The days when I thought myself the voice of my generation are long gone, but this week’s interactive collage in the New York Times’ Style section reminded me just how Gen X I am.
True, my parents are not divorced, and I never made any money in the Great DotCom Swindle of the late 1990s that I believe may be my cohort’s greatest accomplishment thus far, value judgments aside. And while I shared my people’s penchant for self-medication, I never took any Prozac.
But other than that, I’m Generation X through and through, at least by NYT standards.
I went from the 8-track to the 45, the cassette to the CD, Napster to Limewire to Pandora to Spotify, and I watched old vinyl collections go from treasure to trash and back again. With those tools I helped perpetuate the Baby Boomer classic-rock ethos — their stuff permeates our generation’s culture like fluoride in the water — but also bore witness to the birth of new wave, punk rock and hip hop, with varying degrees of enthusiasm at the time.
And sure, like it says in the New York Times: Benneton. “The Cosby Show.” Tabitha Soren. That piece of string I wore around my neck and the culture that came to be called “grunge.” That time when the houses we struggled to buy collapsed in value just as equity was starting to build. It all checks out.
But the Times collage only brushes up against the real angst (such a Gen X word) I’ve always felt defines those of us who came up in those years after Watergate but before we could buy CBD on our phones.
As middle children to the much larger generations before and after us, we know we’ve been passed over. Most of my friends have either begun their own businesses or wallow in the upper echelons of middle management while Baby Boomers remain in the C-suite, trying to figure out what Millennials want. We all have a sneaking suspicion that we’re not going to collect a dime of our Social Security when the time comes.
We’ve known that the deck has been stacked against us since New Coke.
And that, as much as our penchant for flannel, colors our experience thus far.