May 31, 2006

GAPING (via Tom Morin):

Up With Grups* (Adam Sternbergh, 4/03/06, New York)

* Also known as yupster (yuppie + hipster), yindie (yuppie + indie), and alterna-yuppie. Our preferred term, grup, is taken from an episode of Star Trek (keep reading) in which Captain Kirk et al. land on a planet of children who rule the world, with no adults in sight. The kids call Kirk and the crew “grups,” which they eventually figure out is a contraction of “grown-ups.” It turns out that all the grown-ups had died from a virus that greatly slows the aging process and kills anybody who grows up.

Let’s start with a question. A few questions, actually: When did it become normal for your average 35-year-old New Yorker to (a) walk around with an iPod plugged into his ears at all times, listening to the latest from Bloc Party; (b) regularly buy his clothes at Urban Outfitters; (c) take her toddler to a Mommy’s Happy Hour at a Brooklyn bar; (d) stay out till 4 A.M. because he just can’t miss the latest New Pornographers show, because who knows when Neko Case will decide to stop touring with them, and everyone knows she’s the heart of the band; (e) spend $250 on a pair of jeans that are artfully shredded to look like they just fell through a wheat thresher and are designed, eventually, to artfully fall totally apart; (f) decide that Sufjan Stevens is the perfect music to play for her 2-year-old, because, let’s face it, 2-year-olds have lousy taste in music, and we will not listen to the Wiggles in this house; (g) wear sneakers as a fashion statement; (h) wear the same vintage New Balance sneakers that he wore on his first day of school in the seventh grade as a fashion statement; (i) wear said sneakers to the office; (j) quit the office job because—you know what?—screw the office and screw jockeying for that promotion to VP, because isn’t promotion just another word for “slavery”?; (k) and besides, now that she’s a freelancer, working on her own projects, on her own terms, it’s that much easier to kick off in the middle of the week for a quick snowboarding trip to Sugarbush, because she’s got to have some balance, right? And she can write it off, too, because who knows? She might bump into Spike Jonze on the slopes; (l) wear a Misfits T-shirt; (m) make his 2-year-old wear a Misfits T-shirt; (n) never shave; (o) take pride in never shaving; (p) take pride in never shaving while spending $200 on a bedhead haircut and $600 on a messenger bag, because, seriously, only his grandfather or some frat-boy Wall Street flunky still carries a briefcase; or (q) all of the above?

This is an obituary for the generation gap.

Only someone incurably old in spirit would waste all that money for a lifestyle that's so naturally cheap.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 31, 2006 10:11 AM

I should expact that the individual describred in the article wears his baseball cap askew also.

Posted by: Lou Gots at May 31, 2006 11:11 AM

They're overly expensive precisely because they're cheap; if they had real value, they wouldn't need the cache of high price.

Posted by: Mike Earl at May 31, 2006 11:45 AM

They must be legacy babies.

Posted by: erp at May 31, 2006 11:48 AM

Where does the money come from, anyhow, to support such a lifestyle? Maybe the Socialists are right about certain classes of people being parasites.

Notice also how shallow the definition is: it's all based on outward appearance, and subtle and irrelevant differences in that appearance. The person inside those clothes is an interchangable non-entity, if not an outright waste of protein.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at May 31, 2006 12:14 PM

Raoul: "Where does the money come from?" We're the richest country in the history of the world, far richer than our parents or grandparents could have ever dreamed of. So rich that we can locate vast natural resources, and then leave them in the ground just because. It's raining money, and if you're young & smart you can't possibly buy jeans (no matter how shredded they look) with big enough pockets to hold it all.

Posted by: b at May 31, 2006 12:33 PM

On the other hand, 35 years from now I would guess there will be a few stories about one or two of these 35 year olds asking the government for more retirement benefits because they forgot to start a 401k or do full matching IRA contributions during their younger years.

Posted by: John at May 31, 2006 12:48 PM

"Only someone incurably old in spirit would waste all that money for a lifestyle that's so naturally cheap."

That reminds me of David Brooks' line from Bobos In Paradise:

"A person who follows these precepts can dispose of up to $4-$5 million annually in a manner that demonstrates how little he or she cares about material things."

But then, there's a thin, and rather ragged line between grups and bobos. (And incidentally the "grups" episode of Star Trek was a pretty bad one; a rare first season misfire.)

Posted by: Ed Driscoll at May 31, 2006 12:52 PM

What's immature about Sufjan Stevens?

Posted by: Mike Morley at May 31, 2006 1:13 PM

Jealous OJ? If you (and Raoul) read the entire story you would realize very little of this has to do with material show offs. It's about realizing life is not about following someones else's version of what one should and should not do according to your age.

John - Your comment about retirement maybe right. But you know what, me and most of my friends are in our mid 30's and planning for retirement has been so beat into our heads so much that we tune it out now. Putting myself into a proverbial prison to plan for an unknown future just makes no sense to me. I would rather EXPERIENCE life now.

Posted by: BJW at May 31, 2006 1:40 PM


Why would I be jealous of people who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to pretend they're me? I'd be flattered if they weren't so shallow.

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2006 1:49 PM

BJW sez: "It's about realizing life is not about following someones else's version of what one should and should not do according to your age."

"Putting myself into a proverbial prison to plan for an unknown future just makes no sense to me. I would rather EXPERIENCE life now."

Sorry, but no one thinks, let alone writes, stuff like this. People think that other people think like this, but no one actually does. BJW is just messing with you, oj.

Posted by: b at May 31, 2006 1:58 PM

I read the whole article AND I'm in my mid-thirties, so I suppose that makes me eligible to comment (but I've never served in combat).
These people all struck me as shallow, overly materialistic lunkheads who only see their children as a blank canvas on which to paint. Heck, the author even says that the Grups see their kids as Mr. Potato Heads. They're going to be in for a big surpise when those kids hit their teen years. That one Mom said the worst thing that could happen was for her kid to become a Republican. Well, that's just what she's pushing the kid towards with her shallow, pandering "I just want to be my kid's best friend!" kind of parenting technique.
That guy who went skateboarding because he "Wasn't going to be tied down to your age-ism, maaan!" is a fine example of Grup-itude. Where I come from, we called that a mid-life crisis. Men used to buy sports cars and motorcycles. Now they skateboard. It's still pathetic.
"Bonk bonk! No lovey-dovey!"

Posted by: Bryan at May 31, 2006 2:07 PM

Lack of retirement planning is usually just a tip of the iceberg and reflects a general inability to manage personal finances. But keep tuning that advice out BJW. My wife and I just acquired another house out of foreclosure that was previously owned by a pair of tuned out thirty somethings. We expect to see many more.

There's a middle ground between experiencing life and putting yourself in a prison.

Posted by: jefferson park at May 31, 2006 2:14 PM

b- As much as I love to mess with OJ, I am not. I really do think like that. Why do you think that no one writes or says anything like that?

Bryan - I am sure there are materialistic lunkheads in every labled group. I personally think the cooperate go getters who have done nothing in there lives besides follow orders are more materialistic than any person I read in the story.

These people live by there own rules and from what I read seem to be responsible about it. The example of not wanting to see how there kids turn out is just wrong. I know plenty of non-grups whose kids turn out to be just as messed up as anyone else child.

I work with mostly grups. Most of my friends are grups. I am not a full fledged grup but as long as people experience life in a responsible fashion I don't see what the issue is. I just think everyone wants to define "responsible" their way.

Posted by: BJW at May 31, 2006 2:22 PM


No, they don't. They spend money precisely in order to follow other peoples' rules for what's cool. If they were cool they wouldn't need to spend the money, as the folks they're emulating don't.

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2006 2:28 PM

I'm not saying you should live some sort of monastic life in your 30s and deny youself any material pleasures. It's just that by the time you're 10 years out of college, you really should start building up some sort of nest egg, expecially if you're own immediate gratification interests may mean the kids aren't going to want to subjugate their own immediate gratification interests when they're your age by taking care of mom and dad when you're in your twilight years.

(And really, why on Earth would anyone want to spent their entire adult life aspiring to be Michael J. Pollard?)

Posted by: John at May 31, 2006 2:37 PM

OJ - I see how you could make that charge. However, what is money for? IMHO it's nothing but a way to control you. If people want to spend there money for things they want I see no issue with it. But if you need those things to make yourself feel better about who you are then I think we agree.

I just think everyone gets caught up in "I know what's best". I make good money. I am responsible. I own my home. I travel a lot. I love my wife with all my heart. If the system we all live in is designed for the only way for anyone to experience life like they want is by using money, then I see problem with me using money for that means.

I am not doing it to make me feel better, to show off, or to feel "cooler" than everyone else. I think you will find most grups feel the same way.

Posted by: BJW at May 31, 2006 2:57 PM

Better to be in prison of your own making in your 30s when you can earn more than the prison the govt will dictate when you're in your 70s.

Don't bank on SS, but don't bank on inheritance, either.

That definitely will be a prison.

What does 1 really expect from the spawn of the 60s boomers?


Posted by: Sandy P at May 31, 2006 3:00 PM


Yes, the money is to control you. The most insidious form of control is to get you to spend tens of thousands to buy what's basically costless.

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2006 3:02 PM

"Putting myself into a proverbial prison to plan for an unknown future just makes no sense to me. I would rather EXPERIENCE life now."

BJW: So you really, seriously, think like some unholy offspring of Deeprak Chopra & Aesop's grasshopper?

Posted by: b at May 31, 2006 3:07 PM

Social Security would be ample even if we did nothing. The case for reform is moral, not financial.

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2006 3:07 PM

Mike Morley asks: "What's immature about Sufjan Stevens?" Answer: absolutely nothing.

I'd say some of the sports fanatics I know spend much more money "irresponsibly" than most of the grups I know. Plus, unlike the sports fanatics, none of the grups want to pick my pocket to subsidize their fix for indie rock.

Oj: It's not that they are letting other people define what is cool for them, so much as letting the mainstream define what they must reject so as to maintain a posture of independent thought. Something you might know a thing or two about.

Posted by: ted welter at May 31, 2006 3:44 PM

The only people who don't think about money are those who've always had it given to them and think it'll always be there. It reminds me of the trust fund drop outs like Howard Dean who peopled the Vermont landscape when we were there. They dressed in rags and drove old pickup trucks, but when they needed to go to board meetings, they had a private jet come collect them.

Check out the great film, "Trading Places." See how far these free spirits get without their toys. They couldn't live for five minutes without a credit card, a car, a cell phone and a place to call home. Let them try living with no resources, no access to a bathroom or kitchen, no fresh fruit!

They don't care about material things. What hogwash!

Posted by: erp at May 31, 2006 4:21 PM

to get you to spend tens of thousands to buy what's basically costless.

What, you got a Pabst Blue Ribbon tree in your backyard? The finer things in life cost money, my friend.

Posted by: joe shropshire at May 31, 2006 4:28 PM

Pabst doesn't. It's $8.99 a case and your friends are only too happy to bring it.

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2006 4:58 PM

What are these . . . friends? . . . that you speak of?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at May 31, 2006 6:50 PM

I did read the article, and all it did was reinforce my first impression from the excerpt. These people are hollow inside, they'd collapse inward if they didn't stuff themselves with ephemera. To qualify for "shallow" would require "self-improvement" that even a Dale Carnegie couldn't provide.They can't even get being a non-conforming individualist right, because they think the universe actually put them in the center.

But most of all I pity their children, who will never have the pleasure of being treated like an adult by their adult parents.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at May 31, 2006 8:10 PM

Jim: You know the other members of the World of Warcraft Guild? It's like that, except less killing and IRL.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 1, 2006 8:34 AM

Just for the record, A.C. Newman is the heart of the New Pornographers. Neko Case is just a pretty voice.

Posted by: Dusty at June 1, 2006 8:49 AM