If your sweet, loving family passes judgment only on criminals or ne’er-do-wells, close this tab now. Go spend unlimited time with your gentle relatives without having to answer questions about “what your plan is.”
Everyone else, happy holidays—and welcome to a fresh referendum on your performance as an adult. Unless you’re a surgeon or renowned pianist, chances are your family uses your annual visit to make helpful queries about what exactly you’re doing with your life. You’re doing fine. Here is a step-by-step guide for responding in a factual, chill manner when anyone asks you one of these nine inevitable, soul-sucking questions.
Question: Why can’t you hold down a job?
Answer: Everyone is switching jobs. In October, 2.7 million people quit their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest level since April 2008. It’s a good sign for the economy that people are leaving their jobs—quit rates tend to rise in recoveries. When that happens, experts say, bosses decide that maybe they should pay loyal employees more. So by quitting, I am doing a mitzvah. Happy Hannukah to me.
Why aren’t you married?
Because no one is. A record number of people are staying single. One in five people older than 25 had never been married in 2012—about 42 million people, according to a September Pew Research Center study. That’s double the rate of never-been-married Americans in 1960. Pew says people are choosing to raise kids together without becoming husbands and wives. I’m sure grandma has a better explanation.
Why don’t you have kids?
Because I engage in abstinence. (Optional: crazed laughter, followed immediately by tears.) No, but seriously: Even if I knew the first thing about French kissing, I would be having babies later, because everyone is. Birth rates for women aged 35-39 in 2012 were six times as high as they were four decades ago, according to a Census Bureau report issued this year. Even fortysomethings are making more babies. The birth rate for women aged 40-44 is four times what it was a generation ago.
Source: CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System
Why do you live in such a disgusting apartment?
I learned it from watching you, Dad. Also, it’s just a rental. People don’t buy “nice, normal houses for normal people” any more. The homeownership rate peaked in 2004, when nearly 70 percent of Americans owned a house, but it has since declined steadily. Homeownership dropped to 64.4 percent last quarter, the lowest it’s been since the first quarter of 1995. Plus, student debt hasn’t been super for most people’s budgets, American dreams, and so forth.
Why don’t you make more money?
What money? The economy may be picking up, but wage growth has been incredibly slow—the average American hasn’t seen earnings rise in more than six years. Plus, I didn’t major in engineering or, like, computer science—so no one is rushing to hand me a fat signing bonus. Besides, if I earned any more, I’d be even sadder: Money makes you happier only until your salary hits $75,000, research shows.
Why did you major in anthropology/creative writing/dance/film studies?
Because Beyoncé. Real talk: Humanities majors have better relationships with their professors, according to Gallup research. After graduating, we also hate our jobs less, and we feel as if we’re thriving more than business majors.
Why don’t you go to law school?
No one is going to law school. Fewer people enrolled in law school this year than at any point in the last four decades. The number of first-year law students has declined by 28 percent since 2010, hitting a historic low of less than 38,000 in 2014. That might have something to do with their dimming job prospects.
Why don’t you go to business school?
Business school isn’t a good return on investment for everyone, especially people who are still chipping away at undergraduate debt. During their first year out of school, MBAs from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business program earn back only an average of 18 percent of what they spent getting their degree, according to Bloomberg Businessweek data. And Peter Thiel thinks business school is stupid.
Why don’t I ever see you?
Because my boss says words like “flex time” and “balance” and “satisfaction” but really is not in favor of me taking any time off or working from home, even if it’s disgusting outside and no one wants to spend time with others.
Any other question
Show them this video of a tortoise turning over another tortoise.