Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

The Basics:
About Emdashes | Email us

Before it moved to The New Yorker:
Ask the Librarians

Best of Emdashes: Hit Parade
A Web Comic: The Wavy Rule


Sempé Fi: Boomerang

Filed under: Sempé Fi   Tagged: , , , , , ,

5-24-10 Daniel Clowes Boomerang Generation.JPG

Pollux writes:

“Parents groan about the ‘boomerang’ generation,” Gerald Handel and Gail G. Whitchurch write in The Psychosocial Interior of the Family, “young adults who return to the nest and stay beyond the time when, in years past, they would have been expected to be independent. Parents send their kids out, but they keep coming back.”

And certainly the parents featured on Daniel Clowes’ cover for the May 24, 2010 issue of The New Yorker look dismayed to see the return of their adult son. Clowes’ cover, called “Boomerang Generation,” refers to a social phenomenon of our time: grown children, often college graduates, who are retying the apron strings.

Clowes depicts an amusing but credible scene: a student, having recently earned his PhD, hanging his diploma alongside past triumphs from his elementary and high school days. The student has returned home; he is surrounded by luggage and boxes. Tim is once again occupying “Tim’s Room.” Parents, keep out (unless you’re there to collect laundry or trash).

His parents look on, saddened and disappointed. Perhaps they had hoped to turn “Tim’s Room” into a gym or a room they could rent out.

What now for Clowes’ newly minted graduate? Will he sit around, getting his laundry done by maternal hands and visiting his old haunts? Will he reflect on how small his bedroom feels compared to the campus dorm he shared with two roommates from Uruguay and Taiwan, respectively? What will he do with his dissertation on Livonian peasant culture?

The trend of a Boomerang Generation, which merits an entry in the Encyclopedia of Social Problems (it comes after “Body Image”), is linked to multiple causes: young adults marrying later, fewer employment opportunities, the high cost of housing.

But for whom is this a problem? The parents or the children? For the children, becoming a boomerang seems less of a social problem and more of a solution. It makes economic sense. Whether the children become psychologically stunted or not, the thought of how much money is being saved cancels out any possible paraphilic infantilism or diaper fetishism.

For the parents, having their children return home may or may not be a cause for strife. As Vincent N. Parrillo writes in his Encyclopedia of Social Problems, “the unhappiest parents are those whose children have left and returned on several occasions, returning because of failure in the job market or in pursuit of education.”

We can lump the parents that Clowes depicts into that category of “unhappiest parents.” But they should not despair. Tim is finding his own way, and one day, while driving past his old high school (“Go Wildcats”), an idea or flash of inspiration will strike him, and he will embark on a new life’s journey.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, it may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Thanks for waiting.)

2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree