on being Gen X

For most of my life, I've thought very little about the generation to which I belong - Generation X. I feel like at some point in my teens there was a national conversation about what it meant be Gen X, I guess because the internet was born and there was interest in how that would affect us. Then that was it. I don't recall hearing much mention of my cohort, as they call it, other than the usual defining buzzwords. Latchkey kids. MTV generation. Slackers. Cynics. 

Cut to today, and generational differences are a popular topic again. Maybe they always are and I'm just being naive? I don't know. But it seems like right now everyone has an opinion about Millennials, Boomers, and Gen Z. About their values and priorities; about their moral failings and blind spots. I see very few opinions being voiced about Gen X, however. Twitter confirms this invisibility daily. By our own admission we can't be bothered to generate very many fucks for very many things, so no one has any material with which to lambaste us. And while some criticize us for not doing more to prevent the problems of the world, mostly we are out of blame's way. The Boomers fucked things up, is the general consensus. Millennials and Zs will fix it, if we just get out of their way and if they can stop fighting long enough to cooperate.

A few years ago, I caught a headline squeezed into my synthesized news feed: Why Generation X Might Be Our Last, Best Hope. I didn't actually read the article -- until just now. And I'll get to it in a minute but what matters is that the title alone gave me a sense of comfort, and rang a distant bell in my brain. Oh yeah, that's right. I belong to Generation X. And we're kind of cool, as these things go. And that's something. That's something to hang onto. 

I can't explain why belonging to Generation X means what it does to me, on a visceral level. I guess I can name specific things I'm grateful for, like having grown up, for the most part, pre-internet. Every single day after school I went exploring, either literally outside or figuratively in books - because the single screen in our house could only hold my attention for so long, as half the time it was on it didn't display anything of interest. And yes, this is a flex. Put your phones down, kids. You know it's good for you.

But it's more than that. Remembering that I'm Gen X - independent, disaffected, critical thinking and irony deeply instilled in me like so much Country Time Lemonade - helps when I feel out of place in the world. It's a soft landing when I cannot make sense of culture or politics; when I am confused and disgusted by the choices that people with platforms (read: power) make. It's a pair of polarized Ray-Bans cutting the glare of a world I understand less and less. 

The whole thing is worth a read, but my favorite line from the Vanity Fair article?

[We are] the last Americans that know how to fold a newspaper, take a joke, and listen to a dirty story without losing their minds.


I have younger friends, but the people I feel the deepest, most soul-level kinship with are X. These are the friends whose eye I can catch across a room space and time and know we're thinking the same thing. Maybe I always end up with younger guys because that generational kinship is too familiar. We all know what familiarity breeds. Maybe deep down I don't want a guy who sees the world the exact same way as me?

And because I interact with so many younger people all the time, I have to remind myself that I am X when my expectations of Millennials and Zs collide with who they fundamentally are, god bless them. When I cannot fathom why they think or act or speak the way they do.

When, you know, they won't get off my lawn.