One twentysomething living at home is a tragedy. A million twentysomethings living at home is a statistic. Actually, there are 3.3 million people between the ages of 20 and 34 doing just that in the UK, according to a recent report by the Office for National Statistics. Over a quarter of young people have now returned, their tail between their legs, to their childhood bedrooms – and I’m one of them. Our walls are still pockmarked with Blu-Tack stains from Blink-182 posters. Covering those blemishes with prints by Norwegian graphic artists does little to convince us that we’re functioning members of society.
When I discovered that 3,299,999 other members of my generation have also reverted to adolescence like a horde of dejected Benjamin Buttons, I felt troubled and comforted in equal measure. That there are so many other adults trying to take themselves seriously while being handed plates of fish fingers makes me want to laugh, cry and vomit at the same time.
But is living at home all that soul-destroying? Parents are lovely. That’s something you learn when you complete puberty and suddenly they no longer stand against everything you believe in just by asking you how comfortable your shoes are or offering you a piece of fruit. Completely unprompted and seemingly by some kind of witchcraft, these people fill fridges with cheese and Gü puddings. Since moving back home, I’ve rediscovered the joy of hearing the phrase, “I’m going to Sainsbury’s, do you want anything?”
Then again, parents’ fridge-stuffing skills have to be weighed against their inability to knock on doors. I’ve learned to switch off my vibrator so fast that I’m pretty sure I once broke the sound barrier.
And sex chez parents is a tough one. I’m lucky to have the kind of folks who would be delighted for me to bring a girl home but not all parents are so accepting of their gay kids. I have queer friends who live at home and have to be as clandestine as possible about their love lives. These are adults in grown-up relationships, whose bedrooms are coital no-go zones. It’s a surreally retrograde state of affairs.
Living at home is having some freaky psychological effects on me and plenty of others in my position. I think we may have invented a brand new type of existential crisis. Some of my most successful friends have their parents for housemates. For more than a few of the highest earners in my age bracket, rental prices in London are too steep even to contemplate. For those who return from work (where they’ve been doing proper, serious things) to the house where they learned to use a toilet, it’s easy to ask, “Who, what and why am I?”
I’m not sure when I’ll move out. I’m hoping it’ll be before my 30th birthday but uncertainty about my domestic future has wormed its way into my core. I’m so practised at explaining my living situation to people I meet that I could probably pole-vault while talking about the Dickensian greed of landlords and the dismal prospects that young people have of ever landing so much as a toenail on the property ladder.
Now excuse me while I explore the delights of my parents’ fridge.