“In our new house, we want stainless appliances in the kitchen and a master bathroom with a Jacuzzi. A walk-in closet and a huge backyard for our dog. No kids yet, but four bedrooms for sure. And no major roadways – too noisy! Walking distance to cool shops and restaurants is a must. And no long commutes to work.”
“No replacing carpets or painting over ugly wall colors. Totally turnkey. A formal dining room, of course. And fireplaces – at least one. Nothing without a two-car garage. We’re not scraping ice off our windshields! Oh, and a finished basement for hubby’s man cave. Where else would we put our mammoth flatscreen?”
Oy. Have you heard enough? I have. Judging from the proliferation of home-buying shows on HGTV, I’m not the only one who’s mesmerized. It feels downright voyeuristic watching other people go through the agonizing process of looking at homes to buy or rent. If you’ve done it, you can certainly sympathize – it’s tedious and frustrating. Let’s face it, better them than us.
But, here’s the thing. Some of the buyers on these shows are in their 20s. Some in their very early 20s. And listening to them recite a laundry list of needs which include, yes, a second floor laundry room, marble sink-tops and hardwood flooring is enough to make me feel like the world may truly be coming to an end. And there’s always that one small financial detail. Price? They want it all for three easy installments of $19.99.
When I was their age, I was also married and looking for that first home. Did the word “amenities” even exist then? Don’t get me wrong, I knew what nice was. I just didn’t expect to have it. Should I have demanded double sinks in the master bath? An in-home gym? Ha! Our first home was a condo with two bedrooms – one of which doubled as a den. The kitchen stove was a 1960s-era Frigidaire Flair – a rickety electric range with slide-away burners. Apparently, it was once good enough for Samantha Stevens on Bewitched but it was already decades old by the time I inherited it.
The entitlement of these young people confounds me. Thinking they deserve high-end homes when they’re barely out of high school is hair-raising. But is this what we Boomers have done to our darling Millennials? Raised them to think they can have it all without earning their life stripes?
There’s nothing wrong with wanting more or better or safer or more luxurious. But it scares me to think these young people equate happiness with recessed lighting and a breakfast nook. Or, more specifically, that they can’t be happy without those things. And judging from their pouts when they’re told they can’t have it all for peanuts, it’s clear we’ve done them a grave disservice in teaching them to manage their expectations.
I know and love many, many hardworking Millennials. And most of them don’t expect to live like the Queen of Versailles as soon as the law allows them to belly up to bar for a beer. But the young people who do – and there’s definitive proof they’re out there – worry me. Even agreeing to do a reality TV show that encourages and applauds behaviors à la Veruca Salt is concerning. What’s the upside? Fifteen minutes of fame and a lifetime of cringe-worthy regret in reruns?
I’ve had and I’ve had not. Having is better, indeed. But having alone doesn’t make one happy. That’s not new news. But when I think back on the happiest moments, I can honestly say they were as far from granite countertops as one could conceivably be. As Baby Boomers, our parents expected us to work and to earn. And that working and earning forced us into adulthood. Striving for more gave us perspective and ambition. It gave us something to work toward if we so chose.
This is a First World quandary, no question. But no matter what our station in life, we’re responsible for the progeny we churn out into this world. We all want our children to be happy. But how do we teach them to define their happiness? Of course, we want them to know it’s not contingent on having a SubZero or a wine cellar. And maybe that starts with modeling for them the values of hard work and self-respect – traits which just might, by the grace of the Gods of Dignity – prevent them from someday whining about closet space on national TV.