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ONE LAST THING Homeward Bound

A twentysomething struggles to break the ties that bind.
By A . E . MCGILL |

THEY JUDGE ME.

People judge and pity, then mock and ridicule me. The neighbors are probably asking questions. Friends who once commiserated with me have since moved out and moved on, stranding me with the taunting truth: I am 24 and I still live with my parents.

Oh sure, at first I tried to glamorize it, alluding to my Casa Parental or Villa McGill. Or I’d mystify it, saying that I live in a garage apartment which, similar to The Batcave, is cloaked in secrecy.

Currently in the 11th month of the stay of my expulsion, I have become too comfortable with the situation. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to buy groceries. When friends mention utility bills or security deposits or landlords, I look away and blush. I spend the quarters I accumulate recklessly, as if laundromats were some make-believe evil, like the bogeyman.

If I don’t move out now, I might never.

When pressed about my situation, I get defensive. “I don’t live with my parents so much as very close nearby. And they’re my parents. So back off!” I rationalize and point out the quality time my parents and I are spending together. My critics, I argue, are just unloved, jealous renters.

I have, at least, thought about taking action. The summer after college graduation, I suggested to my friends that we rotate parents on a monthly basis, providing the amenities of living at a home without the stigma of living at my home. Operation Parent Swap was a flop, however, because none of us, not even for a month, wanted to risk living with the Lloyds and their lack of cable.

I console myself in knowing that I am not alone. This June marks the return of many prodigal sons and daughters after four or more years of college. Their latency period of languor occurs naturally. Twentysomethings, fearful of responsibility and fiscally inept, simply move back home. Parents should anticipate it, even tolerate it. After all, it was my parents’ generation that sponsored and spawned The Graduate, a movie devoted to documenting this arrested stage of development.

In fact, it would break my parents ’ hearts if I moved out. My mother would rather cook for me than fret that I’m not eating. A good son, I am, who tells his parents where he is going and does his best to come home quietly. Were I to leave home permanently, they could only cross their fingers and hope their youngest takes flight as he leaves their emptying nest.

No wonder I haven’t left yet. I seldom even consider it.

Although after one particularly bad Monday, when I sat motionless in traffic, I imagined an evening of deserved self-indulgences: I nap on the couch. I wake up whenever and eat take-out in front of the television. I walk around in my boxers, not talking to anyone and not doing anything. I even partake of a beverage on a weeknight.

But instead, I knew that when I got home, a healthful dinner would be waiting on a dearly set table. My mom would ask how my day went and expect an answer more articulate than a grunt. My father would politely ask if I could take out the trash when I got a chance.

So as I waited in traffic, I realized, I’m stalling my life. The shtick has tired and the jig is up. The responsibilities I opted to avoid are still there, but they’re called chores. I had originally moved back in with my parents as a sensible, temporary solution, but temporary has become indefinite and, as a solution, it’s become more than slight inconvenience.

See, ultimately, it’s been a fear of getting older that has prevented me from moving out. I’ve been too terrified to release my white-knuckled grasp on youth and enter the real world of commitments, consequences and dry cleaning. Being older can mean being alone, and there are times when that’s not an unwanted thing. There are experiences- good, bad and unknown-from which I’m sheltering myself. My self-sufficiency is inevitable, and I ’m only making it worse by procrastinating. Breaking away should be like ripping off a Band-Aid, the quicker the better.

As I pack the essential and leave things behind, there will be equal doses of nostalgia and doubt. But my misgivings and guilt become eagerness and pride when I realize that I’m not just moving out of my parents’ neighborhood, I’m moving into my own.

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