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|Editor's Letter - Page 2|
Even when the kids grow up, they don't do what we've been taught to think they're supposed to do: leave! As Martha Straus points out in "Bungee Families," 65 percent of college grads move back home for a year or two, and about 25 million young adults between 18 and 34 are still living with their parents. In the golden days of family therapy, such arrangements were typically seen as a sure sign of a dysfunctional family—undifferentiated, enmeshed families of "permaparents" and their "wretched, entitled, or manipulative kids."
So have families and family life just gone straight to hell with the economy? Both Strauss and Taffel give a refreshingly optimistic and upbeat answer. Taffel describes the mind-bending paradoxes of family life today: parents are "confused, dismayed, anxious, shocked, and furious" at their kids, but they're also "astonished, fascinated, entertained, impressed, and proud--sometimes in rapid succession." He argues that, for all the confusion, the demise of the old top-down, authority-based family structure may usher in a new, more promising era of free-wheeling, democratic parent-child relationships. Meanwhile, Straus says that the "bungee family"—parents and their bounce-back adult offspring—may provide a healing alternative to the isolation, loneliness, and community fragmentation so typical of our capitalist, ruggedly individualist society.
Perhaps what's most comforting about the strange new world that both writers describe is how familiar it's come to seem to many of us: it's not just our families that appear so anomalous and weird. That should be good news for readers haunted by the idea that their family is out of step with the old ideal. My daughter, my wife, and I just need to get used to it. In today's world, what was once deemed weird has become the new normal.
Many of his devoted fans have expressed dismay at the absence of Frank Pittman's Screening Room column in our last issue. Frank has been busy dodging bears and enjoying a break from the rigors of regular movie reviewing at his mountain retreat in Colorado. He informs us that when he returns to an altitude at which people can breathe, he'll go to the movies and tell you about it.