Cultural Compass (part 3: Faigy Mayer & The Extinction of Adults)

A week ago, Faigy Mayer committed suicide…and immediately started trending. I picked through the articles that were posted in my newsfeed. No shred of fact seemed to be shared by anyone about her “tortured” life or “shocking” death. Instead of launching a discussion about mental illness in young adults and support for the suicidal, we strip mined the girl’s social media accounts for sentimental images and meager meanings of her final days–all but calling her a hero.

I don’t care if she had a boyfriend. I don’t want to know what her tragic last Tweet read. I don’t agree that she exemplified “bravery.” Perhaps what she did was radical for her community, but on some level, she did what I consider that most people are expected to do in order to achieve adulthood: establish your own value system, make choices for yourself along those lines, and stop needing permission approval from your parents.

Yes, the process of individuation can be emotional. Sometimes it can even be painful. Nobody said it was easy, but it’s the very notion that it should be that scares me about my generation, in particular. Nobody held Ms. Mayer accountable for taking her own life. This wasn’t a murder. She made her choices and couldn’t live with them. Am I to teach my children that this is the definition of courage?

At the opening, I called Ms. Mayer a girl, but in fact, she was 30. (According to the Jewish law she so desperately tried to escape, she had been a woman for more of her life than not). A recent study of Millennials coming into adulthood, “Mission: Adulthood,” examines a number of Gen Y-ers coming of age and “transforming” this process.

One of Seligson’s subjects, (liberal arts educated, unencumbered by student loans) Lizzie, said in an interview with Huffington Post in 2012 that she felt “like” one of the major hurdles she faced in achieving adulthood was “figuring out all of the things they didn’t teach me.” Am I to believe that this is an argument against the “unfair” portrayal of the Millennial as “entitled”? Nobody held a gun up to her head and made her major in Fine Arts.

Seligson goes on to talk about this phase–one’s 20’s–as being “hugely confusing and disorienting,” and that it’s natural and important to be searching, trying to figure out what you “want to do with your life.” The author, herself, admitted that, even at 30, she doesn’t identify as being an adult. I’m horrified by this championing of extended adolescence–this insistence that life is about amusing ourselves, avoiding pain, and shirking responsibility for our choices and actions.

Faigy Mayer’s death is upsetting–it’s unnatural to bury your child. I wouldn’t call it tragic. In fact, to call it tragic dilutes the pain and sorrow of real tragedy, which is so insensitive and insulting to those who have actually suffered real sorrow and survived horrors. I’m sure she was distressed and confused, but I refuse to call it torture. I’m disappointed in my generation that at 30 years old, we are so willing and happy to blame our parents, the last generation of adults, for what we weren’t given instead of going out and getting it for ourselves. I fear for the time when the last of our parents will die and we’re left only with the myth of the anchor of adulthood.

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One thought on “Cultural Compass (part 3: Faigy Mayer & The Extinction of Adults)

  1. “Bury your child’? If you’d read this story closely, you’d realise that it is pretty unlikely her family will be giving her a proper send-off. The loss of any human life, no matter what the circumstances, is tragic. The suicide of a young, otherwise healthy person is tragic. Even your death would be tragic, despite the alarming lack of empathy and humanity this rant displays.

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