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Are we really going to pay for slackers' health insurance?

By 2.24.11

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One of the gimmicks of Obamacare that got too little attention, in my opinion, was the proposal to keep "dependents" on their parents' healthcare plans till age 26.

I forget what I was doing at 25, but it sure wasn't relying on my folks for antibiotics.

The Obama Administration is just acknowledging what college professors and the media have been saying for some time: that a lot of young people are unwilling to sign on to the traditional idea of adulthood. In other words, to grow up.

It's easy to see why today's twenty and thirty-somethings would eagerly embrace the man-child lifestyle. You get the best of both worlds. You get to do adult things like drink booze, smoke cigars, and be intimate with the opposite sex (unless you smoke cheap cigars), but you also get to do kid stuff, like spend all day watching Cartoon Network, eat Fruit Loops for supper and blow all your disposable income on Arcade Fire downloads.

Better yet, are the things you aren't required to do. Like go back to law school because your spouse thinks six bedrooms aren't quite enough, or take out a 30-year mortgage, or spend every weekday evening squatting in the bleachers at the grade school gym.

The problem for the mediacracy is that the slacker lifestyle -- at least as it's portrayed in Judd Apatow movies -- is not very sexy. In fact, it is kind of pathetic. Given no responsibilities and all this freedom to refrain from growing up, these so-called "emerging adults" opt to spend their twenties and most of their thirties smoking pot, surfing Internet porn, and playing Total War IV. So the media has redefined slacking and given loafing a whole new aura of respectability.

Slacking is now said to be a form of "discovery."

Profiles of these emerging adults read like a hokey Somerset Maugham novel, with the hero trekking off to the Himalayas to find some transcendent meaning of life. Maugham's characters, at least, were traumatized by their World War I combat experiences, so they had an excuse for "loafing." The only thing today's kids are traumatized by is their parents' separation. The only possibility they are exploring is how long they can go without using soap.

The media may be fooled, but a lot of single women aren't. Many gals are growing weary of dating aimless hipsters, aging frat boys, trust funders, and indie rockers, and wish these guys would grow up already. As comedian Julie Klausner put it in her memoir I Don't Care About Your Band: "They are more like the kids we babysat than the dads who drove us home."

LET'S BE GENEROUS. Maybe this generation of slackers is smarter than we think. Maybe all these children of divorce take marriage more seriously than their parents did, so they refuse to rush into it. After all, women who get married before they're 25 make up about 64 percent of all divorces in the U.S. On the other hand, women who get married in their late twenties make up only 16 percent of the divorces. Shacking up may have also lowered divorce rates, since it weeds out bad relationships before they get to the altar, though some traditionalists don't want to hear that.

On the other hand, don't give emerging adults too much credit. If they seem to be developing a greater consideration for others by volunteering for City Year and the Peace Corps, and attending graduate school in record numbers, it's only because they are shirking so-called "adult responsibilities" and need to kill time till they are old enough to get married, which is like 40 or something. More to the point, not everybody can work part-time at the Center for Faith, Spirituality and Social Justice. Somebody has to make a profit in order to keep the nonprofits afloat. That would be all of us over 40, I guess.

Incredible as it may sound, some of us longtime adults have found happiness by embracing adult responsibilities, like parenting, committing to a single person, purchasing a dream home, and -- unless our kids turn out to be a bunch of childless slackers -- grandparenting.;

My wife, who has seen my dog-eared copy of Generation X, tells me not to throw rocks on account of my glass house. Fine. Live and let live, I always say. But all you lazy 26-year-olds, don't expect us to foot the bill for your health insurance.

Get a job.

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About the Author
Christopher Orlet writes from St. Louis.