Let me make this utterly clear: If you are over 21 with a job, and you let your parents pay your rent, you are not a grown up and I don’t have to treat you like one.
Now, I am very lucky. My parents were in a position financially to give me and my siblings the gift of higher education, a feat that wasn’t easy for them and for which I am forever grateful and indebted. I will remember this generosity when they’re senile and tell me on the phone that pork chops were on sale at the grocery store for the third time in a five-minute conversation.
Furthermore, I understand that this kindness on their part gave me a formidable leg up when I graduated college debt-free, and that not everyone had that same help. My parents also made it very clear that after our undergraduate degree, we were cut off. (Is it a coincidence that my less-stingy sister and brother both chose to get masters’ degrees while I remain MBA-free..but also debt-free? probably not)
Of course there’s always an exception to the rule. Certainly, young people who’ve found themselves unemployed after college in this economy, or who are coping with serious health problems and grappling with insurance costs deserve any parental slack they’re cut. I hope that if my future children ever find themselves in a difficult situation, I’ll be able to step in and help. But am I going to buy my kid a condo so he can go out to dinner every night of the week on an entry-level income? No. Nope. Nuh-uh.
Rather, I’m talking about the young men who treat their paychecks like pocket money because mommy and daddy pay their rent, utilities, car payments, what have you. The guy whose parents are cutting him a check for half his rent each month (or, gag, all of it). The guy who’s living in his parents’ beach house til he figures out what he wants to do with his life. If he ever figures that out at all. That guy, I cannot handle.
Informally polling girlfriends of mine, I heard about one guy friend of a friend who lives in California, is 26, has a job, and whose room and board are covered completely by his parents.
“I asked him if he felt like less of a man because of it, and he said, ‘Nope.’ It made me think a lot less of him. I don’t know. You can’t take care of yourself at 26? Or maybe you can and you’re just letting your parents continue to coddle you? That’s almost worse.”
Another girlfriend, here in the city, knows a 30-year old graphic designer who doesn’t work “at all.”
“He’s very nice, but, on paper, he’s everything that’s wrong with young people in Brooklyn,” she said.
When I asked if she’d ever date him, she told me, “Not if he was content for it to stay that way or if he didn’t find some other way to contribute to society. He doesn’t necessarily have to want to work but they have to want to do something: travel, collect art, SOMETHING.”
And before you guys get your boxer briefs in a bunch - please know I believe the exact same principle applies to us ladies. I can’t tell you how many girls (and they are girls, not women) I know in the city who are content with a bottom-rung job in PR or advertising or whateverrrr, whose parents cover their co-op fees and bring them groceries on Sunday.
It’s not healthy. Do you think someone who has their living needs covered will ever go hard after a promotion? Or negotiate for a better raise? I don’t see why they would.
Guys, it’s okay to struggle, especially at the beginning of your career. You will have the best stories when you’re older. “I ate ramen every night for two years.” “I hopped the subway turnstile one night because my monthly card ran out and I couldn’t afford a new one ’til pay day two days later.”
And when it comes to taking a woman out, it’s best to show her the real you. I’d much rather a guy take me to his favorite BYOB tiny Thai place, than the most recent Top Chef’s restaurant if that’s not in his budget.
How can I believe you’ll take care of me if you can’t even take care of yourself? And I don’t mean financially; I’m not looking for a sugar daddy. But how reliant can a man be if he’s never been tasked with owning all of the responsibility of his own life? When you’re allowed to continue acting like a child well after you’ve grown, how can I trust you to act like a grownup? You don’t know how.
It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t let your parents spoil you a little. You’re still their child, after all, and if it makes them happy, great. I let my mother take me to Target every time I’m in Wisconsin, and I load up on stationery, candles, and mixed nuts (those canisters are expensive!). She feels happy to have gotten some ‘take care’ time in, and I get a half a year’s supply of cashews. Everyone wins. But for the big stuff? That’s on me. As it should be.