Young People Today don't know how to do their own laundry. Apparently. This has been the thing - the meme before memes were a thing - since forever. And I've never understood how this caught on. Is laundry so difficult? If this hadn't yet come up, you get to college, you see the machines, you figure it out. It will be the very least momentous challenge you face as an adult.
Of course, you may make mistakes. When I last did laundry, I noticed tiny bits of carrot greens in the washer where I'd included a tote bag that had, evidently, once held carrots. Then sure enough, after the dryer runs, I open the door and out pops what it took me a moment to realize was a carrot - a full carrot that had been through the wash-and-dry cycles. It looked really odd and I regret not taking a picture.
This was in any case quite, quite far from my first time ever doing laundry. If I were 18, we might blame helicopter parenting; I'm 30, so we're instead going to blame my not having noticed a carrot remained in some tote-bag fold. But with all my laundry-doing experience, I could very well see that the clothes (and, let's not forget, tote bags) were just fine. Once you have the basics (keep red stuff away from the whites, and don't put sweaters or bras you care about in the dryer), laundry is tough to screw up.
Well! It turns out that 30-year-olds with laundry issues are this great sign of the times. Or something? I feel as though this sort of thing has come up before, but should we really be looking to a therapist to diagnose a generation? Aren't the people who seek therapy inherently unrepresentative - more troubled and likely wealthier than the norm? Brooke Donatone tells us, re: the 30-year-old laundry-phobe, "Her case is becoming the norm for twenty- to thirtysomethings I see in my office as a psychotherapist." Perhaps so. But of twenty- to thirtysomethings more generally?
Here's the bit I found most baffling:
A generation ago, my college peers and I would buy a pint of ice cream and down a shot of peach schnapps (or two) to process a breakup. Now some college students feel suicidal after the breakup of a four-month relationship. Either ice cream no longer has the same magical healing properties, or the ability to address hardships is lacking in many members of this generation.Feeling or becoming suicidal after an objectively minor romantic disappointment seems if anything a kind of ancient approach to love, at any rate not especially millenial. Certainly not in the alleged era of hook-up culture.
But more to the point, the difference here isn't generational but just a more general matter of well-being. If you're typically happy and have friends (as is the implication) to share the ice cream and schnapps with you, a breakup is less devastating than it is if you're already on the edge of some kind of crash. Some young people will always be in one category, others in the other, many somewhere in between. (The gap between suicidal and so blasé as to need only a dessert and a drink to get over someone you were hung up on is, needless to say, tremendous.)
What I'm missing, I suppose, is where the millenial angle fits in. The relevant questions would seem to be a) whether more people today are depressed than used to be, and b) whether today's depression manifests itself differently than earlier variants. Doesn't depression traditionally entail a sense of hopelessness, a feeling of just the kind of incompetence that would make a task like laundry seem impossibly daunting?