My husband and I went out with friends Saturday night to see Stephanie J. Block perform at a small jazz club on the upper east side. Over drinks, I brought up Generation X and our disappearance from the culture conversation. “We either have to go with the baby boomers or the millennials,” I finished.
“We’ll take you,” Rachael grinned, “with open arms.”
“I hate the boomers,” Molly, a fellow Gen-Xer, said. “They won’t get out of the way. They’re why I had to quit my last job. I was stuck at the director level for years because they won’t retire.”
“I know,” I said. “They won’t give up anything. Look at all the people running for President, they’re boomers or the Silent Generation.”
“My cousin – a boomer – told me last week that he’s ‘woke’ and thinks it’s Mayor Pete’s time,” Molly said. “I was like, No! My generation hasn’t been President yet! What the hell?”
“We won’t vote for Mayor Pete,” Rachael said. “Millennials don’t like him.”
“And the only Generation X candidate just dropped out,” I said. “Andrew Yang.”
“It doesn’t matter,” my husband shrugged. “Trump is going to win again. This is an exercise in futility.”
I met a friend for drinks a few weeks ago and broached Generation X with her.
“We gave the world Google, business startups, YouTube,” Melinda argued. “And the best music. Punk, grunge, hip-hop, that’s all us.”
“The indie film movement,” I added.
“Clerks!” she exclaimed. “Reality Bites! Although that’s a studio movie, but still.”
“Then why are we being forgotten?”
“I don’t know. But there’s no denying it, there’s a lot we’ve contributed,” she said. “And remember, we are the last of the latchkey kids. The last free-range kids. The last kids to grow up without technology. We straddle the boomers and the millennials. We are cynical about the former and skeptical about the latter. Can either of those generations make our world better? The boomers have had loads of time.”
“Is it up to us?”
She shrugged. “If no one listens, how can it be? Screaming into the void won’t solve anything.”
Last summer, I was volunteering at the Roosevelt Island Community Garden and overheard a millennial mother talking to her young son as she pushed a stroller among the garden plots.
“It is so. Frustrating. Some of these people have had these plots for decades. I just want a small corner to grow vegetables! I’ve been waiting for like, two years for a plot. Why won’t these boomers just. Let. It. Go! I swear, if I’d known it was going to be like this when we moved here…”
“Mommy, you’re getting mad,” her son piped up.
“Sorry honey, Mommy is just frustrated. It’s hard when you want to soar and your wings keep getting clipped by the damn boomers.”
I caught up with a musician friend over the phone a couple of weeks ago and told him about my idea to think like a millennial.
“I’m blogging and I’m tweeting a short story line by line,” I said. “Millennials put it all out there, so I am too. Trying, anyway.”
“I know, I follow you on twitter. I admire it,” Mark said. “You’re really brave.”
“Oh god, does my story suck that bad?”
“You’re brave because you’re putting your art out there,” he said. “I know in my soul I could have been a professional musician. I could have made it as a songwriter at least. But I was too scared.”
“It’s not too late,” I said. “You can still do it. We need art in the world. Now more than ever.”
“No,” he said. “I can’t bare myself like that. What if no one likes it? I’m not strong enough for rejection on that scale. I can perform for friends, but even that is terrifying.”
“But rejection from strangers? Who cares what they think? You’re brilliant! Your friends know it!”
“Okay, you know what I’ve learned from the boomers?” I heard him take a drag from a cigarette. “How to be afraid. Fear of nukes. Massive fear of losing money. Fear of all non-white people. Fear of gays. Fear of sex. Fear of women. They are f*cking afraid of everything, which is why they won’t let go of anything.” He took another drag. “And their fears manifest in us, in Generation X, as paralysis.”