guess I didn’t actually want it. My parents grew up on opposite sides of the middle class, although no one starved, there’s a significant difference in their upbringing. If my mom were to marry someone just like her, we would be in deep shit because all of the money would have been spent, but if my dad married someone just like him we would be bursting out of a tiny apartment. To find a balance,they started a new initiative wherein, my allowance does not pay for wants like brunch, clothes, or cabs before midnight, but needs because they have stopped buying my shampoo, conditioner, or uniform socks.
    “You’ll thank us for this later” they say, referring to next year when I leave the nest. They’ve made it clear that once I’m out; I’m out. Even if I went to UofT I would only be welcome back the three times a year I would see them if I went to the UK. I get it, though; they have funded my dreams and goals for so long.

    • Yeah I so agree with this. I think I’ve really learned the value of money from my parents; paying for your own shit really is the start of thinking more globally about your own worth and work ethic.

      I think I’ve benefited a lot from my mom’s extreme frugality. Sometimes overthinking purchases can be tiring, but at the same time it’s imperative to put your purchases into perspective.

      I find it so interesting that needs vs. wants varies widely between people, too. What I might consider a need, my mother would consider a want. Like toilet paper in the woods, for example. #LeaveNoTrace

  • Kelsey

    Kayla- in response to your comment of how a “teenager” is a relatively new concept: , it is an early 20th century “phenomenon”, definitely an interesting point to bring up!

    • Kayla Tanenbaum

      oooh, I like this!

    • Yes, the teenager as we perceive the term, was really born in the ’50s! Surplus economic wealth in the U.S., etc.

      So interesting to think that a whole culture and demographic was actually born out of economic growth and consumerism.

      • Kelsey

        Emma- you need to take a WWII class IMMEDIATELY. So jealous you are in college still and can do that! Post-WWII era (those grandparents that raised our parents) is FASCINATING. Im biased as a history major but that war lifted our economy out of the shitter and ushered in the age of the suburb. Plus, taking a WWII class is just an excuse to THEN take a music-history class on the ’60s….these times they are a changin’ 😉

        • I really do! I am obsessed with the American dream/1950’s suburbia in conjunction with the changing social climate of the 60’s.

          Cultural clashes are so interesting to me, which is exactly why I’d like to travel back in time to 70’s L.A. You’ve got the whole Laurel Canyon, earth lovin’ crowd living in a city that was only made possible by stealing water from California’s once-lush eastern/central area (think Mt. Whitney/Lone Pine.) I find that to be ironic and beautiful and also tragic. All of that manufactured glamour right up against the Source Family and the surf culture, which relies entirely on a connection with nature.

          • Kelsey

            Any America in the Post-War-City class should be riiiight up your alley. Im thinking something revolving around the artistic Chicano mural movement of the late ’60s or Rev. Jesse Jackson reciting “I am Somebody” at the LA coliseum in the ’70s, should be fine with you!

            (Im living vicariously through you as I sit in a cubicle and put together wealth simulations for people with waaaaay more money than me, dont let me down bb!!)

          • Ha, thank you! I will take your suggestions, Kelsey.

            Was very fortunate living in Berkeley to have touched on the Chicano mural movement of the sixties, in school. There are a lot of murals in Berkeley, so we did a walking field trip of them and got to see first-hand how art did/does reflect activism and the rising tides of society. And this was when I was in the early years of elementary school! May have been woefully behind on my math skills (my school didn’t rank very high on standardized testing), but learned a lot about the cultural backgrounds of my fellow students!

            …..And I hope you at least have a nice view somewhere in your office? Never, ever forget you live in the most beautiful place in the world.

  • Wajahat Iqbal Waji

    yes agree …..

  • Kelsey

    I am a 25 (and a half) year old living in SF, working in finance, from an upper middle class east coast family, who pays her own rent and expenses with a once a year small-sum of assistance given to me by my parents. I spend a lot on Bud Lite, Vince slacks for work, my Vespa, and burrata based foods.

    My oldest sister is 29, married, living and working with her husband (and dog and cat, her only “children”…) on a boarding school campus in New England. They have a mortgage on a small home in RI.

    My middle sister is 27, has a MFA in creative writing/poetry, her 100 ton boating captains license, works in marketing at a retail company, has a puppy, and lives at home with my parents in RI.

    We are sisters, so we have a similar background in education and the same support system in our parents, but we have chosen very different paths. I wonder if one of us was a male, what would our financial standing, and life for that matter, look like? That article focused solely on young women (unemployment rate: “8.1 percent among women and 6.7 percent among men”) and their dependence on their parents. I think closing the wage gap, supporting female publications like MR!!, and raising women of the world (Malala Yousafzai!!!) would keep 25 would it should be, as independent women who have graduated past the 21 year old stage of dependence.

  • I had to work two jobs while going to school. I am so jealous of this other kid I know who has no job and is taking the same hard courses I took. I don’t know how I did it. Kids these days are pretty lucky! I agree with a lot of what Emma said below.

  • dustUP

    I feel that whole conversation is a bit generalized. What is there is simply a type of person that gets married for the first time and in their 30’s, or type that marries in their 20’s? My experience says this is all so highly individual and not so much related to generations, X, millennial, or any other, as much as it is personal choice, often connected to certain professions.. Proof for that is that so many people i know, me included, aged from 35 to 45 (new 25???) are artists, mostly unmarried, without children, living their lives without much security. People that work in uncreative professions tend to live more common lives that include children, mortgages and regular beach vacations.
    I don’t think you will be able to reach any good conclusion if you generalize people based on their age.

  • andrea raymer

    I feel like there is a culture clash within the united states though. This figuring shit out stage of life doesn’t really exist outside of New York, especially in the South. All my friends back home graduated and then either went straight into their grown-up jobs or went straight to getting married, in many cased they did one because they were striving for the other and were disappointed that they hadn’t achieved it so settled on the other.

    I have several very good friends that were very driven in their professional lives and disappointed when they didn’t immediately have a job so they decided that they should try to get married in order to feel productive. They move quicker in their relationships because they feel they need to be grown-ups and they suddenly are moving in with people after only a month of dating because it is convenient and makes them feel like they have their shit together.

    I think location and wealth are variables that can change whether this hypothesis is true or not.

    I grew up fairly upper middle class and despite being in a very conservative family, we are fairly progressive in terms of lifestyle. My parents waited much longer than their peers to have children and had already gotten their shit together before they had kids. In a way I feel pressure because of the fact that my parents are very successful, but they also think that their is a certain order that major parts of life should fall in and they don’t think I or my brother should skip steps just because it is convenient.

    My parents supported me through college because that was always their plan. they had been saving for my brother and I since before we were born. We both went to the University that my mother teaches at, so that made it so neither of us really used that savings on our education. After I graduated I was able to move to NYC and they could still support me because College was a lot cheaper than expected.

    In a way it made it that I was ahead of my friends from back home in some ways, but far behind in other ways. I am much closer to reaching my career goals than my friends because I don’t have to settle for any old big kid job in order to reach grown-up status, but I do feel emotionally stunted because I have very little life experience. I think people take my problems less seriously because I grew up in a more privileged household.

  • Guys, today is my 25th birthday! What a timely post! Haha
    And I just started back at school to get my grad degree in Social Work, where I will inevitably be financially unstable, but spiritually successful (as Leandra so beautifully put!).

    • Congratulations! So you are a Libra, right? I’m sure you’ ll balance it out 🙂

  • Taylor Hakimi

    Really really great. Obsessed with this, maybe one of your most influential pieces yet.

  • Maybe 25 is the new 21 because so many people are getting graduate degrees. I didn’t graduate law school until I was 25 and didn’t get my first, real job until I was a month from turning 26 so for me 26 was the age I actually felt like an adult. All of that being said, I put myself through college and my parents haven’t helped me out since my freshman year of undergrad. It wasn’t exactly financial responsibility that made me feel like an adult, but maybe not living off student loans? IDK.

    Also, to respond to Amelia’s question of whether marriage is the “age.” No. I definitely don’t think so, unless you’re moving from your parents’ house to your husband’s house and you don’t assume financial independence in between those. Then yes, I think marriage might be that point. That’s definitely not to say thatthere is anything wrong with someone doing that, but otherwise I think “the age” is the point where you’re doing it on your own. Especially considering how many people put off marriage until they’ve got all the other areas of their life together. Current day marriage is often an after thought, I have everything else together so now I feel comfortable bringing someone else into my life, as opposed to this thing people do early on and they spend their 20s or whatever building financial security and other types of security together.

  • Grrr Im turning 17 on thursday and that means I am almost an adult!!!! DO NOT EVEN MAKE ME THINK ABOUT BEING 21 OR EVEN 25!!!!

    • anon

      relax. you’ve got many years to before then. Enjoy being a teenager

  • Beee teee dubz, I love these round table posts. Y’all are so smart and funny and just ONNNN 24/7/365

  • Shelby Soke

    “Another big part of it is that a lot of parents who are fortunate enough to have the success to be able to put money towards fueling their children’s passions oftentimes come from families that did not provide them with that at all.”

    This was the case in my family, my parents worked extremely hard so me and my brothers could partake in expensive extra curricular activities, travel a bit and get through university without debt, etc.

    They have never made us feel guilty or like we necessarily “owed” them anything, but seeing what they sacrificed (they rarely treated themselves) to allow us such a good life does motivate me to work hard and be self sufficient. When my parents were my age they were married homeowners with a baby (yours truly) on the way.

    I was mostly independent at 22 because I lucked out with a good job when I finished my degree, but most of my friends still rely on their parents a lot for money. These friends are also less employed have more glamorous vacation filled lives than I do.

    In my friend group, 25 is totally the age that you need to “get it together,” especially with so many people taking gap years, switching majors or traveling. It seems like fewer and fewer people are even finishing post-secondary before they’re 23-25.

  • Linda

    There should definitely be a revolt of the unpaid interns. A lot of people starting out in a new career think of it as “paying their dues” at first, but then they have to learn where to draw the line. Unfortunately since many companies know there’s so much free labor out there, it’s becoming harder and harder for the interns to make the shift into paid work and moving up the ladder, particularly in the arts. They end up bouncing from unpaid internship to unpaid internship, hoping that their resume will one day get them a paid job. Furthermore a lot of employers don’t know the difference between unpaid experience and abusing their interns. Some make the work unnecessarily hard, or even traumatic.

  • Aubrey Green

    I paid for my college by working a full time job while going to school full time – I had a really great/cool job though, I worked for a Talent Agency for 7 years, so at the time, I made really good money for my age, I still lived at home though, so didn’t have the standard, or typical college experience, instead I had work experience, which I wouldn’t trade, but at the same time, I do wish that my parents could have paid my way through college, so I could have that experience and you have your whole life to work. I’ve had a job since I was 16-17 and I am now 31, what’s crazy is quite a few of my friends who are around the same age went to school and their parents paid for it, so they’ve only really been working somewhere between 3-5 years, maybe, where I have like 12 years experience, that seems nuts to me. I was also married at 23 and divorced at about 25….so in saying is there a thing about 25, I would say yes, but not in the since that it’s the new 21, I agree with Leandra about the whole number/age aspect of it. I think it’s a lot harder to get a well paying job now and I personally don’t think that it all depends on a college degree, unless of course it’s a very specific area…but in the creative world, most of the time they want the experience. It’s all a catch-22…there’s good and bad of all of it.

  • About Europe:
    Being one of the few who actually moved out before reaching legal age, I always felt like 18 was the new 21 mostly because I was cut off at 18. Children in Europe living at home longer is true for some, especially for young people that choose an apprenticeship over a degree, but most of my friends moved into share houses as soon as they got into university- also, since tuition and healthcare is often free or very cheap, it is more realistic to live off just one part time job without support from your parents.

  • I generally feel like an outsider in these types of discussions – I’m an immigrant from a working class, single parent home. I worried about bills and rent as soon as I started NYU, and I didn’t think my 21st birthday was much of a milestone.

    A lot of this is gendered, which really bothers me. I couldn’t intern anywhere in college b/c I couldn’t afford an unpaid internship, whereas many of my male friends had well paying internships in various engineering fields – my boyfriend literally slept at his desk in one of his internships.

    I attended a party in Hoboken when I was 23, and a guy asked me if I lived with my parents when I told him I lived in manhattan. Our mutual friend’s apartment cost just as much as mine – why didn’t he automatically assume that I was incapable of supporting myself?

    • Well, the only reason I keep quiet on this aspect of independence and early adulthood is that I still despise all those situations I was of wrong sex (and origin) and don’t want to remember them too clearly … I am still not reconciled with the fact I had to invest so much more energy and work to get some of the things supposed to be necessary. That and the fact worrying about it all doesn’t make for a popular person, either.
      Nowadays, I get most things as the better half of a heterosexual couple – I don’t even want to start thinking about what would happen if I were alone. I’d still use “independent” and “adult” when talking about myself, but possibly only to put things into a nicer perspective … (so yes, could be I feel you :-))

  • hila

    I put myself through college. I’m 29, ahem, for the second time. I think it depends on you/your parents’ financial situation..

  • Alejandra Bricolas

    I had that mental breakdown of “I HAVE NEVER DONE ANYTHING IMPORTANT!!” at 24. (24, because 24-26 is your mid-twenties.) I’ve always been fairly independent, but i didn’t feel I was independent enough. I would say now, at 25, I am very independent. I moved out at 21 and never moved back home, but I didn’t go to school. This year I started my own business. It is odd though, most of my friends got married at 24, and I feel like it is crazy for them to never live on their own before getting married.

  • Rosaly

    This was extremely interesting to read. I am a junior in college and sometimes I feel as I shouldn’t have even gone to school at all. I could have just went into the fashion industry with nothing until I found something. There’s a pressure to go to school, especially if you’re a woman. I have to fight for my place in the work force to not only have a stable job and live on my own but be able to be as financially stable as any man out in my field. Which brings the point of men! I am 20 and I have never had a boyfriend. Most of my friends are single as well because they don’t see the point in dating when we are in college. It’s suppose to be a carefree environment until we graduate (and they call us alcoholics). Nonetheless, I feel like 21 is the new 25 with the pressure of getting my shit together as soon as possible. What does that entail? A job and security I get by myself! Anywho, I am just living in the present and waiting till I turn 21 (2.5 more months but who’s counting?).

  • Kate

    Very engaging discussion. I feel that current generations have a greater desire for self-discovery, and it’s not uncommon to be a little introspective or “selfish” in our quest to understand what it means to be ourselves. With the increase in knowledge, choices and opportunities, this process can be ambiguous at times, and perhaps contributes to the shift away from the practicism of our grandparents’ generation.

  • Jenn Walls

    My parents watched me apply for more than 100 various positions as I finished my undergraduate degree this year. While neither of them completed post-secondary education, my mom kept reiterating how much it had changed, telling stories about how she would just walk in, interview, and get the job. None of this write a CV and a cover letter and have 4 references and 5 years of experience crap. Fortunately I managed to get one of those 100+ positions working for an environmental NGO, but I don’t know of anyone else in my graduating class that had such luck.

  • Blu Blood

    But what if I’m almost 29…? Everyone still acts like 30 is a thing…and we all know it…

    I might not be ready to be a “real adult” until I’m 34 because I still don’t know what the hell I want or whether or not to even finish my friggin’ Bachelor’s, because I was *never* being helped and am very reluctant to take out more loans when I finally just paid back the few I took out in my early 20’s…for half a damn art degree…

    (Can I just jump in front of a train now?)

  • Sam D. S.

    The objective fact that many parents continue to support their children financially well into their 20s casts the notion that the baby boomer generation has an affinity for micro-managing the proverbial paths of their children (albeit in a forward-looking, beneficial way), and, in turn, living vicariously through them.

    The millenial proclivity for post-secondary education enables 20-somethings to pursue their passions, prepares them to seek jobs in their desired fields, and serves as third-party affirmation that they should be reaching for the stars (which arguably was the moral of every story read to them at bedtime throughout their childhoods). If parents are financially able to support their children well into their 20s, the reward they reap for their continued investment is the stability of those children, which can be a burden day-to-day, but provides baby boomers with some reassurance for the future in the grand scheme of things.

    That being said, maybe the gravitational pull of major city centers also has something to do with this. 20-somethings congregate in metropolises in order to socialize with their peers, which a) may be located far from the locales of their parents and b) require ample funds to tackle astronomical costs of living. Many 20-somethings need help to pay their rent each month, and this affords an opportunity for parents to give their children an opportunity and luxury they themselves did not have. It also allows parents to keep their children close in adulthood – not in a ‘suckling from the teat’ way, but in the way that maybe they were not close to their parents once they entered adulthood.

    This obviously perpetuates the cycle of the parent-child role, and enables the 20 something to continue to act like a child because why not? They have the financial resources, and the emotional support to do so, and their parents have the reassurances that their child has their essentials – so if both parties can sleep at night, there is not harm in that. I agree with the author of the Atlantic article – lingering adolescence, or slowly cutting the cord as 20 somethings ascend their respective professional ladders isn’t hurting anyone. For example, Amelia – regardless of whether 25 is the new 21, you are not a fuck up. I can say that and I don’t even know you – you are on your way up, honing your talents, making professional connections and speaking your truth, and what the hell is wrong with that?

  • Holly

    I’m really late to this party (by what, 8 months or so? Yikes.), but this was a really interesting read. Particularly because you basically summed up my existence in this moment. I’ve been independent from my parents since I was 17, when I graduated from high school. They let me stay with them for free over summer breaks in college, but beyond that, I was on my own financially and otherwise. I put myself through college, and by that I mean I took out an egregious amount of money in student loans to pay for my degree. A few months after graduation, I sold my car and other non-essentials and moved to Brooklyn. I’ve worked a few different jobs, sometimes a few at a time, to pay my rent and perhaps more importantly, support my shoe habit. Fast forward a few years, I’m a few months shy of 26 and am having this internal conflict: I DON’T want to continue my career for which my degree is intended, but I’m 26 and I’m supposed to be getting it together!

    To some extent, I envy the stories you shared of support from parents and spouses that allowed you the freedom to figure things out at your leisure (and on someone else’s dime!). However, I’m glad to have made it this far on my own, because it has given me so much confidence in myself and my abilities, as well as the resolve to rise above the challenges of being a twentysomething making their way in NYC. I hope Amelia is right about 25 being the new 21 so then I’m not a fuck up, either!