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I Won’t Grup

Apr
5
2006

Just when you thought it was safe to come out of your pigeonhole, yet another sweeping, all-encompassing societal adjective has been added to the list beneath yuppie, dink, Gen-Xer and David Brooks’ “bobo.”
I was just wondering, did we need another sweeping, all-encompassing societal adjective?
Adam Sternbergh writes in New York magazine about “grups,” what he describes as an “ascendant breed of grown-up who has redefined adulthood as we once knew it and killed off the generation gap.” (The name, my fellow geeks will remember, comes from the Star Trek episode about a planet inhabited only by children and no “gr-ups.”)
In actuality, though, the reason the generation gap doesn’t exist for Sternbergh’s grups is the age requirement seems to include just about everyone. Everyone, that is, with abundant purchasing power. There seems to be three things that are required for one to achieve…er…grup-dom, if you will. Your clothing must look similar to a teenager’s but you must pay exorbitant prices for it, you must be interested in the same pop culture (i.e., buy into the merchandising thereof) as a teenager, and never get an office job requiring a suit.
That’s it! Here’s your hat! Here’s your ears! You’re an hon-or-ar-eeeeeee…..
Oops…
No Baby Boomer references allowed, not even Mickey Mouse Club songs. It’s only cutting edge, hip cultural pop allowed. But you can be a baby boomer and a grup. You can also be in your 20s and a grup. You can eliminate the generation gap by declaring it all one, big generation.
The thing about sweeping, all-encompassing societal adjectives is that they’re just, sort of, well…demeaning. Yuppies didn’t like being called yuppies. In fact, I never met a yuppie who admitted to being a yuppie. These are the kind of terms you can see the owner of a used car dealership using to describe to his plaid suit-clad saleman who his target client should be: “Sell the minivans to the yuppie moms and save the sports cars for the dinks.”
I’m guessing that Sternbergh was looking around at his peers, noticed they had some things in common, decided that was deserving of a name and searched out people who fit his criteria. I somehow doubt he traveled very far out of his own social sphere. He doesn’t seem to have any statistical data to support his claim that the number of Grups constitutes a “phenomenon.” In doing the same “statistical research,” I could not find a single person I knew who was willing to spend $200 on a haircut.
Sternbergh uses as an example the success of a clothing manufacturer who admits his $450 tattered jeans “if you wear them for a month will disintegrate.” Well, we didn’t need a new sweeping, all-encompassing societal adjective for someone who would buy that, did we? Wouldn’t the good old-fashioned term “idiot” do in this case? (Does this bring the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes in mind to anyone else but me?)
Also in my “statistical research,” no one wanted to listen to their teenager’s music, spend $600 on a tote bag or bring their toddler to a bar with them.


The only trend I would agree with him on is that entrepreneurship is growing. But rather than this being the result of some kind of Grup manifesto, I think it’s more due to the fact that more corporations are downsizing their payroll and farming projects out to consultants and small firms. This is not some exotic new breed of human who just figured out that there is more to life than working yourself to death. This is the old breed of human who came to the same conclusion as Arthur Miller in 1949 and Evan S. Connell in 1969, to name but a few.
Every generation has its segment that doesn’t want to grow up. In my neighborhood you’d see the occasional father drive home in a brand new red two-seater convertible and there was always the mother who insisted on wearing a bikini in spite of the tell-tale navel line. But to be honest, they were kind of creepy, especially the bikini thing.
What all this leads to is that apparently Sternbergh and his friends have only just figured out that happiness can be found by pursuing your passion and this, he feels, is what separates them (the Grups) from their parents (“by-the-book adults”). That would be the parents that worked the “carrot and stick jobs” to afford the college tuitions for their future Grup sons and daughters so they would be able to make the kind of money to make the kind of choices that enable them to pursue their passions. Their parents, obviously, didn’t know this because, after all, they had not achieved the level of consciousness that the Grups have.
In 1922 Sinclair Lewis wrote the novel Babbitt, a disconcerting indictment of middle class drudgery, in which the title character ultimately advises his son to follow his passion. Babbitt, Dude, you cool Grupster!

Share  Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 5:02 PM | Permalink

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