Reborn Babies (a trend guaranteed not to catch on)

29 Jul

This week, the blogosphere lit up with buzz and debate about a NYT Magazine article, which posed (and tried to answer) the question, “What the heck is wrong with today’s 20-somethings, and why won’t they just grow up?” In it, writer Robin Marantz Henig explains:

The 20s are a black box, and there is a lot of churning in there. One-third of people in their 20s move to a new residence every year. Forty percent move back home with their parents at least once. They go through an average of seven jobs in their 20s, more job changes than in any other stretch. Two-thirds spend at least some time living with a romantic partner without being married. And marriage occurs later than ever.

I haven’t nodded my head in agreement so fiercely while reading the New York Times since, well, ever. It’s true – many 20-somethings (and even, um, 30-somethings) today find themselves floating around in the emerging gray area that happens somewhere on the road from adolescence to adulthood. On the one hand, we live in a youth obsessed culture that tells us we need to stay young, stay hip, stay cool and carefree – even into retirement. And at the same, time we are told that we need to grow up, be responsible, and follow the appropriate steps towards productive adulthood, according to specific “milestones” set by generations past.

It’s no wonder Generation Y has taken a sort-of DIY approach to growing up, marrying at vastly different ages than our parents, procreating later in life (or not at all), and becoming more and more highly educated, with fewer job prospects available for us despite our degrees. Is this a good or a bad thing?

After 10 pages of waxing philosophical (thanks to interviews with psychologists and sociologists), Marantz Henig concludes:

So we’re caught in a weird moment, unsure whether to allow young people to keep exploring and questioning or to cut them off and tell them just to find something, anything, to put food on the table and get on with their lives.

In other words, “it’s complicated.”

I could relate to so many things about this article that I started to worry: “At what point will I finally wake up and think, ‘Gosh, I feel like a real grown-up today?'”

But all this worrying about my future produced a headache, so I switched on the TV, to a show I can honestly say I have never watched before: Wife Swap. One of the families featured on this particular episode included an allegedly grown-up woman – a mom – who had three human children, and a collection of 14 “plastic,” or “reborn babies” (see picture below. These disturbingly lifelike baby dolls breathe, have a heartbeat, and have real, threaded hair, and “a real spine.” They cost thousands of dollars each, and they never grow up, because, well, they are not real. The Wife Swap woman, however, doted on them as if they were – she cooed them to sleep every night, and even changed their (clean) diapers. She compared herself to Angelina Jolie because she adopted “international” plastic babies from Canada and London.

Suddenly, I felt much better. I might not have it all together yet, but at least I stopped changing baby doll diapers many years ago.

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