Greetings. Before we get started with this week's question & answer, we have an all-too-rare occurrence here on AAP... an actual Follow-Up.
Regular readers might recall one of the first new posts after the rebooting of the site. I'm talking about this post here. It was a pretty harrowing tale about a person very near the end of their rope and I was afraid that so much time had lapsed since the question had come in that any answer I might give would be too late to do any good. I have recently heard from the person who originally sent in that question, and I'm happy to report that things have improved and that long-term sobriety is being achieved. I'm still guessing that my response probably had little to do with the upturn, but that doesn't matter. The important part is that somebody is getting better instead of worse. There is always hope for a turnaround.
Now on to this week's question.
Dear Ask A Punk
I know money is tight and all, but when is it "too old" to still be living with your parents? I'm not making a ton of money but I figure that every dollar I pay in rent for my own place, away from my family, is a dollar I won't have to spend on therapy or medications. Even when I was a kid my only goal was to, as soon as possible, "not live here" no matter what that took. So I did it. I have a decent apartment and a decent low-budget life that I'm trying to do things with. I mean it is still doable, right? Even if I'm in my mid-twenties and already know I'll probably never be able to buy a place, at least I can rent, right? So obviously I'm asking because a friend of mine is still living with his parents. He's about 26 now, but I'm not exactly sure. He lived on his own for a little while but moved back even when he still had a real job. Since then he has lost his real job just like everyone else, so he almost has a reason to still be living at home, but at least he has A job again - and we live in the sort of small city where you can always find an apartment... So why isn't he? What's his problem?
We're only friends, if that's what you're thinking, and I have plenty of friends who are true deadbeats, so I know the type. I just can't understand his lack of motivation, or at least a desire to have his own place in case he wants a girlfriend or something. - Solo Dweller.
While I understand the precise question you asked, I don't quite understand your issue. Sure, there used to be some culturally derived age where an able-bodied child should be "out of the house" either through work or marriage. That age has varied over time as well as cultural and economic circumstance. Now, given the current and continuing economic malaise, I think there is no longer a cutoff age for this sort of thing. At least for economic reasons.
There might indeed be other, deeper and unexamined reasons why he doesn't want to leave the nest, but the real deeper and unexamined things worth exploring are why this all matters so much to YOU.
You made the point of saying you two are "just friends" but that whole last paragraph seems to be screaming "subtext!" at me. If you're really just friends then you have to decide if you can be friends with someone who isn't as independent as you are. Is that what's bothering you? It sounds like you had a shitty childhood in a bad family situation - a perfectly valid reason to flee as soon as possible - but you have to realize that some families actually do get along and like each other. I know that sounds impossible to believe but some blood relatives actually enjoy each other's company, so much so that they enjoy living under the same roof. It does happen. You didn't describe his family situation at all really, so I'm guessing you don't really know if it is a healthy/close family or an unhealthy/close family.
Do you judge your female friends the same way? Are any of them still living at home? And why so judgemental of your friend's choice in the first place? You said he's not a deadbeat (just before you threw your 'true' deadbeat friends under the bus) so what's the harm? As I said, there is some subtext here... It sounds like you would date him if wasn't living at home. Is that an option? Did he ask you out? Are you wondering why he hasn't? I wish I knew what this was really about.
Final answer: We all have to decide how judgmental we're going to be about our "friends" and then we have to live with those decisions... oh, and ask yourself if you would want to be judged so harshly.
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