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Generation Y discovers everything old is new again

Today’s young adults, trying to cope with life’s pressures, are finding relief in the slow cooking, arts and crafts, and old-fashioned leisure of their grandparents

Ryan Inzana for The Boston Globe

You’d be more likely to find Maria Beaudoin making homemade chicken stock on Friday night than hitting the clubs.

For the 28-year-old Brookline resident, and many 20-somethings like her, weekends are a time for cooking, arts and crafts, and pursuing new hobbies. Beaudoin’s lifestyle links her to the so-called “Generation Yawn,” a contingent of young, urban women (mostly), whose behavior is more reminiscent of their grandmothers’ — or great grandmothers’ — than their Gen X predecessors.

“I try and cook something really big for Saturday or Sunday, something that involves maybe a double pie crust and some yummy filling, a lot of Netflix, a lot of cat snuggling time,” said Beaudoin, who lives with her boyfriend of two years, Beau. Though she can occasionally put up a good front when friends want to party, it’s not really her thing.


“I am not a part of that at all,” she said. “Really I would love to be in bed before midnight and up so I can enjoy my Saturday and not be hung over.”

Generation Yawn isn’t strictly a domestic movement. Instead, it fuses the hobbies of the past with today’s love of nostalgia.

“I think a lot of this is a reaction to the hyper-capitalist, sped-up 21st century,” says Emily Matchar, author of “Homeward Bound: Why Women Embrace the New Domesticity.” “I think the pendulum swings back and forth when it comes to what’s fashionable. What our parents liked is uncool, what our grandparents did is cool.”

Jenifer Drew, associate professor of sociology at Lasell College in Newton, echoes Matchar’s sentiments. Nostalgia and old-fashioned pastimes, she says, give young adults a break from today’s pressures.

“Millennials harken back to their grandparents’ generation,” says Drew. “Their parents’ ’70s and ’80s offer slight refuge, what with disco and the sexual revolution turning sour with the AIDS epidemic. For a generation that seeks relief, only 1950s housewifery looks relaxing. Gen Y turns to vinyl over CDs, slow food over competitive restaurant sampling, and board games over beer pong. Distance and nostalgia offer safety and refuge from the double burden of trying to decide who to be, while being obliged to be completely public about it in real time.”


One of the pastimes that has seen a comeback is shuffleboard, which is played in a variety of Boston-area bars like State Park and Brass Union. Sarah Kate Ragsdale, 29, frequently heads to Brass Union in Somerville’s Union Square to play the game, one often associated with Florida retirement communities.

“My grandma and my grandpa went on all sorts of cruises and there’s lots of photos of them playing floor shuffleboard with a stick,” says Ragsdale, who works as a sales representative for Blueprint Spirits.

And while some would say that playing shuffleboard in a Somerville bar qualifies one as a hipster, Ragsdale is quick to point out the difference.

“I think there’s a very clear distinction between ‘hipster’ and ‘vintage,’” she says. “Something that’s hip doesn’t have nostalgia or longevity behind it. ‘Hipster’ can be very momentary and flash in the pan. And when you’re playing the game, it feels very nostalgic.”

In film and TV, 20-somethings are often depicted spending their time knocking back cocktails and casually hooking up. And for a cohort that grew up watching Carrie Bradshaw and her “Sex and the City” crew of Cosmopolitan-swilling night crawlers, Generation Yawn looks more like a scene from an old folks’ home.


Kate Lagreca is an account coordinator at Northwind Strategies, where she’s used to her colleagues’ surprise that she’s not out partying every night.

“I’m a 22-year-old in an office of older people, and I think first and foremost, they see a 22-year-old who works really hard and is in the office every day and when they say, ‘What are you doing this weekend?’ I don’t really have plans,” says Lagreca, who says she likes to be in bed by 11 p.m. on weekends. “I have a core group of really good friends, but we’re a group who does dinner, and then makes sure we’re in bed on time.”

And while Lagreca’s colleagues respect her, she says some of her peers tend to scoff at her lifestyle. “When they invite me out and I decline, they might be a little caught off guard,” she says. “I just graduated college, but I’m not willing to hang out until 2 a.m.”

Kaylie Flannigan is just 20, but the Simmons College undergrad echoes Lagreca’s sentiments. In addition to her hobbies — tap dancing and crafting — she spends her free time playing the ukulele, which she took up last summer.

“People assume I’m at least 25, and like all my friends are older,” says Flannigan. “I look older, I act older.”

Her weekends are filled with activity, but not the kind generally associated with college students.

“I’ll hang with my friends and go out, but not to parties,” she says, adding she’d rather be at “social gatherings, where people are talking about productive things in society. It’s different. People aren’t getting wasted.”


Beaudoin and her boyfriend just caught up on “Downton Abbey” on Netflix DVD. Her musical tastes run more toward French music, or bluegrass covers of pop songs. And just to show that Generation Yawn isn’t only about women, she points out that her boyfriend generally pursues “old-man hobbies,” like collecting watches. “He loves a fine watch.”

Beaudoin says the DIY phenomenon, one of the most visible aspects of Generation Yawn, has really flourished thanks to the Internet, particularly with the rise of Instagram and with personal blogs growing into international brands.

“The whole do-it-yourself movement, which really stemmed from people wanting to save money around the financial crisis in 2008 or 2009, then moving along with social media,” she says. “Now it’s kind of chic.’”

Megan Johnson can be reached at