I just turned thirty-three. For my birthday this year, among other things, I got a funky carrying case to go with my new iPod nano, a pair of vintage handlebars that match my lowrider bicycle and a handy mini-alarm-clock that I can take with me on my next extended vacation. My last big trip, by the way, was three years ago when I quit a cushy job that I was bored with to go on an adventure Down Under. I now work freelance, which is the way I like it. I work hard but I can more or less pick the contracts that I want to work on and I greatly enjoy being able to take time off once in a while to chill out and spend quality time with my friends and family. My lifestyle hasn't changed that much since I was in my twenties-the only difference is that I have traded in my futon and movie posters for a comfy mattress and original art. I wear Lacoste sneakers and Seven jeans and allow myself to splurge on nice dinners and concert tickets. I want to have a successful career but I don't care that much about climbing the professional ladder-not if it's going to mean changing my easy-going lifestyle in any drastic way.
Does this sound familiar?
When I think about it, most of the people I know-if not all of them-feel the same way. We're in our thirties but we still feel as carefree as we were in our early twenties. We might have more responsibilities now (condo and car payments perhaps; some of us have spouses and small children) and we've definitely chalked up some life and employment experience in the last decade or so. The big difference between ours and our parents' generations is that we generally still hang on to our hopes and dreams. We need to feel passionate about what we do professionally and personally and we can't see ourselves compromising our ideals for such silly things as "money" or "power."
In a recent article in New York magazine, writer Adam Sternbergh calls our generation "grups," a contraction for "grown-ups" that comes from an old Star Trek episode in which Captain Kirk et al visit a planet of children who grow up very slowly. Once they hit puberty though, they turn into monstrous beings that go crazy and eventually die horrible deaths. Adulthood can be a pretty scary thing.
Sternbergh explains that grups "are a generation ... of affluent, urban adults who are now happily sailing through their thirties and forties, and even fifties, clad in beat-up sneakers and cashmere hoodies, content that they can enjoy all the good parts of being a grown-up (a real paycheck, a family, the warm touch of cashmere) with none of the bad parts (Dockers, management seminars, indentured servitude at the local Gymboree). It's about a brave new world whose citizens are radically rethinking what it means to be a grown-up and whether being a grown-up still requires, you know, actually growing up."
In my opinion, Montrealers do the not-growing-up thing really well. We take our extended childhoods very seriously. Our city is full of thirty-somethings producing and selling cool stuff to be enjoyed and appreciated by other thirty-somethings.
Grup Jobs: Sweet Dreams
We Montreal grups feel that we shouldn't have to work for "the Man." We take matters into our own hands when it comes to business. As long as we're passionate about what we do, we don't mind putting in a lot of hard work and long hours.
With our city's low cost of living and our generally laid-back lifestyle, being a grup in Montreal can be ideal. We tend to complain about the lack of job prospects here, but we're in the unique position to create our own opportunities without the need for a big nest egg to fall back on. We can go ahead and open up little boutiques and fill them with the things that we love, hoping that our fan-base of friends will grow into a larger clientele.
Reema Singh did just that last year when she opened her cake shop, Cocoa Locale, on the corner of Parc and Villeneuve. She started out as a freelance baker, selling her signature cookies and cupcakes to local restaurants, and then decided that the next logical step was to open her own cake shop so she could share her love for all things sugary-sweet with the general public. It's a radical departure for this education grad who decided to dive into the mixing bowl and bake her heart out.
"It's not a money-making thing," Singh explains. "Owning my own business is more of a lifestyle. People tell me to expand the shop and hire employees ... but I prefer to keep it simple. I can literally have my cake and eat it too."
Grup Music and Nightlife: Goin' Out in Style
We're very proud of our local indie rock bands that are making it big internationally. The Arcade Fire, the Dears, Stars and Wolf Parade (to name a few) have appealed to our grup musical tastes with their introspective lyrics and moody compositions. Every time a DJ plays the Arcade Fire's "Rebellion (Lies)," we're on the dance floor along with our twenty-year-old buddies.
Supporting our local rock bands is just one piece of our greater social puzzle. We love going out and having a good time. Gone is our parents' tired old routine, where going out was limited to "special" occasions.
Joaquin Dunlevy, 33, is co-owner of Boa Bar, one of the newest editions to Montreal's social scene. The clientele of this relaxed and unpretentious hangout range in ages from 25-40. People who frequent Boa "are past the point of being young, inexperienced drinkers. By that age, people are usually working and have money to spend on going out," says Dunlevy. He explains that our generation's tastes in nightlife have evolved over the past decade or so. "There's been a shift from going to a crazy 'Peel Pub/Carlos & Pepe's' raunchy drinking hole to somewhere where there's less attitude-a more comfortable style of place."
Grup Activities: Playing House
Just because grups may have kids doesn't mean that their lifestyles need to change drastically. Of course, grup parents are responsible people who own property and plan financially for their kids' futures-but instead of moving to the 'burbs, they own condos on the Plateau and, instead of vacationing in Florida, grup families go on adventure trips to Sicily or the South of France. On a daily basis, Montreal parents take their kids on fun excursions, like going out for coffee or shopping at the Jean Talon market. Grup kids learn to love the stuff that we love, and that's just the way we like it.
My three-year-old nephew even uses the same cultural references as I do. The other day, while we were hanging out, he looked at me and said-all bright-eyed and in his best Darth Vader voice-"Luke, I am your Daddy." We were born thirty years apart yet we can both appreciate the powers of the dark side.
Grup Relationships: Wanting it All
Montreal grups don't want to settle. This is typical of our generation but I think that Montrealers take this phenomenon to a whole new level. A whole generation of thirty-somethings in our city is single. We are either coming out of long-term, comfortable-yet-predictable relationships or we are fiercely independent; so used to the single life that we can't imagine our lives any other way. Thirty is the new twenty, as they say, and with that in mind we're not in a hurry to get into a relationship that doesn't feel right. Besides, when all the other aspects of our lives are going so well, why bother-right?
There's nothing wrong with independence. My only concern is that in all our efforts to appear "cool" and laid-back, we might have become too laissez-faire and aloof for our own good.
Grup Hobbies: Keeping it Light
In their search for a balanced life, grups take hobbies very seriously. Take, for example, Frederic Gauthier, general director of Madame Edgar, a toy boutique/gallery on Saint Hubert. His funky store, which he opened in 2005, sells designer toys (often limited edition collector's items) made by artists in Montreal and around the world. These cool, ironic, cute (and sometimes disturbing) toys are meant for adults ... although they can be enjoyed by children too, of course. Playtime never has to end.
From break-dancing to ballet classes, from snowboarding to body surfing, from going to the arcade to listening to the Arcade Fire, the world is still our oyster. OK, so maybe our oyster isn't so ocean-fresh anymore, but at least it hasn't closed up. One thing is certain-we are learning to measure success differently than other generations did before us. Success now means that we have the luxury of doing the things that truly make us happy. We Montreal grups have a good thing going-we live in the moment, we don't deny ourselves any of the pleasures of youth, we're responsible financially and create loving families but-most importantly-we continue to follow our dreams.
I, for one, don't plan on growing up any time soon.