The Gen X Thread

I figure most of us on this forum are members of the esteemed Generation X. We should have a club. To kick things off, I offer up this…

Like many things considered “cool,” Gen X is pretty exclusive. You had to be born between 1965 and 1980 to get in to this gloomy, goofy club of forgotten middle children, and only about 65 million of us were. (Both boomers, at 75 million, and millennials, at 83 million, far outnumber us.)

The idea behind that “X” was about coming between. Gen X supposedly didn’t know what they were, or what they wanted. All they knew, they were told, was what they didn’t want — marriage, money, success — and then they shrugged and popped a Prozac.

As “Reality Bites” celebrates its 25th anniversary; as groups like Bikini Kill, Wu-Tang Clan and Hootie & the Blowfish reunite for tours; as generational idols like Ani DiFranco and Liz Phair publish memoirs; and as the first real Gen X candidates make a run for president, Gen X is in the air.

And you know what else Gen X is? Getting older. Its oldest members are 54; its youngest are preparing for 40. As we try to make sense of that fact, here’s a look at the stuff we loved and hated, as well as a re-evaluation of things like “The Rules,” grunge, CK One and 1994; an appreciation of John Singleton; a quiz to figure out which generation you actually are; and a visit with Evan Dando, plus some dynamite for the myths that have always dogged Gen X. So plug in your headphones, click on that Walkman and let’s travel through this time machine together. — Anya Strzemien

This always gets me: 15 years for GenXers ('65-80), 18 for Boomers ('46-'64), so per year, Boomers are a smaller cohort than GenXers.

Yet another example of how the Boomers fucked us over!

I’d say that I’m excited to be joining my fellow X’ers in celebration but my perpetual apathy prevents. So, you know, oh well, whatever, never mind.

Sobering moment. We’re working with a group whose acronym rhymes with HARP, and if you’re 50 or older – or getting there – you get mailings from them.

Anyway, we’re doing a project with them on member benefits, and I did a double take when I noticed a couple of their member offerings were specifically by name tailored for Gen X’ers.

I think those of us in 80-83 need our own word if 80 is the cutoff for X. If your high school classmates used pagers, you’re not a millennial.

We are the sons of no one
Bastards of young
Unwillingness to claim us
You got no war to name us.

I was thinking about this recently: When is Gen X’s moment in charge of things? It was boomers, boomers, boomers for so long. Now it’s all about those millennials. Are we just getting leap-frogged? Or is there something in our nature that recuses ourselves from responsibility and is happy to immediately pass the baton?

I know a lot of baby boomers are hanging on in politics, but congress, etc, has got to be filling up with Gen Xers, right? So what’s our deal, politically speaking? Creative and tech people are mostly Gen Xers. It should be OUR culture right now, or on its way there. Is that a thing, and it’s just not being talked about? Or are we shrugging our way through it?

Then when I’m done thinking this stuff, I think, “What a bunch of tribalist, pop-psych bullshit. Why do I care?” And maybe that’s the Gen X in me.

Good question. I think of current Dem pols that have announced a run for President, only O’Rourke, Booker and Gillibrand are GenX. So, yeah, where are we?

Well it is our culture now. Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Elon Musk, Marissa Mayer, Susan Wojcicki, Sheryl Sandberg, Jack Dorsey, Jan Koum, Satya Nadella, Sundar Pachai etc, all are Gen Xers. Think of a major tech company and it’s more likely than not run by a Gen Xers. (Bezos was born in '64, Zuckerberg in '83, and Cook in '60, so they’re exceptions.)

The boomers have stayed in charge of things for way past their time. It’s one of the reasons why I seriously consider “not crazy old” to be an actual thing I consider as a voter at this point.

You can’t have folks in charge who literally aren’t going to have to live with the consequences of their decisions.

Am an older gen X. Thoughts about my gen, growing up, often circle around geek culture becoming cool, and knowing about computers when it seemed the boomers were clueless, even as a teenager.

Also, I’m upvoting the Replacements lyrics. And let us not forget the Violent Femmes, or R.E.M. before the Green record.

The dating of Gen X starting at 1965 is a bit weird. Many sources have it as 1961 instead, which makes more sense to me – late era boomers had disco and cocaine. If you’re still in high school at the end of the 70’s, you aren’t a Boomer by my book.

Also weird to lump people who were in high school at the end of the 70’s with people (like me) who were in high school in the mid 90’s.

Yeah, these “gens” are by nature somewhat arbitrary. I can say that my cultural values have always seemed very distinct from the boomer generation, so I give it some credence.

I guess the question for you is whether your contemporaries felt a big disconnect with people 7 or 10 years older.

This is the way I feel, I don’t think being a Gen Xer defines me, but as a whole I see a difference from us and Boomers. Still, people in each generation fall all over the place and I don’t meet someone and assume I know their politics because of age.

Yet I got in a lot of trouble at work over this. I’m 49 (X), coworker was 55 (a Boomer). We were having a very light, generic political discussion. I said “I am ready for the Boomers to die off, let the kids be in charge.” He hasn’t said anything indicating his politics, and I didn’t realize he was a Boomer. He turned me into HR for wishing a group of people dead. They were going to fire me, but my boss fought for me and I am on a year probation.

I didn’t mean I wanted anyone to die, and I had no idea anyone took their generation that seriously. It was a dumb thing to say, I will admit.

He quit a few weeks later. We got along pretty good too.

You guys are famously a bunch of slackers: you just don’t have that millennial drive. Plus, your preceding generation keeps clinging to power, to the detriment of us all.

I agree, which is why I so closely associate the Pacific Northwest and really the broader Pacific Coast with Gen X; culturally, from Grunge and Gangster Rap, leading into the tech industry and the rise of Microsoft in the late 90s into the app based social media into the 00s.

Gen X had a weird upbringing - it was far more retrospective and backward looking than anything before, in a search for authenticity - we had Woodstock 2.0 and Lalapalooza and MTV and this mix of commercial and authentic. But it was still an analog world and high school in the 90s was probably far more like high school in the 60s than the 10s, being taught the values of the boomers which they aspired to if not lived up to themselves.

Then 9/11 happened and Gex X got swallowed up by sociopolitical events outside of their control; some signed up, most kept their heads down, and basically a whole generation was “lost” - and it’s 9/11 which caused Gen X to get lost, imo - for our Eternal War which has lasted almost two decades has been run on the back of Gen X. In many ways their closest analog is the “Greatest Generation”, a generation shaped and affecting larger world-wide events. The difference is that Gen X has found the sclerotic systems of influence and power blocks them from meaningful change.

Gen Z is the result of Gen X, hyper-aware and hyper-liberal young people. It seems like (imo) the heart of Gen X is torn between these suburban wood shingled, pre-digital homes they grew up in and the increasingly fast paced, overcrowded world they’re trying hard to raise their kids up in the best they can.

Yeah as an 84 I really think the millennial moniker is over broad.

If you’re old enough to remember a time before cellphones and used command line prompts and pay phones, you’re not a millennial.

Hell I still use command line prompts on some legacy systems at work. That which is dead may never die.