With Generation Xers turning 50 at an alarming rate now, here are some thoughts I have about what it means to be a part of this group.
Growing up GenX meant having parents who still had the sense to keep politics and other world events out of our view. We were generally allowed to be kids and enjoy it. A couple of examples of where this failed actually prove the point.
First, I remember the Jonestown suicide massacre being on the front page of Time magazine. A bunch of dead bodies all piled up next to each other. The reason I remember this is because the magazine was accidentally placed too low at the checkout stand and the check out guy apologized to my mom about it. I was too young to process what I was seeing, and should not have seen it.
Another was having Looney Toons interrupted to hear the ominous announcer proclaiming “we interrupt this program to bring you this breaking news. John Wayne is DEAD.”
John who? What happened to Bugs?
I remember having a president that everybody liked–even Democrats. This was partially because he was kind of a smart ass, and everyone knew he loved America.
A few years later we got a mentally ill billionaire and his
retarded retired sidekick admiral running for president and that was kind of a low point for us.
We also got to meet all our most important developmental milestones to the coolest, most brilliant music ever recorded. 80s alternative rock is the soundtrack to many of our lives and we could not have picked anything better if we tried. Then, in 1991, grunge walked into the room, took a big pile of steaming crap on the carpet and it all ended with a poof of dark smoke, never to be heard from again.
Our parents still had Christmas parties for the whole neighborhood. And they came. Even our Jewish neighbors who did not need to be revived with smelling salts at the sight of a Christmas tree.
We remember a world without microwave popcorn. That was just crazy.
If someone said “jeans” they meant “Levis 501s” There was no other kind of jeans. And part of the ritual was buying a pair 4 sizes too big, and washing them 600 times so they would shrink and fade before you wore them. Otherwise your new, dark blue jeans just looked lame.
Everyone knew who the kids from broken families were (read: divorced/blended, etc) and it was Ok to point it out, We still loved those families, while simultaneously recognizing it was not ideal. I grew up in a family like that, and I didn’t mind when people noticed.
When I would run or workout, my walkman would bounce and you could hear the cassette wobble.
We learned a bunch of stuff from John Hughes films that actually turned out to not be true at all. But they are still fun to watch.
National tragedies like the president being shot, the challenger disaster and so on had no racial or social justice component to them. They were just shitty times for Americans to comfort each other through.
It turned out “The Russians” did in fact, love their children too. So that worked out.
There was this thing called “The Boy Scouts” (not just “scouts”) and the handbook had some weird ambiguous language about stuff like being gay and masturbating but nobody got upset about it.
Everybody’s favorite sitcom family was an obstetrician and his lawyer wife. And nobody cared that they were black or whatever. It was just a funny show.
And another thing. Sometime in the 90s, the generation right behind us (those we don’t speak of) took the word “whatever,” added an eye roll to it and turned it into a rude, obtuse disregarding insult.
You’re doing it wrong, morons. When a GenXer says it, he means it in the most deferrent and respectful way to the hearer. “Whatever” is the ultimate expression of the thoroughly American concept of “live and let live.” It means something like:
“You do it your way, and I’ll do it my way and we can still totally be friends or whatever”
“I’m not super married to this idea, so if you want to do something else, that’s cool too.”
“I haven’t really thought this through, so if you have a better idea, I can easily be persuaded.”
…and so on.
There’s plenty more to reminisce about our experience, maybe some comments will bring it into focus. Anyway, relax for God’s sake. Just listen to this song from the greatest era in music history. You will be feeling nothing but love for everyone and everything around you by the time the soft synth hits at around 2:37. Or whatever.