Living: Proceeding With Caution

The twentysomething generation is balking at work, marriage and baby-boomer values. Why are today's young adults so skeptical?

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The music of the '60s and '70s is still viewed, sometimes resentfully, as classic. So today's artists are busy trying to gain acceptance by reworking the past. Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians redo Dylan; 10,000 Maniacs covers Cat Stevens. Why hasn't the twentysomething generation picked up the creative gauntlet? One reason is that the generation believes the artistic climate that existed when the Beatles and the Who were writing is no longer viable. Art, they feel, is not created for the sake of a statement these days. It's written for money.

Even many of the fiction writers who emerged in the late 1980s -- Bret Easton Ellis, Tama Janowitz, Jay McInerney, to name the usual suspects -- seemed to be in it for the money and fame. That makes today's young adults pessimistic that originals like Tom Robbins or Timothy Leary or the Rolling Stones will come along in their time. But then even the Stones are not really the Stones these days. "Kids aren't stupid," says Mike O'Connell, 23, of Chicago, lead singer of his own band, Rights of the Accused. "The Stones aren't playing rock 'n' roll anymore. They're playing for Budweiser."

Maybe the twentysomething generation does have trouble making a decision or a statement. Maybe they are just a little too cynical when it comes to the world. But their realism may help them keep shuffling along with their good intentions, no matter what life throws at them. That resignation leaves them no illusions to shatter, no false expectations to deflate. In the long run, even with their fits and starts, they may accomplish more of their goals than past generations did. "No one is going to say we are anything but slow and steady, but how else are we going to go?" asks Ann Evangelista, 21, of West Chester, Pa. "I could walk this slow and steady way, and maybe I'll end up winning the race." For this crowd, Camelot may be a place in the future, not just a nostalgia trip to the past.


CREDIT: From a telephone poll of 602 18-to-29-year-old Americans taken for TIME/CNN on June 13-17 by Yankelovich Clancy Shulman. Sampling error plus or minus 4%.

CAPTION: Philosophies on life

Would you like to have a marriage like the one your parents had?

Which of these aspects of the 60's do you find attractive? Which are not attractive to you?

Young people starting out today have little chance of success without a college education

Who has it better in these areas?

When you were growing up, what did you spend more time doing?

In bringing up your children, do you think you will:

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