12 July 2007

Rise of the New Victorians: New York’s New Bourgeois Domesticity

As one soon-to-be-married, female 26-year-old online editor who lives in Williamsburg put it: "It’s no longer cool to be a slacker and be living in your basement."

There was a time, not too long ago, when the young and the aimless hightailed it to New York City in pursuit of an altogether different urban experience than the domestic bliss enjoyed by many New Vics. High on a cocktail of recklessness and abandon, they came here to find their id, lose their superego, shake up the world, or simply shake their thang. Then they promptly chronicled these exploits in confessional sex columns.

But recent years have seen a breed of ambitious, twentysomething nesters settling in the city, embracing the comforts of hearth and home with all the fervor of characters in Middlemarch.

This prudish pack - call them the New Victorians - appears to have little interest in the prolonged puberty of earlier generations. While their forbears flitted away their 20’s in a haze of booze, Bolivian marching powder, and bed-hopping, New Vics throw dinner parties, tend to pedigreed pets, practice earnest monogamy, and affect an air of complacent careerism.

Indeed, at the tender age of 31, 28, 26, even 24, the New Vics have developed such fierce commitments, be they romantic or professional, that angst-ridden cultural productions like the 1994 movie Reality Bites, or Benjamin Kunkel’s 2005 novel Indecision, simply wouldn’t make sense to them.

Eminent "New Victorian" couples can be found all over New York these days, puttering about their brownstones - original detail carefully restored - or pushing babies with names like Beatrice, Charlotte, Theodore and Henry in gigantic prams to the local playground.

There isn’t a lot of … discussing ourselves,” added her friend, a 25-year-old Mount Sinai medical student - many New Vics asked not to be identified, befitting their ethos of propriety, modesty and caution. “In this particular cohort there’s not a lot of despair. I don’t have any friends who think they’re a cog in a wheel or are going to work at the Gap.” Heaven forfend!

Even former rebel Angelina Jolie has turned somewhat New Vic on us, what with her adopted brood and her causes and empathetic emaciation.

More on "The New Victorians" in The Observer

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