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October 27, 2006


Over the past week or so, I have been reading Before the Mortgage, a collection of essays by writers in their twenties and thirties that describe the kind of extended adolescence we experience before settling down with a mortgage. Contributors discuss dead-end jobs, apartment/roommate living, dating fiascos, and the general woes of a very privileged youth. The BTM website describes this period as post-college and pre-picket fence.

As I personally am not "before the mortgage," I hesitated at first to read this book, but it got an excellent review in Bitch, so I thought I would check it out (from the library, that is). Overall, it was a fun read, but I'm a bit annoyed by the premise of the book. Its editors seem to think that one day they will get their s--t together, and that having a mortgage signifies adulthood. I can testify to the fact that having a mortgage doesn't necessarily make one feel like an adult, nor does it mean that I have my s--t together. David and I still experience financial anxiety, career uncertainty, relationship insecurity, and the fear of parenthood. We may have a mortgage, but we don't have it all figured out.

Ultimately, I think the phrase "pre-picket fence" summarizes the problem with the whole BTM concept. Its contributors and particularly its editors apparently were raised in picket-fence families -- wealth, suburbs, married parents, stability -- and they fully expect to someday have their own picket-fence families. They still have the illusion that "real adults" have their s--t together, and that someday they too will have it all figured out. Call me cynical, but I don't think anybody ever really does figure it out once and for all. I don't think anybody ever really feels like a grownup, and I know for sure that nobody ever really gets their s--t together. This used to bother me, but then I realized how boring life would be if we all had that picket-fence ideal.

Posted by eklanche at October 27, 2006 08:58 AM


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