You know what the kids are doing these days? Nothing. They are living in their parents' houses (or houses their parents pay for) and not working. But they are turning their unemployment into a new trend: the Millennial Job Whine.
What is this exciting new subset of blog entries and New York Times white people anomie exactly? What does it look like?
Well, it looks like this Times article from yesterday's edition about a young man with the impossibly ethnic name of Scott Nicholson. He's a pickle barrel-jawed son of Grafton, MA and a 2008 graduate of Colgate, a New York state
toothpaste factory liberal arts college. Try as he might, and girl he is tryin', he just cannot get a job in his desired field, Corporate Stuff. Well, ha, actually, he did get offered a 40k/year job in Worcester but he turned it down because it was just a job, not a career. The Times pities him deeply — it's a long article! And they use Mr. Nicholson's story — including an audio slideshow of the lad shuffling around his family's pristine white clapboard home — to delve into a deeper issue of millennial kids (18-29) who just cannot find a damn job. It's a clinical, anthropological look peppered with the experiences of, in grand Times tradition, a privileged white individual.
So that is one arm of this Job Whine trend. Another is the you are there confessional blog post, as evidenced by a series of posts on the charming Geocities webpage "The Awl.com". In Diary of an Unemployed Class of '10 Philosophy Major in New York City a young fellow named Sam Biddle chronicles, with dead-eyed whimsy, his struggle in this most beguiling and difficult and initially magical of cities. He can't get work and yet, and yet, he somehow affords to live here. (Is that explained? I can't remember.) This is not meant to mock Mr. Biddle — the post series is well-written and manages to avoid nearly all the groan-inducing potholes something of this very particular genre would normally tromp right into — but the posts are a kind of moaning that could be seen as slightly above the problem. Biddle isn't begging for pity, but he does think that telling the story of a kid who graduated from college two months ago and moved to an expensive city and doesn't have a job YET is worth reading. Is it? Who knows. I read it! It's enjoyable. Do I feel bad for him? No.
No! No one should. And no one should feel bad for old Scotty Boo-Berry up there either. The Millennial Job Whine is not something that should elicit pity from any rational person. Not having a job certainly sucks. But turning down a 40k-a-year job or holding out for the dream gig (or at least the beginnings of the dream gig) while wasting away in Manhattan and thinking that's a Big Story sucks more. One difference in the two types of coverage of this boo-hoo phenomenon is that on "The Awl" LiveJournal site they are being a bit winking in their post series, I suspect. (Biddle included — he seems in on it.) But the Times is dreadfully serious. This young white man who lives in a nice house and went to Colgate is having a mild struggle to find a career for himself and that is a some Great Big Indicator of our troubled times. The Times certainly does its share of reporting on the genuine miseries in this country, but why then throw the balance so precariously out of whack with this Updikian rich people fact-fart? It's likely they're just trying to ruffle their readers, who are mainly the perpetually worried upper-middle-classers who crawled out of the '70s and '80s and never want to look back. They do, however, seem to have a strange proclivity (prurient delight?) for watching an entitled generation of unspecial kids flounder and flummox in the muddy river delta that is one's messy post-college years.
When I scrolled down to the bottom of Scott Nicholson's woeful tale, one of those slidey story suggestion things came whizzing out from the right-hand side. And do you know what the suggested article was? A graphtastic piece entitled Do You Earn More Than Your Parents Did? (You don't, if you're a man.) Nicely done, Times. Nicely done indeed.