September 1, 2012

Obligatory dorm-room makeovers

Here is an NYT article about how sheltered the Millennials continue to live, even after they've shipped off to college.

Far from wanting to start their own lives, which necessarily means beginning with little and building up over time through effort, they want their parents to shell out $200 or $300 and up to furnish their dorm rooms, to keep them up to the standards they've been used to at home.

Their helicopter parents are of course only too eager to oblige. I mean, how are Kaylabella and Chaysen supposed to get any work done without a standing mirror, big screen TV, and a stocked fridge nearby?

With that level of material comfort, physical security, liberation from household chores, and lack of direct parental supervision (although now subject to a continual stream of cell phone check-ups), you'd think they'd be in hog heaven and living it up all the time.

In reality, though, college kids have never been in a more ongoing vegetative, joyless state, nor been so averse to the party hardy culture that is supposed to pervade the campus. The girls are plugged into Facebook and texting, while the guys are plugged into video games (alone) and internet porn. On the rare occasion when they do throw a party, they just sit around chit-chatting or huddling around the two beer pong players.

It feels like one of those Parents Weekend parties when kids act all well-behaved so they're none the wiser, only the monitor and spotlight are so internalized that that's their ordinary way of carrying on!

Adolescents need to start off low on the totem pole, to motivate them to get stuff done, and to enjoy and savor a higher state of being once they experience it. It also makes them pool their limited resources and thereby develop social bonds. When your dorm room is nothing to write home about, you enjoy the party that the hosts worked on to make sure that it'd be a blast. Not to mention the anticipation beforehand. And all of that required a team effort, not just running your mommy and daddy's credit cards.

I also think that a drabber dorm room forces them to seek out relief through social means -- even a dopey-looking room comes alive with the right people and the right activities. All this dorm room makeover stuff seems like a way to avoid such social channels, and to seek relief by surrounding themselves with distracting toys.

Then it's just more of the same once they graduate college but move back in with their folks until age 35. How about a tax break for parents who spend less than $10 on their kids' freshman dorm decor? Something. Shit.


  1. "he girls are plugged into Facebook and texting, while the guys are plugged into video games (alone) and internet porn."

    This is somewhat overstated. Most kids still do parties and sex.

    However, there are some who are asocial in ways which never happened in the 80s. But I don't believe they are a majority.

  2. I didn't know anybody in college who decked out their dorm rooms like that (a minifridge was common, though not usually very stocked). I'm not going to waste a monthly NYT visit on that, but my guess is that it's one of those "bogus trend stories".

  3. "However, there are some who are asocial in ways which never happened in the 80s. But I don't believe they are a majority."

    Even the majority that does venture out of their room has parties like this:

    For nearly 5 years I've seen a steady flow of Facebook pictures from Millennial friends across a variety of colleges (and also their albums showing high school parties). I'd say the above post gives a very representative account of how tame they are.

    They're more of a gathering than a party. The urge to cut loose is hardly there for most attendants, and everyone's behavior is so regulated to contain the possibility of forgetting yourself and having fun. E.g., needing a tightly rule-governed game like beer pong just to get drunk.

    Also, only 40-something percent of high schoolers have lost their virginity, so I'd guess that when they get to college only a slim majority if that are regularly getting it on.

    If they were, that would relieve all the stress that I constantly hear them griping about.

  4. "but my guess is that it's one of those "bogus trend stories"."

    They quote higher-ups for various retail chains, and the pattern seems to be national.

    Sure, not everybody gets a full makeover, but the amount of junk that they get to keep them comfortable (whether stylish or not) is unbelievable.

    Just for comparison, when I was in college from fall '99 to spring '03, hardly anyone had a fridge of any kind. Each hallway had communal full-sized refrigerators that we put our stuff in, with semi-frequent accusatory notes posted on the door about Who Took My Ben & Jerry's?

    TV's were also very rare, with maybe one or two rooms out of 40 in my freshman dorm having one. If you lived off-campus in a house, then you probably had one. Mostly we ignored TV, or went to one of the snack bar hang-outs that had a 30-something inch CRT up in a corner.

    Bed-raisers were fairly unknown -- we just stole cinder blocks from someplace nearby if we wanted them.

    The one thing that we were all pretty spoiled about was having a desktop computer and monitor, or more rarely a laptop.

    And we did get a good deal of junk from the Container Store or Bed Bath & Beyond, more than people would've had in the '80s, but still not as bad as now.

  5. Another consequence of having all those comforts in their room is not feeling like going outside on the quad or main green or whatever it's called. Man, I hardly ever see more than 20-30 people out where I am, and there are tens of thousands of students here.

    See any college yearbook picture of the main green from the '60s, '70s, or '80s, and it's just filled with people -- almost like a carnival, summer concert atmosphere every day (every day that's warm enough anyway).

    That was still pretty common even during the early 2000s. When your dorm room isn't a comfy bubble, you might as well go lay around on the green. In late spring or early summer, it was as packed as a tourist beach.

  6. The mini-fridge issue might vary by dorm amenities. The dorms at my school were old and lacked communal kitchen facilities of any kind, so it was common to rent mini-fridges. Televisions, on the other hand, were rare despite the fact there were few communal lounges. This was in the mid to late 90's.

  7. The problem is that the evil politicians and mainstreamers have made it impossible to start at the bottom. There are no ultra-cheap apartments that resemble Japanese capsule hotels. There are no low-pay low-demand jobs anymore. In fact I believe all is lost.


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