There’s something badly wrong with parents of young adults these days. The notion of the “helicopter parent” is a ready-made meme for intellectually lazy journalists, but at the same time it’s no figment of their imagination. Meme though it is, it’s a dead ringer for the neurotic, disrespectful and needless  intrusions to which my parents, and sometimes other relatives as well, routinely subject me.

In my case, the intrusion is most noticeable when I travel. I travel long distances fairly often, and the traveling itself I usually find manageable enough. What I can’t stand are the repetitive questions about my travel plans, distracting suggestions about alternate routes and modes, requests that I check in every few hours to confirm that I haven’t died, and other assorted questions that demonstrate utter ignorance.

On Halloween weekend of 2009, I had an argument with my parents when they dropped me off at the Suisun-Fairfield Amtrak station. They thought that an eastbound train was going west because the signboard read San Jose. My train wasn’t due in for nearly half an hour, and as I suspected, the signboard hadn’t been changed from a previous train that had been due into San Jose hours earlier. I flatly refused to ask the conductor where his train was going because I knew damn well that it was going to Sacramento and considered it rude to ask such a stupid question in order to mollify relatives who should have driven on to their hotel instead of meddling in something that I understood perfectly but that they found baffling. That night, I got a seemingly frantic text message from my dad because I had failed to let him know that I had arrived safely in Palo Alto. Three days later, I found myself screaming at my mom over the phone because she was alarmed that I had again forgotten to phone in immediately after arriving in Eureka. (I had been busy with other things, like walking the four miles from the Greyhound stop to where I was staying).

My engagements on the East Coast this winter are a lot more strung out than I’d like, and I knew that I’d go bonkers if I spent five or six weeks straight with my parents in the Adirondacks, so I’m doing double the air travel, which means double the aerial surveillance from back east. Last week, as I rolled out of LA on the 3:30pm Amtrak bus to Bakersfield, I laid out for my parents a play-by-play for how I was getting to Ashland: bus to Bakersfield, evening train to Sac, overnight to Klamath on the Starlate, Shuttle to Medford (holy white trash nightmare, as it happened), and RVTD to Ashland. Less than three hours later, during my check-in from Bakersfield, Mom asked me whether I’d made it to Sacramento. (When I told Farmer Uncle, he suggested that I test her sometime to see whether she’s paying attention by telling her that it’s a five-hour train ride from Santa Fe to Spokane.) This evening, Mom asked me how and when I was flying east for my college buddy’s wedding, which Dad had already told her: LAX-IAD nonstop redeye Thursday night. It’s a lot less to remember than my seamless five-leg trip north from Union Station, but still a pain in the ass to have to repeat on demand to someone who has already been told my itinerary.

On occasion over the past two years, things have threatened to get really hairy when Dad, Farmer Uncle or both tried to butt into my dealings with my criminal syndicate of a landlord, Professional Property Management of Eureka, CA. In fact, things were already hairy enough that I threatened to file suit against the company and have the building manager arrested; the second round of threats, in which I asserted my right under Green v. Superior Court to abandon my apartment as a legal remedy for uninhabitable premises, finally backed the bastards into a corner. Sort of: most recently I’ve been working on the mental rough draft of the certified letter that they’ll be getting for unlawfully retaining a quarter of my security deposit for cleaning costs. This will be the third time that I’ll have to threaten litigation in order to defend my contractual rights against these bottomfeeders. I dread having to correspond with the shysters again.

It should be needless to say that it is a very bad idea for third parties to interfere in a dispute like this without thorough knowledge of all circumstances, which Dad and Farmer Uncle most certainly do not have. All that serves to do is make distracting noise, which is the last thing that I need, especially given my unusual ability to provide myself adequate legal counsel in these matters. After a few hours’ research of the relevant case law, I sent PPM two e-mails asserting my rights that were as compelling as anything I could have expected from an attorney. If need be, I can staple PPM’s balls to the wall in Superior Court, although the staple gun in question is expensive and unwieldy, so I’d rather not. It would be nice if PPM would desist from criminal scum behavior, but it seems we maintain courts to deal with precisely such thugs.

I have had to shut my relatives out of the loop in order to fight my own battles as an adult and keep them from throwing a monkey wrench into the works. So do a great many of my peers. Some college professors report that the only bulwark between them and angry, meddlesome, ethically unhinged parents are federal student privacy laws.

Parents, a lot of you need to back the hell off. I’m serious.

PPM: Don’t fuck with me. If you regard this post as bait and take it, you’ll rue the day you did so. Ignore my public comments and deal with me privately; retaliating against me for exercising my First Amendment rights will cause legal hellfire to rain down on your company, and I will invite every major paper in California to cover the firestorm. In case your attorneys are arrogant or stupid, that includes SLAPPs and libel actions. Any further forbearance that I show should be regarded as entirely serendipitous.

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