Generation X.2

If you’re roughly my age, we may share some of these academic distinctions:

  • Last or close-to-last class of students to attend various Cold War or pre-war era schools before their sometimes dubious 90s and 00s renovations.  (Elementary school, high school, college)
  • Last or close-to-last class to take a typing elective with actual typewriters. (9th grade, but I didn’t really learn to type until I started using AIM the next year.) Possibly the last class to even be offered a typing elective.
  • Last class to run DOS in a computer applications class. (10th grade)
  • Last class to run DOS-based email and instant messaging on campus servers. (college)

Presumed shared cultural experiences:

  • Old enough to have been into late 80s/early 90s music the first time, young enough to have looked up to the people who made it.  Old enough to have been into mid-80s music the first time, young enough to have had no way of buying it yourself.
  • Were in elementary school, not high school, when Bad came out.
  • Were in junior high, not college, when Kurt Cobain died.
  • Were the last group of kids to make mixtapes.  While the older and younger ends of Generation X differ in significant ways, this is one thing we all did right along with you, John Cusack.
  • Saw your first Molly Ringwald movie on VHS (or TBS), not at a theatre.
  • Your first John Hughes movie was more likely Uncle Buck or Home Alone than Sweet Sixteen or The Breakfast Club

Political memories:

  • the Soviets were scary until the end of elementary school. There was a Berlin Wall.

If you were born between, say, 1977 and 1982, a lot of this might hold true for you.  Most  commentators put those years within the Generation X set, and when I was a kid, I  thought that was the coolest.  But when I think of Generation X these days, I think of 40- year-olds, people who were in college in the early 90s (yes, I think of Lisa Bonet, don’t  you?), who were teenagers in all those Brat Pack movies.  I don’t think of people who are  about to or have only recently turned 30.  I don’t think of people our age. [Ed. note: I wrote and posted this 4 years ago.  I’m almost 35 now. Time only goes faster.]

Granted, generational definitions are sort of meaningless and almost always vast: the Baby Boomers are said to have been born between the mid-40s and mid-60s. What does that even mean?  Still, I’m with everyone who calls people in their 80s and 90s now The Greatest Generation.  They’re a group of people who went through it all and still had energy left over in their 60s and 70s to help take care of us. They were united by the Depression, the living memory of one World War, the coming and hell of another, and in many cases, the added hardships and injustices of recent immigration.

“Come Undone” was my first Duran Duran single. You do the math.

What binds, say, the Boomers?  Not being their parents?  What binds Generation X?  Music? Movies? Pop culture references and ironic savvy?  Being the first generation to have two parents working outside of the home as a norm? Birth years, as they relate to generational labels, seem now like unruly sundry cohorts lumped together with too much ease.  In our case, perhaps Generation X contains everyone as old as Eddie Vedder down to everyone young enough to have bought Ten in middle school.  Said the other way, perhaps it contains us and everyone 10-13 years older than us that made the music, television, movies we still love and reference.

Even so, I’d like to suggest a parsing of our Generation.  1967-72: X.0. 72-77: X.1. 77-82: X.2 and so on. 82-85? Y.0.

I was talking with my friend Tim, who I’ve known since 1986 or so, about some of these things on Facebook a few days ago.  He had some interesting suggestions for a post about things we experienced that our kids never will. I’ll follow up with more on that in the next few days.  By the way, free knucklesandwiches to anyone who starts calling them Generation Z.  How about Generation More Awesome Than Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, and The Hulk Combined?

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13 Comments

  1. The book Millenials Rising addresses a lot of these issues. It was published in early 2001 and as such is pretty dated (Millenials have never known national tragedy, and Kobe Bryant and Britney Spears are our wholesome, clean-living role models), but the theory is pretty interesting.

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  2. I’m a ’79 kid which is somewhat akward.

    My older cousins are very clearly Gen X. My younger cousins are very clearly Gen Y. And then there’s those of us who grew up on the cusp of one generation and the others. We’re not really old enough to enjoy the slacker rebellion of Reality Bites and not really young enough to truly understand texting and social media.

    (RE: Social Media) You and I pontificate about it, but GenY does it thoughtlessly- getting it right without having to understand “why” they are getting it right!

    It’s such a strange age!

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  3. Elective? For me, typing was mandatory in 8th grade and did use real typewriters. No DOS in primary or secondary school for me, but only because the educational market was flooded with Apple products. Last to use the ubiquitous Apple II with a sickly green text display I think is more common. Did Ursinus really have DOS-based communication utilities when you started? I guess things changed rapidly in two years. Being directly on the cusp between your X.2 and Y.0 (and oblivious to much of pop culture until it is no longer popular), most of your other shared experiences are meaningless to me.

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  4. Chad, yeah, it was very, very DOS. The whole campus was. It was a very different place ’98-’00. My second two years were very different.

    We didn’t have Apple anything. I do remember the librarian teaching us about what CD-ROM stood for, and I remember my techier friends talking about the old (not old then) BBS.

    Nathan, some people are calling the generation after Y “Digital Natives”…you make a great point that even some of the later Ys are naturally savvy in social media. Think about this: most kids today will never have to get over the anxiety of calling a friend’s house and having to talk to parents.

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  5. I was so proud of my 120minute mix tapes. Ah, it was a wonderful time to be alive! Yeah, I like the X.2 designation, it fits us far more. We aren’t as pseudo rebellious as they were. I remember wondering what all the angst was about. And we aren’t half as whiny as the Ys. I feel like we lived our formative years at the death of one era and the birth of a new one, but doesn’t every generation feel that way? What will the millenians think when they hit 30 and the kids then have computer implants in their heads to hook up to the Network. Sci-Fi I know, but they’ll have these lists to. One questions. Does seeing a 16 year-old wearing a He-Man or Rainbow Bright T-shirt piss you off? Of the one with the original Nes controller on it? I always have this blinding urge to go over and rip the shirt off them, yelling about their lack of a right, since they have no concept. Just a thing for me. Posers.

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    1. Yes! I was at a concert once and one young chap had a Goonies t-shirt on. This was the same fellow who thought that the artist’s cover of “Golden Slumbers” “must be a new song!” When I heard him say that, I turned around and gave him a stare. That’s when I noticed the t-shirt. You have no right, sir, no right. I mean, I know I wasn’t around for Abbey Road, but if you don’t know your Beatles from your Ben Folds, well, wear a Power Rangers shirt or something equally Yish. And read an album sleeve or two. Album? Sleeve? Fffffwhat???

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  6. This is enormously cathartic!! I hate being on the cusp but not being a part of either, and at the same time being sheltered from childhood for fear that I would join the rebellions of those older than a child of 1980.

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