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'90s FAMILY : Moving Back Home's Not so Bad--When It's Somebody Else's : Why spoil your parents' empty nest when you can sponge off a friend's? Except for the dog--and guilt--it's a good deal.

October 05, 1994|SUZANNE SCHLOSBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It's trendy for college-educated 27-year-olds to move back home with their parents, according to news reports. I'm a college-educated 27- year-old, but I have not moved in with my parents. I have moved in with my friend Teri's parents, Sandy and Mel Breuer.

It happened like this: I quit my job to ride my bicycle to Florida and asked my parents if I could live in my old bedroom for a few months when I returned. "Fine, hon," they said. "We love you."

Five weeks into my bike trek, I called my parents from a casino in Biloxi, Miss., and asked how they were doing. "Fine hon," they said. "We love you." Then they mentioned that they had decided to lease their house for six months and move to an apartment on the beach that was just the right size for two people. They didn't happen to mention where they had arranged for me to live.

When I returned to Los Angeles, the Breuers learned about my impending abandonment and offered to take me in.

Now, two months after moving into Teri's old bedroom, I can say there are advantages to living with other people's parents. For one thing, it's less humiliating than living with your own. "Sponging off of other people's parents shows far more ingenuity," one friend said.

When you live with your own parents, no matter how old you are, you can't leave the house without them saying, "Whereareyougoing? Whoareyougoingwith? Whenwillyoubeback?"

But at the Breuers', when I grab my keys and head for the door, they say, "Bye."

My parents' refrigerator contains a bottle of grapefruit juice, a stalk of celery and a hunk of margarine. They call this "food."

At the Breuers', the fridge is packed with mango slices, fudge brownies, lemon bars, tortellini with pesto sauce, fresh bagels and dozens of balls of honeydew melon. They call this "something to snack on until we get to the market."

Mooching off other people's parents, however, is not as easy as it might seem. For one thing, there's the guilt of not paying rent. For another thing, there's the dog.

The Breuers have a German shepherd named Magic. I have a condition called "defecatamagiphobia." In lay terms this means "fear that Magic will relieve herself in the house"--something she has been doing recently. Magic is about 180 in dog years and does nothing but lie on the kitchen floor.

A few weeks ago, when the Breuers went to Texas, I spent the better part of five days nervously begging the dog to venture outside from time to time. Once outside, I couldn't just leave her there because it was 107 degrees, and I figured that if Magic bought the farm while the Breuers were gone, it would not reflect well on me as a house guest, despite the fact that I make my bed every day.

Magic aside, life at the Breuers' is not without its daily stresses. First and foremost is the issue of folding my bath towels in thirds. I grew up folding my towels in half, as did my parents before me, and their parents before them. It's a genetic thing in our family, like bunions. But at the Breuers', the towel racks are designed such that you have no choice but to fold your towel in thirds. Fold it in half, and the towel is too wide. Fold it in fourths, and the towel is too thick.

Folding a towel in thirds is not an easy thing to do. You have to hold the center of the towel in place by dropping your chin to your chest, a position that strains the sternocleidomastoid muscles of your neck and may or may not require twice-weekly chiropractic adjustments.

Then you must choose precisely the right points at which to fold the two sides of the towel inward so that the bottom of the towel forms a straight line. Inevitably you fail and are forced to repeat the process indefinitely, like Sisyphus and the rock.

Another source of anxiety has been what to do with my used strands of dental floss. Growing up with my parents, this was never a problem. For one thing, I didn't floss. (My dentist set me straight on that one: "Gingivitis runs in your family, young lady.") And for another, I never cared what disgusting things I put into my bathroom trash can. After all, it was my parents' house.

But the Breuers' bathroom has such a nice, clean, white trash can. It doesn't seem right to blemish it with, well, trash. Besides, I have nightmares about how the Breuers will introduce me to their friends: This is Suzanne. She lives in our house, eats our food, doesn't pay rent and leaves our trash can full of webs of green dental floss covered with bean burrito remnants.

I continue to search for a solution but in the meantime have been slipping my dirty floss into a Ziploc bag that I keep stashed in my dresser drawer.

I just attended my 10-year high school reunion, and according to the Reunion Planning Committee, something like 92.7% of our graduating class is married, owns a home and has a doctorate in literature from Yale. This is not a particularly good time for me to be unemployed and living at the Breuers'.

Fortunately, however, I had accomplishments to brag about. So what if half the class can recite "The Canterbury Tales" in Middle English? I doubt any of them can fold a towel in thirds.

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