Last week I casually asked three different twentysomethings how they were and I got the same tired answer. As in: "I'm so tired." I had to bite my tongue. You're tired? What have you got to be tired about? You're young, fit, gorgeous and busy. Seriously, it made me wonder whether the Y in Generation Y actually stands for yawn, as in, wow, do I ever need a nap.
We are not talking about 80-year-olds here or even the middle aged, who might be entitled to admit they are a little tuckered as they toddle off for the luxury of a weekend afternoon nap or some early-evening shuteye. We're talking kids supposedly in the prime of their lives.
I can't get through a conversation with any of them these days without hearing the T word.
Other parents confirm that brief one-word response is rife at their houses too (call it Laconic Fatigue Syndrome). These are definitely not slackers - they are gainfully employed, socially busy, physically active kids. Kids who have been programmed from birth to be active. Could it be they've peaked too early?
"They come home after work and they're so damn delicate they head right for their beds," laments one mother. Another tells me she often stifles her resentment when her grown kid moans about how tired he is, especially when he's been asked to mow the lawn.
But even parents who aren't lamenting how little their kids help around the house say their kids complain they are tired in the morning, tired in the afternoon and definitely tired in the evening. That is, until they perk up around 10:30 p.m. That's when the blow dryers fire up, the shirts get changed and they get ready to go "out."
When did all this going out at 10:30 start? I know I'm going to sound hopelessly old here but when I was in my 20s we hit the bars running by 8 p.m. Nowadays our kids are busy in their rooms texting each other their possible plans, confirming the plans, changing the plans, cancelling the plans and making new plans right up until almost midnight. No wonder they are so tired. I'd be exhausted from the texting alone.
And then there's coming home at 3 a.m. and getting up early, but that's nothing new; that's why American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay penned in her famous poem: "My candle burns at both ends" … but "it gives a lovely light."
So maybe "tired" is a euphemism for something else. Is tired the new stressed? One parent I know thinks it's actually a euphemism for "bored." And Toronto psychiatrist Cathi Borsook, herself the mother of three twentysomethings who have been known to occasionally utter the T word, cautions "you have to rule out anxiety, depression and the kids who are waiting for life to happen to them - they are stuck." They may be saying they are tired but it is really a cry for help.
Okay, so the next time those vibrant twentysomethings I know say they are tired, I will first ask them if they are "sad." Then I will suggest they buck up.
In fact, for fairness sake, I did call my daughter at work to briefly tell her I was considering busting her generation for too much tired talk. "That's unfair," she quickly responded. "You're just picking on us." To change the subject, I asked her whether she'd be home for dinner. "Well, I was thinking of going to a yoga class," she replied, "but I'm so t- ." Oops.
They can't stay away from it. But wait. There may be another explanation for this generation of kids singing the tired blues: Many of them were raised in households where both parents worked hard, then staggered home for the second shift. So maybe that's when it all began: "Mom, can you take us to the park tonight?" Big sigh. "Oh I'd love to, but I'm so tired."
Could it be payback? In which case, perhaps we should commit to a cross-generational intervention: Enough with the T word! All together now, let's practise new answers to the question "How are you?": I'm great! Couldn't be better! Raring to go! In which case, I really will wonder if they're all right.