Last year I got a grill. The kind you use for outdoor barbecues. It was Memorial Day and I figured, why the heck not? We have the money, and I want to start doing barbecues! My friend Gordon Goesch and I set it up that day and after putting it together and figuring out the best arrangements of charcoal, etc., eventually we actually started grilling food.
Both Gordon and I were shocked. This wasn’t supposed to actually work. Something was supposed to go wrong. Either that, or there was supposed to be some kind of knowledge wall, something we didn’t know how to do that everyone else did know how to do, and we wouldn’t be able to get over it. At least not that day.
But no. We ate steaks that day. Not great steaks, because we forgot that we’re supposed to marinate them for a long period of time. But still. We ate food that we cooked over a fire we created. We were officially adults.
There’s been a trend, lately. Of people my age, millennials, being shocked to discover that we’re adults. Doing grown-up things, holding grown-up responsibilities, being professional and mature and all that. This cartoon from the great xkcd explains the feeling:
I confess being in a similar mind set about a lot of things lately. I’m a father now and my wife are new homeowners. I even have a book out. And, I know how to grill meat pretty well.
But isn’t this a little bit sad? It’s taking younger generations longer and longer to actually behave like adults. To shoulder adult responsibilities. To have the thought processes of adults. Childhood doesn’t end at 18 anymore. It doesn’t really seem to end till our late 20s, if then.
Part of the problem with that is we learn life lessons later, too. A lot of us are still 18 when we go away to college, when suddenly we’re faced with freedoms we never knew before. No more parents to tell us how to eat right! No more parents giving curfews and setting rules! No more parents to teach you how to spend your money or time!
Not that this happened a lot anyway.
And because we aren’t actually taught all that well how to do those things as children—because life skills, and chief among them personal accountability, aren’t taught at younger ages anymore; we mature slower and slower—we’re shocked when the world actually expects this of us. And we almost immediately begin living irresponsibly.
This other comic from xkcd captures this mind set perfectly:
I’m guilty of this too. Soda and sweets are awfully cheap, aren’t they?
But the point of this post isn’t merely to complain about my generation. I’m actually here to complain about previous generations.
It happened around the midpoint of the 20th century. That’s when religion started to fade.
Religion, you see, is a lot like society’s parent. At least it was for America and the west. A higher power tries to guide us morally, teach us the best path to happiness and peace and stability. But somewhere along the way, God stopped being feared. Or at least, God stopped being taken seriously. God and the moral teachings of Christianity. A lot of the younger generation stopped and realized, Hey, religion is just a power struggle, and they’re trying to take power over me. But I don’t actually have to behave how it wants me to. What is it going to do? It can’t do anything to me. I can live however I want. Essentially, I can cook bacon whenever I want.
Only it wasn’t cooking bacon. It was breaking the law of chastity. (Among other things, but I think that law is the best example of this concept.)
I don’t have to be married to have sex. I’m an adult! I just have to be really in love with the other person.
Then the next generation (I’m talking here about the general view of society, not particular instances): I don’t have to be absolutely in love with the other person. It can happen after a few dates, when we’ve committed to each other. Who sets these rules anyway? I’m an adult! I can do whatever I want!
Then the next: if the first date goes well, why not do it then? Why not have breakfast with her in the morning, too? I’m an adult, I can take care of myself. Sitcoms lead the way.
Now we’re at the point where you can meet a stranger at a party, and if you feel like it, go right ahead, shake ‘em down. Live how you want! Follow your passions! Do what you love! Or rather, lust.
And thus we see terrible things like the campus rape epidemic, the inevitable product of the hook-up culture and pervasive acceptance of pornography. We see abortions and STDs and the Daily Show telling us, in response to the recent Supreme Court ruling against the pro-life movement in Texas, to “go knock someone up in Texas,” and, presumably, terminate the baby’s life because Why Not? We see families breaking even before they can really start because we don’t want to be accountable for our choices. We see moral anarchy, and everything that was once kept sacred and meaningful talked about and engaged in the most despicable and horrible ways. We see a generation past feeling.
All because we don’t have to accept the rules of oppressive and puritanical previous generations. Because hey, we’re adults now, and we can cook bacon whenever we want.