August 13, 2008

Are we a 'nation in regression' and poorly dressed to boot?

Tony Woodlief calls it Adolescent Nation.

Some time ago I saw survey evidence regarding the milestones of adulthood, which researchers defined as: 1) leaving home, 2) finishing one’s schooling, 3) getting a job, 4) getting married, and 5) having children. Whereas in 1960, 65 percent of American males had passed these milestones by age 30, in 2000 only 31 percent had done so. The data for females was little different. Here we have an immediate casualty of America’s burgeoning inability to grow up — the fact that we have to use the clinical terms “male” and “female” more frequently, because “man” and “woman” must be applied with greater selectivity.

We are, it seems, a nation in regression. At least in the past we might have had the cold comfort of shame, but now it seems that the new mood is to proclaim childishness as a virtue.

And another question, Now we can afford decent clothes, why do we not wear them?

A friend who has just returned from Vietnam, whose citizens are poor and hardly travel, told me that the locals are perplexed and shocked by the appearance of the westerners who now go on holiday there.

They do not understand the gracelessness and the self-exposure. For their own part, they are well covered, simply dressed and elegant.

I have noticed this phenomenon in Rwanda, Afghanistan, Natal, Rajasthan, Turkmenistan, and many more places. It was true, too, of the European past, as can be seen in old photographs and paintings. Only where most people are poor are most people well dressed.

Posted by Jill Fallon at August 13, 2008 1:55 PM | Permalink