- R. T. Coleman
Gen X, Our Time Is, Like, Totally Now
Updated: Jul 24, 2022
At the beginning of this year, CNN aired a segment about the clash between the Boomer and Millennial generations. During that segment, this infographic was featured:
As a Gen Xer, I have to say…I don’t care. I mean, does it get any more Gen X than to be completely forgotten? We’ve lived our entire lives being largely ignored, and honestly that hasn’t been all bad. Sure, we’re largely responsible for shoring up social security for our aging parents and taking out Parent Plus loans so our kids can get an overpriced and undervalued college education. Yeah, we took a devastating hit to our 401k when Boomers crashed the economy in the late 2000s, just around the time we really started hitting our stride. Ok, we haven’t seen a real wage increase in about 15 years.
But we’ve plugged along, going to work every day at jobs we barely tolerate so we can have health insurance. I mean, I don’t care what I have to do on this job, man. Just tell me whether it has a good benefits package and enough vacation time so I can get away from it for a reasonable length of time every year.
As a Gen Xer, there’s nothing more I’d like to do than just live out the rest of my existence not being bothered by anyone or anything. I’m cool with Hollywood trying to cater to me with their 80s nostalgia and all, but I hope they realize that isn’t going to inspire me buy anything. Or process anything. Or sell anything.
I’ve lived my entire life just going along with, well, whatever. Sure, it’d be nice if we weren’t still squabbling over whether women should be able to make their own reproductive decisions. Or if we weren't still keeping people of color from fully participating in our political and economic system. Is it too much to ask that we at least join the rest of the civilized world and make healthcare a universal right instead of a “privilege”?
It would be nice if we could move on to things that are really important: Combating global climate change. Modernizing education. Addressing income inequality.
It would be nice if we could count on our Boomer and Millennial brethren to address these pressing issues.
My parents are Boomers, and I love them. They’re great people. But my dad learned only this year how to use a tablet, and that’s because he was forced to when our local paper stopped printing an actual paper and went completely digital. I’m not saying that to be disparaging of my father. It’s just that he wasn’t prepared for this world, much less the world of the future.
Our children are Millennials, and I love them. They’re great people. But they have no idea what it’s like to wait for anything. Since birth, anything they’ve wanted has been at their fingertips on a computer, on a smartphone, on some device.
Gen Xers grew up in an analog world. We know what it’s like to wait for a reply via snail mail, to entertain ourselves outdoors with a stick, some string, and an old hot dog. But we also know how to use a smartphone. I, in fact, love my smartphone. I like that I’m living in a time when I can carry a tiny computer around in my back pocket. I like that we have the technology we need to confront those pressing issues I’ve mentioned.
And this, my Gen X brethren and sistren, is why we need to set aside our cynicism, just for a while, and get this country back on track. We’re the only ones who can do it. Boomers, bless their hearts, have had their run. It’s time to step aside. Millennials have the right ideas. Our economic system is broken. Our education system is broken. Our political system is broken. But there’s a certain amount of discipline required to manage cultural change, and that is the discipline that comes from having to wait 4-6 weeks to receive your Sea Monkeys in the mail. It’s the type of discipline that comes from ensuring that the holes at the sides of the computer paper are aligned with the teeth on your dot matrix printer. It’s the type of discipline that comes from logging onto AOL through the phone line, going to the kitchen to fix a sandwich, and walking back just in time to hear “You’ve got mail!”.
Gen X understands the system is fucked up. We’ve known this since the 1990s.
But, now we need to do something about it. We grew up in a time when school shootings were a rarity. Public schools were fairly well funded and finally integrated. We had clean water that you could drink out of the tap and the water hose outside. Children’s cartoons actually made sense. Yes, there were serious issues then as well, and I’m speaking as a very white woman looking back on my very sheltered childhood in Southwest Little Rock, Arkansas. But we Gen Xers know things can be better, should be better. Maybe not for us, but perhaps for our children and for our grandchildren.
I have my favorites among the past and current candidates for the 2020 Democratic nomination. I think it’s time for some fresh voices, some new perspectives. I think it’s time our president understands what it’s like to be a working mother in this country. I think it’s time our president understands what it’s like to be a person of color in this country.
I think it’s time our president understands that things are broken in a way only someone who’s sent off for a Wham-O Super Ball knows they are broken.
Sadly, it's likely that, once again, we'll have a choice between two white male Boomers who don't really understand any of these things.
However, Gen X, I think we can all agree that what's going on right now isn’t cool. We know it’s making this country worse for everyone. We know that stock markets and conspiracy theories and us-versus-them is all cleverly marketed bullshit. We know the people currently in power are lying because we learned about lying the day we got that Wham-O Super Ball in the mail. So it’s up to us to save America from itself. It’s up to us to remind people that the truth is important, that science works, and that the words of the Preamble to the Constitution aren’t just words. They’re a beautiful mission statement.
Let’s save the world, Gen X. Listen to your kids, and then tell your parents what your kids need them to do to make things better for their future. We can bridge this gap, my friends, in the way only a generation that is completely invisible can. Swoop in. Fix shit. Swoop out.
I promise they’ll never forget the Coolest Generation ever again.
And even if they do, like, it doesn't matter, man. We're used to it.