Norman Lear’s work was an integral part of American life in the second half of the 20th Century. Television programs like Maude, Sanford and Son, and The Jeffersons dragged television out of the 1950s and into the real world. As Variety states: “Lear’s shows were the first to address the serious political, cultural and social flashpoints of the day – racism, abortion, feminism, homosexuality, the Vietnam war – by working pointed new wrinkles into the standard domestic comedy formula. No subject was taboo: Two 1977 episodes of All in the Family revolved around the attempted rape of lead character Archie Bunker’s wife Edith.”
All in the Family, which ran on CBS from 1971 to 1979, typified the clash of generations. Middle-aged bigot Archie Bunker – played by Carrol O’Connor – was a right-wing King Lear in Queens, raging at the radical changes in society. Archie didn’t let ignorance get in the way of his opinions; once he argued that people who lived in communes were communists. The thing is, the old dog was actually capable of learning new tricks. Archie never evolved into any kind of saint. But over the nine seasons "Family" aired, experience taught Archie the benefits of listening to (and respecting) viewpoints far different from his own.
All in the Family was the jewel in Lear’s crown, but don’t forget the highly popular shows One Day at a Time (which featured Bonnie Franklin as a divorcee raising two daughters in the Midwest) and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (with Louise Lasser as the titular figure in a parody of soap opera conventions). Good or bad, Lear’s work was never indifferent.
More recently, you may have heard about Lear’s lively activism. His TV shows were themselves arguments for free and unfettered speech, and Lear supported a slate of liberal causes. In 1981 he founded People for the American Way. The organization’s website describes the ways that PFAW has “engaged cultural and community leaders and individual activists in campaigns promoting freedom of expression, civic engagement, fair courts, and legal and lived equality for LGBTQ people.”
Lear’s life was a long and fulfilling one. In 1978 he was given the first of two Peabody Awards, the most prestigious award in television. “To Norman Lear,” it reads, “...for giving us comedy with a social conscience. He uses humor to give us a better understanding of social issues. He lets us laugh at our own shortcomings and prejudices, and while doing this, maintains the highest entertainment standards.”
A pioneer, a gadfly of the state, a mensch. To paraphrase a lyric from All in the Family’s theme song, “Mister, we could use a guy like Norman Lear again.”
So You Moved Back in with Your Parents During Quarantine: A Field Guide
Listen, you nasty little Bushwick troll, go unload the dishwasher.
Photo by Deborah Diem / Unsplash
First of all, before you read this article, go unload the dishwasher. I promise it will buy you at least an hour off from questions about your plans for the future.
Good, now that you have a few free minutes, let's get into it.
So you moved back in with your parents, huh? If it makes you feel any better, as of July 2020, 52% of young adults resided with one or both of their parents, up from 47% in February, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of monthly Census Bureau data.
If you're like me, you may find that information alternately depressing or comforting, depending on the day. That means that more than half of people your age are also kickin' it in their childhood bedroom or musty suburban basement.
Like you, I also crash landed at my parents' home when the pandemic started to look really dire. While I was lucky enough to keep my job (now working remotely, of course), I just couldn't justify continuing to pay for my expensive Brooklyn apartment when all the things I loved about living in Brooklyn were no longer available. So here I am, squandering my youth in my parents' spare bedroom in Virginia.
But hey! At least I'm using this time to improve myself! I'm getting into yoga (I've done it twice, three weeks apart), going for runs (every few days I spend 20 minutes walking and compiling a running playlist and then I get tired and sit on a bench listening to the playlist and crying softly), and even learning French (there's a very specific French p*rn site I can't recommend enough).
Moving back in with your parents is a relief in many ways, but it's also hard and weird. I love my parents, something not everyone is lucky enough to be able to say. But even so, readjusting to the way they ran our shared household for 18 years of my life is jarring. I've been out of the house for nearly six years, and in that time I adapted habits and preferences of my own that aren't necessarily compatible with theirs.
For example: I, personally, love to buy an entire rotisserie chicken and eat it with my hands in the bathtub in the dark. Contrastingly, my mother and father prefer that chickens be shared at a table and eaten with cutlery. My father likes to go to the farmer's market as a family every Saturday at 9 AM. I like to sleep until noon and then emerge into the blinding light of day like a rabid raccoon to raid the fridge, bleary-eyed and hissing. My mother prefers the kitchen to be clean at all times. I like to manically bake corn muffins at three in the morning and then fall asleep with batter still on the ceiling. The possibilities for conflict go on and on.
In some ways, since coming home, I find myself regressing into a version of myself that whines, "What's for dinnnnnerrrrr moooommmmmm," demands fruit snacks at the grocery store, and generally craves my parents' attention and approval. Simultaneously, a part of me is desperate to assert my independence and autonomy, suddenly refusing to wear anything but pleather and chain-smoking clove cigarettes just to prove that I am not exactly who they think I am. This veritable frappuccino of feelings and impulses makes for an exhausting mental landscape at the best of times, but pair it with the mental-health-molotov-cocktail of 2020 and you've got yourself a real doozy.
Still, in the midst of a global pandemic, impending culture war, authoritarian takeover, and climate change so drastic that reproduction has become a selfish prospect, it's very comforting to hear my mother's absurdly loud laugh in the evenings as she watches TV in her recliner. Even as my world seems to be coming untethered around me, at least I can count on my dad coming outside to watch me pull the car into the driveway every single time I come home, as he always has. Despite the fog of uncertainty that continues to thicken around the rest of my life, at least my parents still shout "I love you" up the stairs before they go to bed.
While economic strife has surely driven the majority of young people back to their parents' homes, I think there is also something to be said for the irreplaceable comfort of the people or person who raised you. Even through the arguments, irritants, and inevitable differences in opinion that come part-and-parcel with living at home as an adult, moving home also feels like placating some animalistic instinct to return to the beginning, to gather the pack around you and hunker down when tragedy strikes.
And make no mistake: What we're living through now is a cultural, social, and political reckoning that is just as dire and life-or-death as every other major reckoning in the history of humankind. Of course you aren't doing well. Of course you went home.
This moment in time is also necessary. We had to collectively wake up to the truth of racial inequality, environmental devastation, and socio-political corruption at some point, but that doesn't make this period of inevitable rousing any more comfortable. That doesn't make being forced to go home suck any less. That doesn't make the lives lost to COVID-19 or the lives destroyed by wildfires any less tragic. But still, as we fight to make a better world, allow yourself some time to rest and grieve.
Listen to your dad's bad opinions about capitalism and your mom's adoration of Obama and remind yourself that no one has all the answers (not even you, even though you follow several socialist philosophy Instagram accounts). Consider that your parents are just as scared as you are and that they're also doing their best, just like you are. Hang up a poster in your room that makes you feel like yourself and try to (safely) see people your own age frequently, but don't squander this time with your parents, either.
If you're lucky enough to be back home (whatever that looks like for you) with people you feel safe with and with whom you have a relatively healthy relationship, try to think of this as a chance to get to know the people who raised you in a new light. Continue to do the work to make the world a better place for everyone, but consider that maybe some days, the work isn't about doom-scrolling through Twitter or angrily sharing posts to your Instagram story. Maybe some days that simply looks like sitting down with your mom and a cup of coffee.
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