I love the way my mom cuts fruit, the way she wills the pear in her hand to undress itself for her, without a single blemish in sight. I often think about her seamless execution when I'm cutting fruit myself, my apples full of potholes, and my cucumbers unevenly sliced, still showing slivers of green skin.
Her bowl of oranges, bananas and strawberries — presented after every meal with a cup of tea so delicious it will transport you to the mountains and hills between Armenia and Iran — is not just the sign of a brilliant host. It is, for me, in the most simplest of terms, the sign of what it means to be an adult.
It symbolizes experience, hard work, practice and knowledge. It is the mark of a grown-up, of a woman who has learned, laughed, loved and sacrificed, and by the time she was my age, had lived in three countries, showing courage in the most devastating of circumstances.
And here I am, unable to cut fruit properly. That fruit, however, barely scratches the surface of a foray into adulthood I feel I have not yet mastered. The ultimate culmination of those things that my generation has been sorely left out of, is perhaps the other defining mark of an adult, at least where the “American Dream” is concerned: the ability to own a home.
According to the Pew Research Center, 51 million Americans now live in multigenerational households. With the Great Recession still looming, new grads facing a pretty brutal job market and mortgages remaining virtually impossible for many to secure, adults ages 25 to 34 have shown the sharpest growth in multigenerational living, Pew says.
But I don't have to look at official statistics to know this; it's all around me. Most of my friends live at home because they can't find jobs or because the ones they have don't pay enough to afford any semblance of a normal living situation in our vast yet expensive city.
Perhaps most admirable and sensible of all, they're at home because they're saving up to buy one of their own. The rare breeds who do own homes couldn't have done it without the help of their parents — a fact often known but never discussed.
How does my generation salvage those big, once-attainable goals of homeownership? I mean, just one cursory glance at Glendale home prices will send your blood pressure skyrocketing. How do we go from cutting fruit properly to being gracious hosts in our own homes? And perhaps a question worth exploring is, should we?
I recently came across a comment on a Forbes article I read about this very topic that resonated with me.
“Multigenerational homes are not a bad thing,” someone had written. “Everyone is not supposed to own a home. Everyone is not equipped to own a home.”
I thought back to a moment while I was walking on the streets of Paris a few years ago, where everything — the hotel elevators, Coca-Cola bottles and even bread delivery trucks are astoundingly tiny, at least compared to American standards.
This, of course, applies to Parisian homes, which are more often than not rented.
“How are people living like this?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” my travel companion retorted. “People sleep there and live their lives out in the world, instead of in their homes.”
For a wanderlust like me, it made perfect sense then, and in many ways it still does today. Perhaps I don't need to own a home, at least not now. Perhaps the only thing I really have to master is the art of cutting fruit, after all.
LIANA AGHAJANIAN is a Los Angeles-based journalist whose work has appeared in L.A. Weekly, Paste magazine, New America Media, Eurasianet and The Atlantic. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.