I get the Sunday paper every week. And I actually read it. Like, sit at the table, try desperately to ignore my children, and bury my nose in the newsprint so I can pretend to have some idea of what is happening in the rest of the world on the other six days of the week.
Of course I spend nine-tenths of my weekly ritual checking the book lists, cutting coupons and working my favorite word game, so I can’t beg a totally traditional reading of the news, but the sheer act of touching a physical paper puts me way out of touch with…almost everybody.
So it seems kismet that in my weekly old-school step away from modern media, I chanced upon a fascinating article in Parade magazine discussing how different today’s generation is than those of years past. Specifcally, it compared the Millennial generation (typically defined as those born 1981-1997) to the Baby Boomer generation (1946-1964).
I was captivated. I immediately called my father, the only other person I know who gets a physical paper and told him to go read it and then make my sister read it.
You see, my father is a Boomer, and my sister is a Millennial. And I am…what am I? I asked my husband, and he said, “I don’t know. Y or X or something?” Exactly. I looked it up–we are Generation X, but what does this even mean? The terms “Baby Boomer” and “Millennial” feel as familiar as the back of my hand, but what really are we?
I know that I still call people. As mentioned in the Parade article, it’s best not to call a Millennial; they will instantly panic and assume someone died.
I know that when my dad started texting, I laughed at the absurdity of how discongruent this seemed with his age…but that I myself only really started texting a year earlier.
I know that my seven-years younger sister was happily messaging away while I was still figuring how to peck out my first rough e-mails on the DOS system at college. I know that I know what a DOS system is, and she probably has never heard of it.
I know that because of this, that virtual communication has always felt more natural to her than to me. And that I will always, until the day I die, prefer to get a hand-written card on my birthday versus a Facebook message.
I know that I pretty much assume that everyone is pierced and tatted up–but that I still cringe when I see those ginormous ear stretchers.
I know that regularly sweep through the crunchy aisle at the grocery store and have sunk time into researching the best probiotics for my kids. My parents protected our health by yelling at us not to lick the drinking fountain in the park.
I know that the structure of our lives is very different and 9 to 5 jobs are rare. I myself work all kinds of random hours and I love the flexibility and convenience of my job.
Speaking of jobs, I blog for my job. And I know that my mother didn’t even know what a blog was. And that 5 years ago, neither did I.
I know that I’m really fussy about manners, and that I find it remarkable when kids today have them.
I know that I just typed the words “kids today”.
So no, I still can’t really say what a Generation X-er is, but I’m thinking it means we fall somewhere in the middle of Boomers and Millennials. Throw in a little of the older folks and a little of the hipsters, add a few sweet memories of sneaking corded phones into closets for private chats and Saturday nights with Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, and I think we’re summed up pretty well.
For certain, I know that while it’s fun to toss around all of these societally-aware thoughts, most of us Gen X-ers are too tired rocking the school drop-off lines with toddlers screaming in the background to really even care that much.
Maybe some day we’ll sort ourselves out, for now, just pass me my newspaper–so I can read about the new trendy smartphone I’m crushing on.