Poor Maeve McGilloway! On her first visit back home after spending three weeks at college, the Middlebury freshman made a horrifying discovery.
The room where she'd spent the first 18 years of her life was unrecognizable. Her 'N Sync poster was gone. So was the collage of her high school friends. What she found instead was the new guest room, a "Martha Stewart bed and breakfast," as her mother described it. The walls had been repainted, the carpet had been changed and the happy clutter of her childhood had been replaced by about 40 bone china butter dishes that her mother had purchased on eBay and mounted on the wall. "The first question I asked was, who lives here?" Maeve McGilloway said, "and she said, 'You do,' and pointed to this really little vintage Middlebury postcard on the wall, like this little Middlebury postcard was supposed to represent me."
In this fashion the Times explores the psychological devastation that occurs when parents redecorate the rooms of their recently departed children. It's hard not to feel pity for these tragic young people, who return from a semester full of date rape and body shots only to find that mom and dad have broken down the bedroom wall and converted their once sacred space into an S&M dungeon complete with wrist restraints and a fuckswing.
The problem is so widespread that "[p]arents of Kenyon freshmen are warned at an orientation seminar against stopping at Ikea on the way home. 'Honor that space at least through Christmas break, and then make some decisions as a family,' said Alicia Dugas, Kenyon's assistant dean of students."
The piece is full of loathsome behavior (we're particularly fond of the 23-year-old assistant editor on "Lost," who has his own apartment but won't let his parents change his bedroom in their house), but don't fear for this entire generation of cast-off children: Some are learning to show pluck and independence.
Maeve McGilloway engaged in the domestic equivalent of civil disobedience after she saw the changes her mother had wrought in her bedroom. "There's an upstairs study with an old couch," she said. "I slept there four nights in protest."
Also, she left all her stuff at Middlebury this semester. That'll show them!