What It’s Really Like To Be One Of America’s ‘Loser’ Guys

Eric Goldschein

New U.S. census data (via NPR) tells a story I have long since suspected: More young adults — and particularly, young men — are living with their parents.

Almost one in five young men, ages 25-34, lives at home. And in the past year, the percentage of men living with their parents rose 2.2 per cent. For women that number dropped 0.8 per cent.

Frankly, I could have told you this a long time ago. It’s a trend I’ve noticed in my own life. And while I’m a little younger than the age group stated in the report (I fall into a slightly larger pool of “losers”), I share their pain.

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How did I go from a college graduate with the world at my fingertips to bringing my mum’s leftover lasagna to work for lunch?

First, the macro. We are going through an incredible recession, with nine per cent unemployment for the general population and over 50 per cent of young adults (18-24) without a job. None of this boded well for me at graduation in 2010. It still doesn’t.

You’ll notice that it’s been over a year since graduation. Coming out of school, I was low on options. My dual liberal arts degrees, which for four years had seemingly promised everything and nothing, were delivering only the latter. Even in the relatively sound job market of Pittsburgh, I was grasping at straws. 

Then came the micro. Instead of continuing a frustrating job search, I traveled to Central America, volunteering with an organisation that turns bicycles into pedal powered machines and learning Spanish. Then I lucked into house sitting for a family friend in Paris, France for three months, which gave me the opportunity to write hip restaurant reviews and sip coffee casually for four hours a day. I took away incredible experiences and lessons from my year abroad — just not a paycheck.

So upon returning to the city of my youth, now over a year removed from college, I knew what I had to do. I took a cab to my mum’s apartment in Brooklyn and I haven’t left since.

But the world continued to turn while I took my year off, and I soon noticed a pattern. All of my female friends were out the house. One worked hard and capitalised on an opportunity in Los Angeles. Another moved out west with her boyfriend. A third did both, working her way up in the publishing world before getting a place with her boyfriend.

Meanwhile, the guys were still at home. Were they less driven? Dumber? Perhaps. But they — no, we — are part of a growing trend.

And there are plenty of reasons to live at home at this point. We don’t have to pay rent, and we save money on food, from groceries to home cooked meals to the occasional night out.

On the other hand, I do pay what I like to call “emotional rent.” The memories of having lived on my own — in college, in Guatemala, in my own swanky Parisian apartment — clash painfully with my current living situation. I lack the privacy I once took for granted. I must follow the rules that made sense as a child, but now seem crimping as an adult.

Perhaps worst of all, there’s the overwhelming feeling of shame upon meeting a cute girl and having to admit that I live with my mum, that she makes me dinner, that I sometimes come in and find my shirts neatly folded on the nicely made bed. In my experience, women don’t find that kind of dependence sexy.

Still, I don’t blame anyone for my situation. The choices I made were based on the circumstances, and they were still my decisions, just as all the other young people around the country have their varying circumstances and decisions that brought them back home.

I am thankful for having the opportunity to live with my parents, which not every young American has. And it brings comfort to know that, if I find myself stumbling through an explanation of living with my folks to a girl at the bar, or going quiet when people discuss their new studio apartment in Williamsburg, that I’m not alone.

Now all I need to do is … well, that’s still TBA. In the meantime, I’ll keep living at home and hope my friends get fed up enough with the emotional rent they’re paying to join me in getting our own place. It’s about time.

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