Attached by the Purse Strings

Attached by the Purse Strings

Attached by the Purse Strings

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
March 2 2010 6:42 PM

Attached by the Purse Strings

Rachael , though I’m of the right generation, my parents aren’t of the helicopter variety. (I wasn’t given training wheels when I learned to ride a bike, to give you the requisite transport-metaphor for their parenting style.) But I certainly would have been terrified if my college had been one that called parents when underage kids were caught drinking. Not because I’m overly attached to the apron strings, but because mine were shelling out quite a bit for me to acquire that college education: I was necessarily attached by the purse strings.

"No drinking, no drugs, no boys. I’m not paying for a party," were the final words with which my father-lovingly, and not without humor-sent my younger sister off to college. I’m sure he wasn’t naïve enough to think those things played no part in our educations, but he sent a clear signal about where our focus should be and about what he was investing in. Other parents might care less about whether their kids get caught drinking but more about whether their child taking a course called "Celebrity and Spectacle" for major credit (as I did) instead of, say, going pre-med. And if they’re paying (even part), they get a say.

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It’s easy, and a little fun, to mock kids like the Harvard freshman who ventured into downtown Boston and called her father in Chicago for advice on whether to turn left or right at an intersection . But the money thing, I think, complicates the helicopter narrative. I know plenty of people my age who still have rent paid by their parents and so still have to answer to them in ways both small and large. So until college is less cripplingly expensive and entry-level jobs more readily available at a decent salary, Millenials have to continue leaning on their parents more financially than previous generations, which makes it a whole lot harder to rebel and a whole lot easier to feel beholden.

Noreen Malone is a senior editor at New York magazine.