Embrace Being Gen X in a Millenial World (And Vice Versa!)



So I have been neglecting blogging a bit lately, apologies! I have been busy writing, just not blog stuff. Janet of Someone Somewhere is publishing two zines after getting back into zines, which she used to make (read her piece on that here), and amazingly kindly is putting two things I wrote into her 90’s zine (what! I am never cool enough for that!). So I’ve been scouring my brain and trying to remember things that somehow feel like they happened yesterday but at the same time the mental cobwebs remind me they were in fact AGES ago. My little trip down memory lane has reminded me a bit of where I come from, and made me contemplate my online presence as an “old” and all of that jazz.

It’s weird being a Gen X blogger sometimes. In my case, most bloggers (I have encountered, anyway) my age are usually either super amazing fashion bloggers or Mummy bloggers. I veer between feeling super old and not relating to a lot of (life) stuff millennial writers are writing about, or super immature and unsophisticated compared to most women my age. I guess it’s partly a child free thing. But the things I want to talk about don’t seem that common amongst many of my peers: (sic) “Who has time for television, other than Outlander, when you have a toddler?” etc. Gen X is no longer the center of the cultural zeitgeist, just as the baby boomers weren’t when I was young. It’s the circle of life.

But now we have this strange world where a lot of people my age ARE online, yet sometimes it feels like we are invisible. Like we sort of just blend in with how pop culture is spoken about amongst the young ones. It’s almost like we no longer have our own identity or place in the world. I mean, I grew up with all of this avant garde modernist literature about my trailblazing generation from Douglas Coupland and Bret Easton Ellis, there was a veritable music revolution in the 90’s, I definitely felt like I was part of a generation with a cultural personality in my twenties.

Gen X is mostly with it enough to keep up with technology and pop culture today, and yet somehow we don’t really seem to be bothered. I speak only of my own experience, but Twitter is largely a ghost town for anyone over 35 (who isn’t famous).Which I find sort of sad, Twitter is just the sort of thing Gen Xers should be good at, it’s much more fun than reading our friends moan about the weather on Facebook, honestly!

I guess most of us, like our parents before us and theirs before them are settled into suburban family life, and content with feeling vaguely young so long as we still wear Converse and attend an occasional concert. I watch my kidded up friends share “Millenials are dumb, they can't rewind a cassette with a pencil!” etc. videos on Facebook and yes, the Holderness Family videos too (WHAT HAVE WE BECOME!) and can’t help but feel sort of sorry for my generation.

Are we really so beyond caring, so…old? Have we given up trying to be relevant just like that? Or is that decision already made for us without us knowing? (sorry this is all getting a bit Carrie Bradshaw – ask your Mom Gen Z readers ;-).

I’m not under the delusion that my generation is the future, but I do feel like our collective knowledge and understanding of the 20th century is maybe deeply undervalued. Maybe that’s why there are so many “Remember when” type nostalgia listicle fests on t.v. here in the U.K. (which often go straight over my head, the 70s and 80s in Britain were cray –see I’m still hip, I’m using ten year old slang!). I do not question that I am old, at all (someone I follow on Twitter recently referred to a music playlist from 2007 as “old school” and wow…yep, f*cking ancient I am! ;-).

There is a moment in the show Flaked (on Netflix) where Will Arnett’s character Chip, who is dating a millennial, says in passing an instruction to her “And Bob’s your uncle”, which is received with a blank stare, and he sort of can’t believe she doesn’t know what that means, but rather than explaining it plays it off, because to explain such a seemingly basic slang phrase would make him seem old? Or is he embarrassed that he is dating someone who doesn’t recognize it? 

It’s kind of a low key but crucial little moment. His character is living the life of a 20 something hipster: with his ludicrous money pit shop and rent free existence, he has more in common with Hannah from Girls than most 40 somethings. And yet he cannot escape his age, something it feels Arnett wants the audience to know almost as an afterthought in this era of “We’re all still cool...right?”. I related to it anyway!

I remember when I was a kid in the 80’s and things like The Big Chill and Thirtysomething came out, and having that feeling of “Why are the grownups acting like they still matter?" (I was a kid!), and also “Why is Jeff Goldblum my soul mate?” (;-0). But I loved The Big Chill soundtrack with such a passion, all of the Motown hits were instantly my favourite thing ever, and then along came Dirty Dancing and Stand By Me with their similarly retro settings and music, and I never thought twice about liking it.

Whereas today it feels like everyone who is young is so self-aware and must only ever like un-current things in a knowing or ironic way. Nothing makes you sound more aged that the “Damned Hipsters!” refrain, but seriously, if you are old enough to remember life before hipsters, you remember how much simpler and sweeter life could be as a young person in the world. 

There were more rough edges, sure, but it felt good to live in pre-gentrified neighbourhoods and pay less rent and feel a tiny hint of danger occasionally.

It’s why when I watched Girls (admittedly a show I am far too aged for); which is set in my former neighbourhood, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, I was expecting to maybe have a slight nostalgia fest, when it may as well have been set in Topeka, Kansas for the lack of any recognition I felt.

I slowly got into the show somewhat as a window into the lives of the current 20 something generation in New York (and to be fair I know Girls in no way is representative of anything but the most privileged slice), but it really never reflected much if anything I experienced in my time there. I do think at her best Dunham does write human relationships well, and that is eternal/generation-less, but none of my friends fell into University teaching jobs before they hit 30 with very little experience as Hannah eventually and predictably comfortably does.  

Anyway I digress…as usual. What is my point (I hear you say and ask myself). I don’t know. I guess I just wish Gen X’ers would wake up a tiny bit and stop being so irrelevant and boring. Life has moved on since Nirvana, and yes maybe that was your heyday and mine too, but life is for the living and sometimes it feels like we as mid adults are just treading water. And yes I speak for myself too. I have thoroughly underperformed in life. But I haven’t given up either. I’m not ready for Boden and Food Festivals with a hint of soft rock and wellies and prosecco every day just yet. 

Maybe I’m just immature for my age (highly likely!). But also, maybe millenials can stop presuming that anyone over 30 has nothing of interest to say (unlikely but hey). We can tell you stories about the hot Dads in Riverdale and the magic of mixtapes and drive in movies and other things you will likely never experience! (actually an embarassingly large impetus for this post was partly down to all of my thoughts on how weirdly 90s Riverdale is, almost taunting us former goths and ravers out of pop culture retirement! ;-).

When I was younger I had two close friends who were seven and ten years older than me. They just happened into my life. And our friendship was natural and real and not a struggle at all. Nowadays I will occasionally meet a younger person I get on great with (hi Iga Berry!), but mostly I feel like I don’t speak their language and they are not interested in speaking mine, which I think is kind of sad. No, maybe we won’t be best friends, but believe me when I say every cool person you are hanging out with now will likely not be your friend forever, either.

It's easy as we get older to stick with what/who we know, just as it's natural in youth to gravitate towards our peers, but it’s also good to have diverse experiences in our social circle as we go on in life. Some of the best life advice or lessons I have been given were from my older friends, and while it’s a tiny bit awkward for me to be the old friend now because in my head I am still Winona Ryder in Heathers, not Stranger Things(!), I am actually embracing it a bit.

So yeah, I think on both sides it would be fun if we could not be so awkward/antagonistic with each other as the generations go by. Because I hate to tell you whipper snappers, someday surprisingly not very far away someone will make YOU feel old, and wow is that going to burst your bubble if you continue to live only in it (just as it has for many a Gen X’er to see a kid in a Kurt Cobain shirt and realize they weren’t even born when he died!). Go with your Mom or Dad to a concert. Join a book club with people who aren’t all your age. This advice goes both ways. And please, Gen X’ers, find a new shoe other than Converse (you know they are doing your fallen arches no favours!) ;-).

And remember, every single stage of our inner Winona Ryder is one we will all encounter eventually in life, they are all cool, they all have merit (ok maybe not so much the shoplifting, but hey, resilience in life is key!). Just like Winona, we need to maintain what originally made us feel uniquely us and for a moment in time hip, while of course growing up a bit along the way. Maybe that's not so impossible?






13 comments

  1. Do you think there is much media influence involved in creating and manipulating these agist differences .?

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    1. Um...I don't know. I do think that the weird age gap between Gen X having kids later/deludung ourselves we were young for longer and millenials being so self aware of their generation is a whole sociological thing we haven't seen before and has maybe contributed to it. Media is always chasing youth but at the same time the means of consumption of news media has become outdated and irrelevant to millenials. Weird times.

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  2. I just refuse to believe that the 90s weren't 5, maybe - MAYBE - 10 years ago. The memories of the music, especially, are so present for me. But you hit the nail on the head about the 90s being a time of cultural revolution, I feel so so lucky to have been the perfect age to experience those things, to have been a 14 year old Riot Grrrl and a 17 year old Britpopper, getting backstage at gigs to interview bands for my zine.

    I'm in such a state of delayed maturity - 40 next year and yet to feel like a grown-up. I think it's our generation's curse & blessing, to be rather Peter Pan-ish and never grow up.

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    1. Right?? It will be my (gasp) 25th high school reunion next year. I can't even. I missed the truly awesome Riot Grrl and zine movements (I was in college and um...doing stuff?;-), but I like to think maybe my early 90s mosh pit dancing and rejecting society's norms helped contrinute to their eventuality in some very miniscule way lol! The only change turning 40 brought me was um...yep, drawing a blank, sorry.;-0

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  3. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this! My aunt is eleven years older than me so I think that makes her your generation (I’m twenty-eight, so… meh addition!) and I remember being obsessed with her and getting so psyched when she would give me her old clothes (incredibly wide-legged rave pants, teeny-tiny spaghetti strap shirts from Delia’s that I was entirely too chubby to fit into but loved anyway, etc.) Anyway my point is that “90’s teenager” is still my point of reference for what “cool” is. :D

    I loved this: “There were more rough edges, sure, but it felt good to live in pre-gentrified neighbourhoods and pay less rent and feel a tiny hint of danger occasionally.” I was learning to walk and talk for the first half of the 90’s, but I remember childhood as like… gritty. There are definitely difficulties that younger generations face now that I didn’t have to think about, but they also have access to a lot of things that make life easier in ways people my age didn’t. And then there are the things that suck for everyone, every year, always. Ha! Obviously there are thousands of things besides what year a person was born that factor into how their life turns out, but it’s so fascinating to think about how the evolution of technology and whatever else impacts how people perceive and interact with the world. I wonder about the impact growing up on the internet will have for these kids that are the stars of huge Instagram accounts or blogs or Youtube channels, you know? Will it be like how some people who grew up during the Great Depression hold onto things?

    ALSO I recently finished watching this very silly series on Netflix called Schitt’s Creek (so dumb, so funny, perfect for folding laundry) and one of the characters said about how to live in New York, “It’s easy. Just watch a season of Girls and do the opposite of what they do.” Which I feel accurately sums it up.

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    1. Hi Elle! Ha I remember Delia's, spaghetti strap tanks and wide leg pants were indeed the rage! I don't think young people today are better off in many ways, almost everyone struggles in this economy,but New York in particular when I was younger was just so different to how it (appears) now. Um I am also watching Schitts Creek (I love Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara from their Christopher Guest movies) and really liking it, it is silly but fun! I am still on season one!

      I think the weirdest thing about getting older and trying to blog/do social media is trying to find common points of reference, and sometimes feeling like "my" generation sort of blends in/isn't bold enough about expressing opinions beyond their life or politics or whatever. There have been some kind of hilarious Riverdale tweets from all of the "olds" guiltily watching it, like are we allowed to do this? Anyway thanks for stopping by and reading! :-) x

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    2. p.s. I have read and enjoyed your blog before but there don't appear to be comments enabled? Anyway love your latest post's kitty in the park pictures! :-)

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  4. Congrats on the published pieces!!! You must feel amazing about that!!!

    At my previous job, there were a few 50+ boomers, and they would always say they felt 19 inside, and refused to believe the mirror (which they avoided!). They said their generation never felt that they would age, hence the poor money management. They would always have great jobs, and bodies capable of working! Their generation were the ones that said "trust no one over 30" ha.

    I don't ever really encounter really young people in my life so I haven't really felt a disconnect? I don't think? I mean, except what I read online, they seem like they feel isolated and lonely, which is a little surprising to me with the internet, cellphones, and social media... It seems so easy now to keep in contact with people. When I graduated High School, I lost contact almost immediately with everyone until Facebook. And since I moved around so much, it was also hard to keep people up to date with my landline phone number and address, so being penpals was also hard. My brother and his friends are 7 years younger than me but now that they are fast approaching 30, I don't notice as much "weirdness" in their way of thinking like five years ago, ha. Or maybe I've just gotten use to them. I'd like to think they've grown up a bit, though ;)

    I do agree that being child-free makes me feel more immature/irresponsible than my peers with kids. I feel like this weird adult-not-adult that has way too much candy and cookies in the pantry.

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    1. Ha thanks! Yes not having kids is weird, mainly in the context of when I hang with parent friends etc. In my day to day life I'm rarely ever like "Wish I had a kid right about now", but I do wonder, narcissistically, how different I would be if I had one/would it have changed me as dramatically as it's changed some people I know, or would I still be mostly the same? I grew up in a Navy Town and stayed in touch with some of my friends that moved away, in one instance I moved to NYC with my 6th grade best friend after not seeing her other than one hang out after many years. Like would that ever happen today?

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  5. Well I learned something new tonight, I'd never even heard of Generation X never mind realising that's what I am! I just thought we were classed as old now :(. I do hear what you are saying about bloggers our age that they are either super fashionable and likely wearing clothes that I wouldn't have the guts to wear or they are mummy bloggers so a lot of bloggers I follow are probably old enough to be my children (scary thought!). Oh and the 80s-90s decades were da best! ;) xx

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    1. Wow, I guess it was bigger in America! It's originally based/came from DOuglas Coupland's 1991 novel of the same name, I think, I guess no one had named our generation yet!:-) x

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  6. Okay, first thing's first: are you aware of the Thirty Plus blog network? If not, I'd highly recommend you take a look!

    I find these generational labels so arbitrary. Depending on what you read, I'm technically classed as a millennial (born in 1982), but I'd argue the case for a generational difference between those of us who can remember a life without the internet, and who then discovered our identities online on the cusp of adulthood - and those for whom it's always been present. And then, I too am a childfree woman in my mid-30s - but as I've written about a little on my own blog, with so many of my friends now deferring the decision to have children it hasn't really become an issue yet, and the few friends of mine who have had children don't see it as something that sets them apart.

    I think I'm with Unknown, above: I feel that much of it is driven by the media and advertising. But I still find it really interesting to talk about!

    Lis / last year's girl x

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    1. Hi! I have heard of it, I will check it out thanks! It's one thing if someone is less than ten years younger (you are seven yrs younger than me :-), but some of the time I don't have much in common if someone is nearly/more than 20 years younger(understandably!). But I think so much of pop culture criticism/essays now are written/geared towards 30 and unders, especially online; I do think there is a bit of a divide in how Gen X writes/thinks about things comparatively. I definitely agree those of us who grew up without internet is a pretty relevant dividing line as well. :-)

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