The XX Factor

In Defense of Living with Your Parents

Whenever you hear about twentysomethings still living with their parents, it’s always accompanied by middle-aged hand wringing about “boomerang kids” who have failed to launch into respectable young adults. To these boomer hysterics I offer the counterexample of wunderkind Lena Dunham, the writer and director of the hugely buzzy Tiny Furniture * who is profiled in this week’s New Yorker .

Dunham still lives at home in New York with her parents, the artists Laurie Simmons and Carroll Dunham. Simmons plays Dunham’s mother in Tiny Furniture , which is a vaguely fictionalized account of Lena Dunham’s own post-graduate malaise. The New Yorker ‘s Rebecca Mead writes, “Laurie Simmons recently figured out that ‘Tiny Furniture’ is a love letter to her. Who else, Simmons told Dunham, would want to spend so much time looking at her mother’s enormous face?”

Even among a generation whose closeness to their parents is unrivaled, Dunham’s bond to her mother and father is extraordinary:

Dunham has no desire to move out of her parents’ apartment, and they do not want her to go. She doesn’t have a curfew, though she is required to text her father if she plans to stay out all night. … Dunham’s closeness to her parents is remarkable even to those who know her well. “In high school she was almost never able to hang out,” Jemima Kirke says. “She would say, ‘I need to go and hang with my parents because we are all watching the L Word tonight.”

The argument about twentysomethings who are this tight with Mom and Dad is that they are unable to achieve any sort of success in the adult world because they are so coddled. But here’s another theory-perhaps Dunham’s closeness with her parents is precisely what has allowed her to achieve so much, so soon (she is also developing a series for HBO under the watchful eye of Judd Apatow). The crippling doubt that a lot of men and women in their early 20s feel may be alleviated by the parental support. The self-aware Dunham jokes about her stunning confidence. She tells Mead that instead of “Untitled Lena Dunham project,” a friend says her HBO show should be referred to as “Entitled Lena Dunham project.”

It’s worth noting that Dunham’s parents aren’t always confident that their super-bond is 100 percent appropriate. Dunham told a friend in jest that she sleeps in the same bed as her parents. Upon hearing this, her father says, “There might be the germ of a cautionary tale there for you. … We’ve encountered this in the past, where your idea of the funny merges a little too convincingly with the real. It’s funny to say, ‘I sleep with my parents,’ but it’s also too close to being massively weird. And you will have to navigate this for the rest of your life.” Somehow I am confident that Dunham-who seems completely comfortable in her massive weirdness-can handle what comes.

*Disclosure: Tiny Furniture is being released this Friday by IFC Films, where my husband works. Before IFC acquired Tiny Furniture , I interviewed Dunham for this Slate piece .

Photograph by Mike Biard for Wikimedia Commons.