My generation does not have it easy. I know that every generation probably uttered the same words at some point. For every kid livin’ it up in the flower-power late 60s, marvelling at the wonders of dope and travelling around in a camper van, there was a family in some grim northern shithole with a single outdoors toilet shared between two streets. Come the 70s, teenagers were given a bad name by the brattish tendencies of punk and flared trousers. In the Thatcher era, if you were a miner, an industrial worker or one of Jimmy Savile’s favourite patients, you were doomed. Children of the early 90s had to work out why leaving the ERM was such a big deal, while the noughties bought the twin horrors of the internet browsing history and ubiquitous celebrity culture.
Yet throughout these times, generally speaking, most people had the ability to fly the nest and move out. It was a given that by the age of 21, your sons and daughters would shove off and leave you in peace. Even during the bleakest periods in the 80s, young people managed to squat in an abandoned house or rent a squalid little bedsit and still have enough money left over at the end of the month to buy a nice new pair of Dr. Martens and visit the local club on a Saturday night. Try buying a round in a club on a weekend now and you feel like a Zimbabwean ferrying in wheelbarrows full of cash to buy half a watermelon.
I look at the housing market – or to narrow it down further, because I can’t get a mortgage earning tuppence a week as I currently do, the rent market – and a sudden desire for revolution appears. You know… proper revolution. Screw the monied masses! Equal housing for all! Landlords to be taken to the gallows! C’mon boys and girls, let’s sing ‘Red Flag’ and nab that nice four bedroom house in Gladstone Terrace with a walk-in aga and an extended patio.
We can’t squat any more, as the government have cracked down on freeloaders. They chose to assert the rights of rich Russian property magnates over young urban offspring who wish to have a place to themselves, instead of being locked up with Mum and Dad in the ensconced Alcatraz of the family home. Two choices remain. You accept the scandalous rents and take a vow to eat nothing but beans on toast in order to afford it. Or end up looking emaciated and malnourished on a homeless charity poster: “Please text GIVE to 87555 and bring Chris out of the cold”.
Then again, you could always stay at home. Politicians point out that in Japan, it is perfectly normal to have three or four generations living under one roof, although I am dubious when told we should listen to the Japanese, as their idea of pornography involves cartoons of pre-pubescent girls squealing. Besides, in practise this would be horrific. It puts huge pressure on the ‘middle’ tiers of the family. If the grandchildren and grandparents were living in the same place, Mum and Dad would be worked off their feet, not only ensuring that everyone is fed, watered, bathed and drugged up – ADHD pills for the kiddies, Prozac for the geriatrics – but earning the only income as well.
I desperately want to move out now. Not because I’m being treated badly at home. The opposite is true – life is too good: not worrying about bills and food and laundry isn’t a realistic portrayal of the adult life I will need to make my own at some undefined point in the future.
More trivial problems crop up. God forbid, I want to bring a girl back. Suspend your disbelief and imagine this is a tangible possibility. What am I supposed to do? Tell her to ignore the snoring parents next door who must wake at the crack of dawn to chivvy the kids to school? Promise her that the dog will stop barking and sniffing her soon? Ask her not to make any noise because my sister is a light sleeper? I don’t care if she’s really enjoying it; she needs to keep it schtum. Not forgetting that I’d require her to shimmy down the drainpipe afterwards to avoid awkward breakfast conversations.
It’s not like I’d become Hugh bloody Heffner with a pad of my own but it’s nice to know you have that option. I presume there are other reasons for moving out – independence, responsibility, choosing my own colour schemes etc. – but I can’t move much beyond this key point. I might buy a DVD of something respectable like Game of Thrones but it involves so much gratuitous sexual mischief I can barely bring myself to watch it. Mum might rock up outside my bedroom door with a pile of washing and mistake the ecstatic grunts and grrrs for something more illicit.
Plus there are numerous photograph albums in the house, documenting my misspent youth. I know that Mum would waste no time in whipping out (pardon the expression) the revealing snap of me as a toddler, sitting starkers in a washing up tub, having a bath. In short, I’m thinking with my groin rather than my wallet.