Archives For Personal Stuff

“Was there ever a time when older people said, ‘Hmmm. I think it’s just right’?” – Neil Howe, Coined the term “Millennial” in 1991 and author of Millennials Rising

Aziz Ansari, Author of Modern Romance

Aziz Ansari, Author of Modern Romance. Use via Creative Commons permission.

My light reading over a long Labor Day weekend at the beach: Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, the comedian best known for his part in the NBC show Parks and Rec. He takes an anthropological look at dating among Millennials where – no exaggeration – 35 percent of this generational cohort meet their significant others through online dating apps.

It’s hilarious. Listen to how Ansari work the book’s themes into his act with the embedded podcast below from NPR’s The Hidden Brain. He brings audience members – Millennials, of course – onto the stage and gets them to read aloud text messages received from members of the opposite sex. Start at about the 2:50 mark to hear how one poor guy bumbles a clear shot at a date.

And it’s utterly terrifying. I’m at the stage of life where I look at these things through the lens of a father whose young daughters are nearer to their first dating experiences than I am removed from my last. I read Ansari’s account of what boys text to girls in hopes of getting their attention, many of which are made public, he tells us, on a popular blog called “straight white boy text.” I won’t recount them here, but let your imagination run wild. I imagine my daughters nine or ten years from now, and my blood pressure spikes.

It’s these kind of anecdotes of the Millennial Generation that lead so many Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers to dismiss it. What are the common descriptions we hear? Coddled. Entitled. Craving praise. Living in the parent’s basement. Failures to launch.

Continue Reading…

MARTA Sign

Last January the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published results of a poll it commissioned to gauge the community’s ties to MARTA, the city’s train and bus commuter system. The data showed something surprising: people who rode MARTA were more than twice as likely to feel connected to Atlanta than those who didn’t.

Of the respondents who rode transit, 51% reported strong connections to the region. Only 23% of non-riders said the same. The reporters asked a Morehouse College sociology professor why this might be the case. “You interact and share space with more people,” she responded, “and that makes you feel a part of the community.”

I’m skeptical of these findings as I’m riding MARTA’s Red Line last December, heading from the airport at the south of the city into Atlanta’s Midtown. I was there on business, working at the time for a company whose smartphone apps alerted riders when their bus was arriving. We liked this notion of public transit connecting people to their communities. Indeed, we had a vested interest in promoting the idea. As an experiment during this trip, I opted to skip the car rental counter at the airport. For the next three days I would travel all around Atlanta using public transit whenever possible, walking as an acceptable alternative, and UberX car-sharing if there were no other options. I was curious how navigable the city would be without a car, and I was eager to test the premise behind the newspaper article. Does public transit contribute to an enhanced sense of community?

My earliest impressions made me skeptical. In that first train ride, as I traveled south to north packed tight with a few dozen fellow riders in our compartment, there was plenty of opportunity for camaraderie but no takers. Quite the opposite in fact. Everyone seemed desperate to avoid even the simplest forms of contact, keeping their noses pressed against iPhones, books and newspapers. No one was making eye contact with others. No one was talking with anyone else. Physically, we were all together, but each of us was pretending we were completely alone.

If polled by reporters from the Journal-Constitution, what would these together-alone passengers have to say? Would they report a stronger attachment to the community for having ridden MARTA? Continue Reading…

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Author’s Daughter, Sporting the Old School Wildcat Outside Senior Apartments

The arc of my life bends more to Davidson College than I ever would have guessed on a broiling August day some 19 years ago. That’s when my dad and I stuffed the backseat of a rickety Oldsmobile Cutlass with the bulk of my possessions and travailed the six hours of interstates 85 and 77 that connect Auburn to that town on the northernmost edge of Mecklenburg County.  I was 17 and more practical than most teenagers. My brain was certain the next few years would be a strict economic exchange: my hard work and indebtedness for a degree inked on lambskin that would launch me into a career. And that would be that.

But it became much more than that. Not only in my time there, but in the many years since.

Yes, that diploma arrived. It’s in a beautiful frame on the floor of my basement office, propped unceremoniously against a wall. It’s come in handy on my twisted path of a career, yet the benefits of the Davidson College brand have played out so much more in my personal life. My marriage traces back to the chance meeting of a soccer player who stole my study table one afternoon on the second floor of E.H. Little Library. That was 17 years ago. I proposed to Kate at that same table nine years later, and we were married in Davidson’s Lingle Chapel a brief six months after that. Standing at my side was Jason, my best man who had been my best friend through college, and in the church pews sat countless faces of loved ones whom Kate and I came to know only because we spent that brief time as students at this particular school.

This nostalgia envelops me in the hours since I’ve returned to Raleigh with Kate and our two young daughters. We spent the weekend back at Davidson reminiscing with old classmates at my 15 year reunion, and I’ve been in a contemplative mood ever since. There’s the warm glow of happy memories, but there’s also some recognition of our own aging and what it means for friendships. Continue Reading…