29 Mar 2006

Grups

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We’ve noticed, and remarked with displeasure on, the fact that out here in California everyone these days seems to want to go out in public dressed like an 8 year old. Apparently, this is a national trend. It’s those Gen Y-ers, who are even whinier and more messed up than the Gen X-ers.

Adam Sternbergh in New York Magazine (he’s probably one of them) has noticed, too.

It’s more interesting as evidence of the slow erosion of the long-held idea that in some fundamental way, you cross through a portal when you become an adult, a portal inscribed with the biblical imperative “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: But when I became a man, I put away childish things.” This cohort is not interested in putting away childish things. They are a generation or two of affluent, urban adults who are now happily sailing through their thirties and forties, and even fifties, clad in beat-up sneakers and cashmere hoodies, content that they can enjoy all the good parts of being a grown-up (a real paycheck, a family, the warm touch of cashmere) with none of the bad parts (Dockers, management seminars, indentured servitude at the local Gymboree). It’s about a brave new world whose citizens are radically rethinking what it means to be a grown-up and whether being a grown-up still requires, you know, actually growing up.

And it’s been a long time coming. It showed up in the early eighties as “the Peter Pan Syndrome,” then mutated to the yuppie, which, let’s face it, has had a pretty good run. Later, it took the form that David Brooks called “bourgeois bohemians,” or bobos (as in Bobos in Paradise). Over in England, they’re now calling them yindies (that’s yuppie plus indie), and here, the term yupster (you can figure that out) has been gaining some traction of late. And as this movement evolves, something pivotal is happening. This cascade of pioneering immaturity is no longer a case of a generation’s being stuck in its own youth. This generation is now, if you happen to be under 25, more interested in being stuck in your youth.

This article being what it is, I wanted to come up with my own term to describe them. But what? Dadsters? Sceniors? Dorian Graybeards? Over the course of my investigation, I started calling them Grups. It’s not the most elegant term, but it passes the field test of real-world utility. (Here a Grup, there a Grup, everywhere a Grup-Grup.) “Grups” is a nerdy reference to an old Star Trek episode in which Kirk and crew land on a planet run entirely by kids, who call grown-ups “grups.” All the adults have been killed off by a terrible virus, which also slows the natural aging process, so the kids are trapped in a state of extended prepubescence. They will never grow up. And they are running the show.

(Yes, sure they are! -JDZ)

Oh, and there’s one more thing I learned, in answer to my opening questions: If being a Grup means being 35, and having a job, and using a messenger bag instead of a briefcase, and staying out too late too often, and owning more pairs of sneakers (eleven) than suits (one), and downloading a Hot Hot Heat song from iTunes because it was on a playlist titled “Saturday Errands,” and generally being uneasy and slightly confused about just what it means to be an adult in these modern times—in short, if it means living your life in fundamentally the same way that you did when you were, say, 22—then, let’s face it, I’m a Grup. The people in the pictures accompanying this story? Grups. In fact, take a minute and look up from the magazine—if you’re in public, you’ll see them everywhere. If you’re in front of a mirror, you might see one there too.

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