Nicky Loomis, a former intern at the newspaper, has three university degrees, has traveled the world and has worked in New York City publishing. She is now back at her family home in Pasadena, and will write monthly columns on dilemmas common to many 20-somethings. – Ed.
The following is a voicemail my roommate left me last week, after calling three times in a row:
“Hi sweetie, I know you’re probably busy but, um, did you take my shampoo because I have no shampoo and I am trying to look for it all over the house. Give me a ring. Bye.”
Oh, I forgot: my roommate is my mom. And also my dad.
Some people call the situation, common enough these days, “adult child.” I prefer “boomerang kid.” You throw me out there and I come right back.
Almost 10 years after my parents flung me out into the world, let me make my mistakes, spread my wings and find a steady career (well, two out of three ain’t bad), the boomerang has returned to its owner.
Yes, I am a 26-year-old girl living at home. I’m in my quarter-life crisis, experiencing “inner turmoil and anxiety,” “confusion of identity” and “graying of emotion.”
I know what you’re thinking: Get a job.
I have two, actually. Neither of which relate to my bachelor’s degree in English, my two master’s degrees in journalism, or my $5,432 of debt. $5,501 actually – I just bought some new shoes on Zappos.
I don’t plan to stay long – a year or two, max! But now that I’m living with my parents again, the buffer between the world and me is officially back.
Like any other roommate, I’ve learned about the rhythms of my parents in a phase of life I’m supposed to know via two phone calls a week – instead of hearing my mom chew antacids on the phone, I now watch her chew antacids in front of me.
When I was a kid, I could take up the whole house, leaving school books across dining room tables, dirty microwave nacho dishes beside the couch, a shoe stepped in dog poo on the front porch – my clothes everywhere.
Now I’m an “adult.” My space is sectioned off to my old room with years of clothes on cheap Target racks lining my walls like an ugly postmodern art installation.
It’s not so bad, save for the fact that we never have any good snacks anymore, everything is cooked in olive oil and I’m forced to talk about my personal life again. And they still want details.
For example, just yesterday I was getting ready to go out to a concert, my high heels click-clacking down the wooden stairs, alerting the mother.
“Is that a cape? You can’t wear that out!” my mom says, with the movie “Arachnaphobia” blasting on the flatscreen in the background. “You look like Harry Potter.”
“No, it’s not a cape. It’s a poncho. It’s my poncho and I can wear it wherever I want.”
“Where are you going?”
“A place for concerts.”
“Who are you going with?”
“Friends … can I borrow $10 for parking?”
It’s the whole “What’d you learn at school today? … Nothing” routine and I haven’t forgotten my one-word answers.
Thankfully, when I do make it out to L.A., my friends who live on their own always let me crash on their dirty couch from college or on their cruddy old carpet in an apartment they’re paying an arm and a leg for. I always keep contact solution in my glove compartment and an overnight bag in my trunk. I’ve perfected the 20-something sleepover.
Though the high-school curfew is gone, if I don’t call to check in, it’s the barrage of the voicemails again. My parents even learned how to text.
My friends have been looking at me kind of funny lately, though, and I can’t blame them: I’ve started repeating dorky 60-year-old jokes my father performs at dinner; I now drink half-decaf, half-regular coffee; and I think watching Sunday golf on TV is relaxing.
What kind of a boomerang have I become?
When I’m back in Pasadena, I sometimes see the other stragglers hiding at Lucky Baldwin’s pub on a Tuesday night or sending out resumes from Coffee Bean. We awkwardly pretend that we don’t see each other, even though we’re Facebook friends.
Sociologists and insurance companies pepper the Internet with formal guidelines on how to deal with us: “Don’t Baby Your Babies.” Translation: “Nicky – you said you wanted soymilk? And Grape Nuts? Vanilla soy milk? OK!”
“DO Assist in Exit Planning, or Charge Rent.”
Translation: Dad: “Nicky, we’re going on vacation but the hotel is too expensive for you kids to come.” Me: “Great! How long will you be gone? Two weeks? Awesome.”
“DO set boundaries.”
Translation: If coming home one day to my parents wildly flailing an imaginary hula hoop on Nintendo Wii isn’t breaking boundaries, then I don’t know what is.
For a while, I thought about outfitting a yurt in the backyard like Billy Madison and stealing electricity from the main house. It might help me get going on my writing. Like I was channeling Jack London or something.
But the yurts were really expensive. Such are the travails of a rent-free life.
And, yes, mom, I did take the shampoo.
Originally published in the Pasadena Star News on October 3rd, 2009