Save money by living at home, but dates may be sparse

Mom and dad at home"Mom! THE MEATLOAF!"

That indelible line came from Chaz Reinhold, Will Ferrell's character in Wedding Crashers -- a confirmed bachelor and womanizer who still lives with his mother, yet inexplicably manages to land dates with beautiful women. Still, no average college grad can expect to reproduce results obtained by an outsize character in a Vince Vaughn comedy -- or can they?

It seems they just might be able to, at least according to a recent survey by dating site Zoosk. Based on data from the site's members, most of whom are age 30 or under, 80% of singles said they would go on a date with someone who lives with their parents -- which means that, as Zoosk puts it, "living with parents is no longer a dating deal-breaker."
One probable cause for that result: the sheer numbers of students moving home after school. According to Monster.com's annual 2010 Entry-Level Job Outlook Survey, 52% of recent college grad workers say they're currently living with a parent or guardian, up from 40% the year before. Another recent survey by online textbook rental service BookRenter indicated that 1 in 5 students plan to move back home after college, and more than 70% of students expected to remain somewhat financially dependent on their parents after graduation.

In other words, 20-something grads who move back in with their folks now make up the norm, and the phenomenon doesn't seem to have peaked just yet. The media even made up a nifty tag for such nest-crashers: "boomerang kids," so named for the way they return to sender after being thrown forth into the world. With all those Chaz Reinholds floating around in the current 20-something dating pool, it only makes sense that living with parents would prove less than a total deterrent to an active romantic life -- right?

Still, some students say that despite the growing acceptance of "boomeranging," living with mom and dad isn't all meatloaf and hot dates. Jon Gunnells, a 2007 journalism graduate from Michigan State University, resigned from his job as sports editor of a small newspaper in Ionia, Mich., and moved back in with his parents because his meager salary didn't give him any room to save money while living on his own. Three years later, he's still rooming with his folks in the suburbs of Detroit, and he says he's nearly given up on meeting women as a result.

"If someone at the bar asks where you live and you say 'at home [with my parents],' they look at you like you're a leper," Gunnells said. "It's weird to bring someone home to watch a movie, because you just met the girl and now she will inevitably meet your parents, see your baby pictures on the wall and have to listen to your mom ask her 43 questions about where she's from and where she works."

Gunnells said he's finally saved up enough money working as an insurance copywriter to move out on his own next spring, but admits that he never quite mastered the art of dating at home in his three-year tenure with his folks -- although he did note (with some sarcasm) that it never hurts to put a positive spin on the situation.

"Sometimes I act coy," he said, "and say I live in a house with two roommates who happen to be happily married and that it's a great deal because they let me eat their groceries. Every so often, women are OK with it -- usually because they live at home too."

Still, the Zoosk survey also noted that women are slightly less accepting than men when it comes to dating adults who live with their parents: 85% of men said they would date a woman who lived with her parents, while only 67% of women said the same.

Does that mean that women who live with their parents have it easy in the dating scene? Sara McKinniss, a 2009 Wittenburg University grad living outside of Columbus, Ohio, said she doesn't think so. McKinniss, who currently works full-time as a public relations account manager, said she's lived at home with her parents since she graduated high school to keep costs down -- and that she's never had a serious relationship as a result.

"Obviously in college, I couldn't go party," she said, "because my parents didn't want me to drink and drive home, and anyway bringing someone home wasn't really an option with both my parents spending nearly all their time at home. It's pretty much been the same since then -- I'm 23 and I don't date. There's not really a single nightlife where I live, so I think it's very difficult to still go out on dates and lead an active social life when the living arrangement makes that difficult."

Of course, some students still manage to lead active dating and social lives despite the challenges. Danielle Styles, 27, moved back in with her mother in Decatur, Ga., four years ago when she failed to land a full-time job after college. She says she's managed to maintain a steady relationship with a boyfriend and go out with her friends on a regular basis -- but not without some pushback from her mother.

"My mom wanted me to spend more time at home," she said, "and it definitely used to play a part with my boyfriend. He'd say, 'I don't understand why you can't spend the night. You're 26-years-old.' At a certain point, I realized there needs to be a level of independence, so I guess I just taught myself to stop asking permission. I just started to do what I wanted to do rather than letting [my mom] know all the time, and as long as I do my chores, she doesn't say much anymore."

"I refuse to let it revert back to the days when I was 18 or 19 years old," Styles added, "but I've definitely had to buck the system a bit to get what I want."

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