ne of the hardest things about being a millennial is that when you kill something, like doorbells or fabric softener, people won’t stop banging on about it – yet when you bring something back, you don’t get so much as a thank you. So it is cheering that the Royal Horticultural Society has publicised the part we have reportedly played in the resurgence of hanging baskets.
Yes, hanging baskets, as most commonly seen suspended outside a pub. You are very welcome.
We millennials have been credited with “soaring sales” of the pendulous blossoms – doubling in one garden
With traditional markers of adult accomplishment such as promotions, property and parenthood delayed indefinitely or abandoned altogether, it is sadly true that many of us milquetoast millennials are left to celebrate achievements that would not have passed muster in the olden days. Back then, success looked like convincing the army recruiters that, at 14, you were old enough to go to war. Today, people 10 years older are proud to bring lunch in from home.
This dismal state of affairs is so widespread, it has been given an intensely irritating catch-all term: “adulting”, defined as “the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks”, eg “it feels really good to take a step back from adulting and have someone else cook dinner for me”. (And it does!)
I am not proud of it, but I understand it – these are low-hanging fruit that we seize in the absence of anything more fulfilling, such as employment security or stable mental health. As BuzzFeed writer Anne Helen Petersen wrote in the widely shared essay of her own burnout, “errand paralysis” and failure to adult: “It’s the millennial condition. It’s our base temperature. It’s our background music. It’s the way things are. It’s our lives.”
When you’re going from contract to contract at work; your home is really somebody else’s; and you’re not sure it’s ethical to have children, even if you successfully find someone to go halves on them with – go ahead, be proud that you went to three shops to buy five ingredients you will use once to cook Ottolenghi at home.
Here are six ways for millennials to convince ourselves we’re nailing it, in the face of all the forces working against us.
Keeping something other than yourself alive
Any parent will tell you, there’s no more rewarding feeling – and a hanging basket is significantly less challenging than a human baby. Pets vary but are potentially lucrative if you can successfully monetise them on social media. For a time, my friend raised Sea Monkeys, which made for lively Instagram Stories until her flatmate knocked them over.
You may not know what the future holds, but it will probably be expensive, even if you’re destined for a lifetime of renting: “Life changes, so this is a good time to save, whether it’s for a property or not,” as the Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis once chided me. If you manage to do so without dipping into your overdraft, you, too, are the Money Saving Expert.
Actually dry-cleaning your dry clean-only clothes
There is an alternative to chucking them in the machine and hoping for the best, and it takes not only time but an unfeasible amount of money. Just to wear clothes you already own! Ironing is also a legitimate achievement to be proud of.
Not leaving gifts to last minute
You tell yourself that they won’t be able to tell that you picked up the generic “no greeting” card at Waitrose on the way over – but they will. Having a selection of cards on hand at home saves on faff, and has greater impact than a stream-of-consciousness sentiment clearly dashed off on the bus. Similarly, if while out shopping you should see the perfect gift for someone you’ll eventually have to buy a gift for, and you can afford it – just buy it.
Taking your parents out for lunch
Nothing calls into question your legal standing as an adult like spending time with your parents. While you can never entirely dismantle the parent-child relationship, you can expand it. Subvert the established power dynamics by grandly footing the bill for their quiche and grande latte. You will think you have finally made it; they will think it sweet, like when the dog thinks it’s people.
A hail Mary in the face of an uncertain future. Being congratulated by my dentist last year was a sign I was doing something right. I may not have a house, a boyfriend, or even a peace lily in the coming climate chaos, but I am going to have great teeth.