Here’s what I know about my generation: we are like the small area of Venn diagram overlap between the two enormous spheres that are Millennials and Baby Boomers. As Whitney Collins wrote in a great Salon piece, we’re the meh between me and more.
Though there’s some (pointless) debate about bookend years, we GenXers are roughly (haha, she said rough) the folks born between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s. The generally accepted marks are 1965-1980, thanks to the book Generations; but demographers often like neat 20 year bands for their data buckets, so our span often spills over the edges into a 1964-1984 range. If that’s the case and we really need specifics then I’d plot the origin of our ironies, set to a Bobby Vinton soundtrack, on Friday, December 13, 1963, the day after Kenyan independence, and cut us off on 12/31/83, the official debut date of Apple’s “1984” ad on a station in Twin Falls, Idaho.
Like other marketing and community development folks, I’ve spent a fair amount of time studying generational attributes. And like most other marketing types, I’ve most often been looking at the big three: Silent Generation, Baby Boomers and Millennials -bypassing my own GenX ruffians. You can’t sustain sales, win elections or fill blood banks without substantial representation from the three biggest generational groups, and X just gets lost in the mix. It’s ok; we’re used to it. We make our own way, with or without all the fuss and attention. Meh.
True to form, I once thought of GenX as just the fishtail end of the Baby Boom set. We’d been given a generational name, and we were different from the group ahead of us but not super-dramatically defined and certainly not driven. The Baby Boomers fought for women’s rights, civil rights, and growth; and all we did, coming behind them, was squander the inheritance. We were Slackers, Mall Rats and Clerks, soon to be overshadowed by the indelibly fabulous monogram-and-polish set looming behind us. A handful of writers tried in the mid-2000s to frame us in better light (see Jeff Gordinier’s Gen-X: The Ignored Generation), but I blew off those narratives, not really wanting to claim my clan.
Lately, though, I’ve been thinking more and more about not only my own generation but also what my children’s group will shape up to be. It started, this line of reflection, with this NPR piece, From GIs to GenZ: How Generations Get Nicknames. I’d actually forgotten, until listening to the story, that we were once called the Baby Busters, as ill-suited a label for us as Gen Y was for the Millennials, not that either group of us particularly loves being labeled.
During my brief stint at an ad agency years ago, working for the most horrible boss in the history of bosses (seriously), I once took the liberty of drafting copy for a direct mail piece my client wanted to produce. “Huh. You’re a pretty good copywriter,” vile agency man said, “but creative work belongs to the creative people, not the account reps.” His remark was gift, really. I’d have been miserable in that segregated agency world of suits vs. style books, and his swift dismissal of my effort made it easy to walk out without a tinge of regret.
One of the things market research types have recognized quickly about the Millennials is that they don’t like being labeled at all – not just generational labeling, but any singular designation that appears to limit their freedom to be whatever they want to be. It’s not chef or data analyst; it’s chef and data analyst – or any other varied combination that suits the person, the time and the circumstance.
Yeah, I so get this. In fact, we Xers, the Slackers, paved this road, although I don’t think it was intentional or obvious at the time. Family-earner mom and stay-at-home dad? Yep, we started that. Thriving cupcake business on the side? Yep, we started that, too. We didn’t want to be just one thing, either. Still don’t. Won’t, ever, because we know we can’t. The luxury of being one magnificent showpiece was never in the cards for us. We’re plate spinners (I’ve long said this should be my epitaph), and we’re damn good at it.
Maybe, to be sure, some of the resistance to pigeon-holing comes from selfishness, from wanting unfettered access to it all. I think a greater part, though, comes from the recognition that, as Nikki Giovanni said so well, “There’s always something to do.”
“There’s always something to do. There are hungry people to feed, naked people to clothe, sick people to comfort and make well. And while I don’t expect you to save the world I do think it’s not asking too much for you to love those with whom you sleep, share the happiness of those you call friend, engage those among you who are visionary and remove from your life those who offer you depression, despair and disrespect.” Nikki Giovanni
As we Xers head into AARP member status (a mark of turning 50) and Millennials hit the stride that is life-as-a-30-something, it’s becoming easier to see the mark we’ve been making and impossible not to wonder what’s coming in our wake. What doors did we open for our children? What roads are they going to pave?
I’d stop and think about it but, as you know, I’ve got plates to spin. Also, I have confidence that the people behind us are going to figure it out on their own anyway without the tiniest bit of help, direction or control from me. It’s isn’t that I’m unwilling to help generation next – quite the opposite. It’s just that somewhere deep, inside all that meh, I find permission to believe (that’s what agencies call it) that generation-yet-to-be-named will find its own way. We’ve been doing it for generations, with or without the labels, whether or not we recognized it at the time.
And to my friend and faithful reader who crosses into 40 today: Cheers. Welcome. I’m so very glad you’re here.
Food | Week of February 2, 2015
So, I’m the sort to rip off the bandage in one swift pull (why prolong things?), and here it is:
The weekly dinner plan thing is over. The end.
After four years of making weekly menu plans for my family (two years on my own, two years shared with you, here), I’m ready to try something new. I’m ready, my family’s ready, and I hope you’ll be ready, too.
The recipe archive that’s here on jenny’s lark isn’t going anywhere, and all of the archives will still be there, but my food and cooking pursuits are moving to my new blog, Dinner Prompt.
What’s a dinner prompt? It’s an idea, kind of like a writing prompt only oriented toward cooking.
How will it work? It’s still taking shape (will always be) but I’m shooting for short daily posts (I’ve got 5 published and 10 in the hopper) that will be published each morning in order to give you some inspiration on you lunchtime or afternoon trip to the market when you’re shopping for dinner.
What’s going to happen with jenny’s lark? Weekly writing, still shooting for Saturday by 10:30. Wish me luck.
Wait! I can’t move this fast! I need a gateway drug! No, hon, you don’t. You can change lanes, I know you can. And if you’re stuck, all the menu archives are staying put. If you need to keep swimming in that pool, it’s still there.