“Did you get the letter?”
“Did you READ it?”
This, to a student who had missed a mandatory meeting that was cleverly called the “mandatory meeting” and was now complaining she couldn’t get what she wanted … because she hadn’t read what you were supposed to do if you missed the mandatory meeting.
I’m guessing she was a college sophomore, so she was probably 19, maybe 20. I chalked it up as another on the list of what “kids these days” do.
I, who was all of 23.
— Andrew Zaleski, “I Took ‘Adulting Classes’ for Millennials,” CityLab
Apparently, the basic functions that millennials are so inept at, so much so that there needs to be classes in it, include “bike safety, holiday gift-giving for the cash-strapped, putting together a monthly budget, opening a bottle of wine without a corkscrew and assembling a weekly nutritional plan,” as well as “budgeting and how to deal with student-loan debt.”
I wrote online that these courses were “mocking huckster BS because someone came up with the term ‘adulting,’ probably as a self-deprecating joke,” but more on that later. (For more about adulting, this is a good read.)
Because The New York Times decided to gaze upon my cohort, Generation X.
For their purposes, the Times defines Generation X as people born between 1965 and 1980 — I’m almost directly in the middle, having been born at the end of May 1972 — and apparently we were into Walkmans, Benetton, Ethan Hawke and Keanu Reeves, TLC, CK One, long talks on the telephone, “The Real World,” pagers and answering machines.
We went to Lollapalooza (or at least watched Tabitha Soren talk about it on MTV), work skinny black things around our necks, had crushes on Evan Dando (and the girls, at least read “The Rules” to understand how to deal with us boys), listened to grunge, obsessed over “Twin Peaks” and learned how to stay off drugs through DARE.
I only read a couple articles, but as I went through the list, my main thought was, “This wasn’t my life.”
Sure, I thought Walkmans and answering machines were cool, but I’ve always thought grunge was a scourge on music, and it’s not like I could watch the videos or anything else on MTV, because we didn’t have cable.
Ethan, Keanu and TLC were fine, I guess, but the next “Twin Peaks” I see (I assume it’s available somewhere) will be the first, and that’s assuming I even want to watch, but I don’t.
Plus, I always thought Benetton clothes were ugly.
OK, fine, whatever … that was the culture then, and people’s mileage may vary. For more, check out the Twitter thread linked above. I didn’t do much of those either, but it’s really entertaining.
“To the extent that we were defined, we were defined in the negative — the first generation in American history to be written off before it had a chance to begin.“ …
… “So it’s easy to decide that Gen X is culturally irrelevant — if you’re comfortable with the dangerous prospect of making sweeping conclusions about the identity, values and culture of millions of individuals from every imaginable background.
Did the working-class class trans kid living in Tulsa, Okla., the Marine recruit from the South Bronx, the heiress in Rhode Island, and the surfing phenom in Huntington Beach, Calif., all groove on ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ in 1992? Would it matter if they did?”
— Alex Williams, “Actually, Gen X Did Sell Out, Invent All Things Millennial, And Cause Everything Else That’s Great and Awful ,” The New York Times
Maybe it will make my young friends feel better to know that people thought we sucked before most of them were born … the fact that probably many of the people saying millennials suck are Gen Xers, maybe not so much.
But why are people so hung up on defining Generation X or millennials?
If you use the Times’ definition of Generation X or 1981 to 1996 for millennials, you’re not only talking about kids from Tulsa, Huntington Beach the South Bronx, upstate New York, Oregon and everywhere else, you’re talking about people in a 15-year age range.
Why would you look at someone born in LBJ’s presidency the same as one born on the cusp of Ronald Reagan’s election? If you ask the people at the very top end of the millennial range what they were like 15 years ago, it might be hard, on account of them being 8 years old.
My brother is a fellow Gen X baby, four years younger than me, and I think of him as a different generation.
But even beyond, as Rex put it in the Twitter thread, “Generations are, of course, bull—- categories invented by marketers to sell you more bull—-,” the writing-off Williams refers to carries with it the implication that those traits are unique to that generation.
And that’s bull—-.
There might not have been classes for it, but there have always been people who didn’t know how to manage money or ride a bike without putting themselves in grave danger of cracking their heads open.
And while Tom Brokaw may shudder at the thought, among the generation that showed uncommon bravery in saving the world from fascism during World War II (no snark there, I mean that), there were also people who were lazy as hell.
And by the way, with technology being what it is, it’s now emails that people don’t read, not letters.
But what can I tell you? Times change.