Posted Monday, Feb. 22, 2010, at 5:55 PM
Pity 7-year-old Willem Da Lyliveira, who had to wait in the limo for 15 minutes as his mother, Essence Fashion Director Billie Causieestko, attended the Ralph Lauren show during New York's Fashion Week, while other well-connected young "fashionistas"-at least according to the WSJ -dotted the audience with their youthful presence (and, in at least one case, the white runway with their crumbs). But as I read the current issue of the Atlantic , I stopped pitying him for missing the show (OK, that wasn't hard) and wondered if I shouldn't be pitying him, and the other kids featured, for being given, along with their limo rides and front-row seats, a sense of entitlement that, in " the new jobless era " is apparently going to be worth something less than bupkis.
"Many of today's young adults," writes Don Peck of the current economic situation, "seem temperamentally unprepared for the circumstances in which they find themselves." He goes on to quote Generation Me author Jean Twenge: " 'There's this idea that, "Yeah, I don't want to work, but I'm still going to get all the stuff I want," ' she says. 'It's a generation in which every kid has been told ... "You're special." ' " And nothing says special to an 8-year-old like her own seat at the Anna Sui show. But apparently some of those older "special" kids need more direction in the workplace, lack an entrepreneurial spirit, and are turning down jobs that don't meet their grandiose expectations in order to move back in with mom and dad. The Atlantic article goes on to present an excellent and terrifying look at the results of a recession on its graduating generation, but I confess to having been more concerned with my own personal takeaway: How do I keep from raising one of those kids?
You can always find specific examples to indict a generation (I fought the term "slacker" for many years before embracing it), and I found myself less than willing to write off my younger colleagues as unable to moor themselves in the work place-but I get that some some younger adults (though clearly not all- look at at the new, overeducated ski bum ) are finding themselves not just disadvantaged by an extraordinarily poor job market, but unwilling-or maybe unable-to put aside big dreams and start in at the very bottom. Maybe they're swayed by Tavi Gevinson, 13-year-old fashion blogger, or have Facebook dreams of, even now, starting a billion-dollar business in their dorm rooms (or their old bedrooms). Maybe they hope to become the next American Idol. But I'd rather raise kids who aspire to a story like that of former Weight Watchers CEO Linda Huett, who started by leading meetings and ended up running the company . If anyone has any ideas on making that happen (besides skipping the Marc Jacobs show, which I think I have covered), I'll take them.
Photograph of Tavi Gevinson by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images Entertainment.