It’s Been a Minute

“You haven’t blogged in a while. What’s up with that?”

My friend Jeff and I were on the phone, old school: no Zoom, no FaceTime, 90 minutes and counting.

Jeff and me in the eighth grade play!

We met in the seventh grade. If I went back in time and told 12-year-old me that Jeff and I would still be friends 30 years later, I know 12-year-old Janet would look at me with clear eyes and say, A-doy, of course we will!

“I don’t know,” I replied to Jeff. “After George Floyd, I felt strange about blogging.”

“How so?”

I struggled for the words. “It’s sort of like what happened after 9/11,” I said. “The world shrank in that moment, yet the moment spread across the globe. We’re in the midst of a long overdue cultural shift. There’s serious work to do. Important moral changes need to happen. There’s so much to learn, especially about points of view. I only have my own, but I – we – have to learn to see the world from other points of view. It takes practice to be empathetic, to truly put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s the first step to truly becoming an ally.”

“It’s hard,” Jeff replied. “Especially if you have a limited imagination.”

“Generation X in a millennial world seems so pointless. I don’t think they’re handling BLM better than we are, I think it’s about the same. But they process it differently. They reflect and pour out their thoughts in real time. There’s no pause. I feel like Gen-X broods before sharing.”

“Why not write about this? What you’re trying to process?”

I snorted. “No one wants to hear a Gen-X white woman’s thoughts on Black Lives Matter.”

“No one,” Jeff agreed.

“How would I talk about processing the movement as me, but without it being about me?”

“How about just like that?”

***

My friend Melissa – also since the seventh grade – began sharing pictures of her family dinners again. She’d stopped because it seemed frivolous. “But, I realized a little frivolity goes a long way in trying times,” she wrote on Facebook.

Melissa’s Gado Gado from the original
Moosewood Cookbook

I’m glad Melissa’s posting again. Her posts don’t take away from the serious issues of our world. They provide a break, a chance to breathe. We need the breaks to keep up the BLM momentum because it’s all uphill from here. Breonna Taylor. Jacob Blake.

Melissa inspired me. Look at her beautiful meal! She’s inspiring you too, I can tell. We’re lucky to have Melissa’s gorgeous meals and witty life commentary back on our social media feeds.

So here I am after a three month absence. Hopefully with a little frivolity of my own.

I’ve missed you! Leave me a comment or send me a message on how you’ve been managing with COVID, BLM, unemployment, and everything else going on in the world.

Big Bites of Reality

“What is the defining song of Generation X?” I texted my musician friend Brad.

I pictured him taking a hefty drag on a cigarette as ellipses danced on my screen.

“That’s a tough one,” he texted. “What defines us? Anger? Public Enemy’s Fight the Power. Apathy? Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana. Manic-pixie-wistful? Lisa Loeb’s Stay. Sexuality? Prince. Madonna.”

“Disillusionment?” I texted back. “That song by Talking Heads. And you may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife.”

“And you may ask yourself well? How did I get here?” Brad finished. “Yeah that’s pretty good.”

“Nothing by Weird Al?” (We love Al, so this was a legit question.)

“He’s brilliant but not ironic. Speaking of, Isn’t It Ironic by Alanis might be perfect. Generation X loves irony.”

“Even if we don’t know what it means?”

“When the outcome is the opposite of the intent. And funny. You’re welcome.”

“Anyway,” I texted, chagrined, “I remember back in the day Generation X loved nostalgia. The boomers were big on remembering how great their youth was compared to current.”

“Our parents taught us to worship the past,” Brad replied. “The Big Chill. The Wonder Years. The Monkees. Happy Days. All testaments to themselves. So we did it when we entered our 20s. And we do it now. The Goldbergs. Stranger Things.”

“Schoolhouse Rock was a musical back in the 90s.”

“The Banana Splits. HR Pufnstuf. The Muppet Show. All that crap got new life because we copied the boomers. Ironically of course.”

“Of course.”

That afternoon Brad sent me a link. “Interplanet Janet! Found your perfect Generation X song. You’re welcome.”

The definitive Generation X cover.

More Bites of Reality

“I think Generation X is the last generation to grow up in the real world,” a girlfriend said over lunch. “We actually talk to people. In person. And on the phone. My kid never answers her phone. She refuses to call anyone, especially a business. If she can’t find it on the internet, she’ll go without. She’s on her smartphone obsessively but won’t ever use the phone part.”

“Why are you so obsessed with millennials?” my husband demanded. “They are the worst. They’re so entitled! And not for nothing, but avocado toast is just guacamole on bread.”

“You know what Generation X gave the world?” my friend Phil asked. “Internet porn. You’re welcome.”

Little Bites of Reality

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.”