Everyone is talking about generations: their uneventful middle age (mine, though I’m not quite middle aged yet), their student loan debt (Millennials, a.k.a. Generation Y), and how they screwed up the economy and social security by coming of age in the gravy days or living forever (Baby Boomers, of course, and maybe The Silent Generation too?). At least, I’m talking about it with all of my friends. And sharing multiple articles on Facebook.
I abhor being asked if I’m a Millennial, but I love it when people think I’m twenty eight. Though I am close enough to Millennials to feel some of their pain, I joined Facebook at age thirty and remember watching the video for Duran Duran’s “The Reflex” with my tiny body perched on a plastic blow up ottoman at my parents’ childless friends’ house (we never had MTV at home). It was my favorite video, and when the wave came out over the audience, it looked real to me, because that was good special effects in the 80s. God, I love that song.
Photo: Slacker in Training – The Early MTV Years
I relate to many of the characteristics of Generation X mentioned in this Salon.com article, especially the part about how we’ve always been in “survivalist mode” (from author Susan Gregory Thomas, quoted in the article linked below.)
But the best representation of how I differentiate myself from Millennials was expressed on buzzfeed:
If you read that link, I have proof of my usage of Zima, not only in a memorable VHS tape somewhere, but in this photo as a sixteen year old in a Madison, Wisconsin college bar.
Photo: Getting Closer to Life-Ruining Twenties in 1994
Here’s a generational primer:
Baby Boomers: Born in the post war era of 1946-1964 (in other words, my actual parents, though my Stepdad is a full on Silent Generation man as evidenced by how different he and my Mom are). Also, a HUGE generation! After World War II, people were reproducing like crazy, probably to celebrate being alive. Hence the youth culture of the 1960’s that my actual father never recovered from. Here’s where I quote Wiki:
“As a group, they were the wealthiest, most active, and most physically fit generation up to that time, and amongst the first to grow up genuinely expecting the world to improve with time. They were also the generation that received peak levels of income, therefore they could reap the benefits of abundant levels of food, apparel, retirement programs, and sometimes even “midlife crisis” products.
One feature of Boomers was that they tended to think of themselves as a special generation, very different from those that had come before. In the 1960s, as the relatively large numbers of young people became teenagers and young adults, they, and those around them, created a very specific rhetoric around their cohort, and the change they were bringing about. This rhetoric had an important impact in the self perceptions of the boomers, as well as their tendency to define the world in terms of generations, which was a relatively new phenomenon.”
I include this long definition because I think comparing ourselves to our parents is one of the most painful definers of a Gen Xer – especially their financial success relative to ours. Baby Boomers are also responsible for a lot of the Millennials currently creating apps (as well as what some people claim is said Millennials’ high expectations and sense of entitlement). And, we’re still waiting for them to get out of the workforce and let us take over and make more money. If only we could learn to live more simply and save money like…
The Silent Generation: A fascinating generation born between 1925 and 1942 (I know, I know, this leaves a gap before the Boomers, but this type of information varies everywhere. I got mine from Wikipedia.). They lived, as children, through the Great Depression and World War II, hence, why my Dad’s best friend from high school has a collection of Styrofoam to-go cups, lids, and straws that he has saved and washed (yes, I said straws too!). His Mercedes is in the garage along with two other cars. The Silent Generation are known for their fatalism and convention, but mostly for their silence, and their luck at being born sandwiched between the two World Wars.
The Greatest Generation: Grandmas and Grandpas of people like me. The name “The Greatest Generation” was coined by Tom Brokaw, who authored a book with the same title. They survived the Great Depression, fought in World War II (or contributed to the war effort at home) and then created the prosperous and powerful U.S.A. of the youthful Baby Boomers. They were practiced in frugality. If only Grandmas and Grandpas were here to tell the spoiled children of the Baby Boomers how it was when they were our age. The travesty of Millennials calling themselves “The Next Greatest Generation” is not lost on me, mainly because wars don’t exist for Americans in this age like they did for my Grandparents despite our comparable economic hardship. But – I know I need to give them time.
Generation X: Oh, the coolest generation, the generation of MTV, Lollapalooza, the birth of “alternative” without the internet, coming of age in the Clinton years, embracing differences, Care Bears, the movie “Singles”, “Goonies”, Cyndi Lauper, “Dancing in the Dark” and Courtney Love. Born, loosely, from the early 1960s to the early 1980s, or, in some cases, cut off after 1977 (the year of my birth). Personally, I don’t think anyone born in the 80s can be Generation X, because I don’t think they were old enough to understand “90210” when it was on. They also probably had cell phones before they graduated from college in addition to experiencing Facebook before the age of thirty. Generation X got a bad rap in the 90s for being “slackers”, delineated in the movies by films like “Reality Bites” (even in high school I knew that was a bad movie) and “Slacker.”
Photo: Evan Dando, Gen X Icon, on the cover of SPIN
The most prominent characteristic that I’ve read about Generation X is that we are defined by the high divorce rates of our parents. Herewith, our delayed marriage rates (which could be perceived as slacking), as well as how hard we have tried to build our own perfect families (Spending more on home equity and loans than any prior generation – decidedly not slacking but partial cause for the housing crisis?). I read that in this article:
I’m not an economist, and I’d rather talk about my feelings than properly research this post.
My writing this post is prompted by my obsession/fascination with Millennials.
Millennials, also known as “Generation Y”: Born, depending on who you ask, between 1984 and 2004. I don’t even have to use Wikipedia for this, because I’m surrounded by Millennials.
Could they be more entitled? Do they know that that was a “Friends” reference? Do they all think they graduated from college equipped to take my job and make my money? It took me thirteen years to get here! Thirteen hard, credit card debt-accruing years. And yet, I feel so horribly bad for them for how long it is going to take them, or is taking them, to get things started. And then they’re going to be paying off their grad school loans for the rest of their lives.
For a long time I focused on what I didn’t like about Millennials: the aforementioned entitlement, their piercings and stretched out earlobes, weird mustaches, rampant tattoos (think about this guys, it’s permanent!), selfies, the fact that they text and text and text and text. I was obsessed with these two videos:
(though admittedly I agree with the Millennial’s opinions about Baby Boomers in the workplace…)
And this post:
What Are Millennials?: A Millennial Guide to a Millennial World
Then of course, I realized… I can relate.
Millennials are entering the workforce in a horrid situation, even compared to the Bush years that began just as I met the scene in 2000. I remember being offered a ridiculous number of interviews when I moved to Los Angeles in 2000 as a graduate with no experience other than internships, temping, and typical young person jobs. By 2002, I had been laid off after not being paid for three weeks by what was once the most prestigious music video production company in the world (November 8, 2001 – less than 8 weeks after September 11), had left Los Angeles, and was still making eleven dollars an hour in Detroit. I did not have the Boomer experience. I still don’t own a home. And it’s taken me forever to get to at least comfortably not owning a home. The Millennials have their work cut out for them, and they know it. The shame of living with your parents has disappeared in the post-2008 economy.
Of course, not everything is economics.
I’ve dabbled in Millennials and still have many questions about them. Do they use Tinder just for hooking up or is it considered a legitimate way of meeting a potential boyfriend/girlfriend (see future post, “Tindered”)? Have they ever been on a real date? Are they really more into hooking up than having a relationship? Are they all bisexual? Is getting an actual phone call from one the ultimate commitment? Do any of them have crooked teeth? Are the men of this generation torturously attractive, open-minded, and feminist, while also frustratingly happy to live lives untethered in a continuous feast of digital buffet? Are Millennial girls of the same ilk? Do they realize they are too young to need online dating in the first place? No one my age would have ever experienced this humiliation before their early thirties (okay, I’m talking about myself).
So really, I can’t personally talk about Millennials without talking about dating them.
To be continued in “Generational Throwdown Part II: Generation Y Not?”