Just this week, a Michigan man boasted that he’s still collecting food stamps after winning a $2 million government-sponsored lottery prize. “If you’re going to … try to make me feel bad, you aren’t going to do it,” he told a local TV reporter. Embedded in his rebuke is the eternal refrain of the self-esteem-puffed teenager: “You can’t judge me!”
Diana West, author of “The Death of the Grown-Up,” traced the modern abdication of adulthood to the Baby Boomer generation. “The common compass of the past — the urge to grow up and into long pants; to be old enough to dance at the ball (amazingly enough, to the music adults danced to); to assume one’s rights and responsibilities — completely disappeared” after World War II. A culture of behavioral restraint gave way to “anything goes” and morphed into the current generation’s “whatever” attitude.
Look around: Junior’s infantilism is of a piece with the refusal of celebrity mothers Dina Lohan and Tish Cyrus to act like parents — and instead serve as best friends and tattoo parlor pals for their wayward daughters Lindsay and Miley. They’re the kind of women who shop at Forever 21, buy beer for their daughters’ prom parties and give them Botox certificates for high school graduation.
Junior’s penchant for pajamas is of a piece with perpetually stunted Hugh Hefner’s fetish for velvet robes 24/7 and self-indulgent decadence. Junior’s giant playpen is a cringe-inducing symbol of the Farmville-tethered, “funemployed” class of self-gratifiers who continue to live for today and spend like there’s no tomorrow.
Adult Baby Syndrome isn’t an isolated pathology. It’s the new American Way. Or, I should say, the new American Wahhhhh.