A film recently spoke to me in a way movies these days rarely do. No, I’m not talking about “V for Vendetta” or “The Libertine” or any other pseudo-intellectual movies out right now during the post-Oscar dry spell. I’m not even talking about “She’s the Man,” though I did thoroughly enjoy it — especially the principal, played by the same guy who plays Tobias on “Arrested Development.”
I speak of no other than the Matthew McConaughey/Sarah Jessica Parker vehicle “Failure to Launch.”
The basic plot: Matthew (oh, how I wish we were truly on a first-name basis) plays a handsome, rakish thirtysomething bachelor still living at home and mooching off the diminishing goodwill of his parents. SJP plays a crazy but loveable fireball who runs an agency that serves parents just like Matt’s; parents hire her to pretend to date their freeloader sons, giving them enough confidence to leave the nest.
I haven’t actually seen the film, but I did notice that it debuted at the number one position at the box office its opening weekend, and that success (because what other kind of success is there than box office success?) got me thinking about it. And, in my extensive analysis of this fine cinematic achievement, I came to a few conclusions.
One, Matthew McConaughey is perhaps one of the most attractive men ever, but we all knew that already. Two, Sarah Jessica Parker is perhaps doomed to never get a movie role better than the witch she played in Disney’s “Hocus Pocus.”
Third and most important, though, is the movie’s basic premise: living at home as an adult constitutes failing at life.
Obviously, the movie represents an extreme case. I would rather live in my freshman year dorm in Lanman-Wright than live with my parents when I’m thirty. But while it is extreme, the movie’s message is still clear: you can never go home again.
We are told that graduating from college with a Yale degree will allow us to go anywhere — any major metropolitan center, any international hub, any remote jungle location. Nobody, however, ever talks about going back home.
If you’re thinking about going home after graduation (or even during the summer), there are no mentors, no networking opportunities. That guy who graduated two years ago and has been living on his parents’ couch ever since hasn’t ever come back to give a talk.
There are no UCS career panels on the subject (though I can see them now: “How to Decorate Your Parents’ Basement,” “Getting Your Mom to Keep Doing Your Laundry,” “Steal as Many Canned Goods as Possible: A Guide to Pilfering Your Parents’ Pantry”).
Going home is not something that’s encouraged, or even acknowledged, as a post-graduation option. In our society, and especially at Yale, we look down on college graduates who move back home. It’s New York or nothing. D.C. or bust.
And I was planning on going to New York. Really, I was. Then I had a reality check about just how much money an unpaid internship pays ($0) and how much money it costs to live in New York (let’s start with that $1000 a month in rent). I also had a reality check about how much time an unpaid internship leaves to get a part-time job (very little) and how much money that part-time job would make (still not enough).
I’m an English major, which is why I’m looking at unpaid internships in the first place, but I’m pretty sure that’s still not enough money.
I wish I was a person who could be happy with a life of ibanking, so I could make a six-figure salary my first year and live in a swanky West Village apartment. I wish I was a person who could be happy with a bohemian lifestyle while I try to make it as a writer, scraping by on an omelet a night in my three-person, one-bedroom apartment in an outer borough.
I am, however, neither of these people, as both my soul and my personal hygiene are very important to me. And the only place, it seems, where I can accommodate both is Chez Mom and Dad.
Despite the financial practicalities of the situation, we still seem to think that college grads who go home have failed: they’re not independent, they need Mommy and Daddy, they haven’t found a good enough job to lure them away from the nest.
And you know what? In my case, all these things are true.
I am scared to go straight from college to living and working on my own, paying all my own bills and cooking all my own food while also worrying about climbing the corporate ladder.
Don’t get me wrong, I am also scared about many aspects of living at home. Specifically, I am scared to deal with a dating life under Mom and Dad’s watchful eye — does living at home mean I’ll have a curfew? I don’t know, it hasn’t been discussed, and by the time we talk about it I probably won’t have time for dating anyway as I work feverishly to save up enough money to move out.
For now, though, I’m headed home, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Unless, of course, Matthew McConoughay comes a knocking. Then I’ll consider leaving the nest a little earlier.
Claire Stanford vows to make her bed.