X-tra Large Generation Gaps

By Maria Mantalvo | May 13, 2011

The New York Times recently said my generation was going through a mid-life crisis.

Generation X was the first generation to go by a one-letter, unqualifying title, rather than the loaded monikers that preceded us (greatest generation, lost generation, Generation Jones, baby boomers).

Gen-Xers found our single-letter utterly appropriate since we grew up waiting to see if we were going to be around the morning after the bomb.

The popular saying of the 80s highlighted our depth of thoughtfulness (and was proudly displayed on a button on my faded denim jacket): “The One Who Dies with the Most Toys Wins.” 

Seemed there wasn’t much else to do but accumulate while we waited to see what was going to happen.

And since we did not put any faith in cowering under our desks (and it risked messing up our hair), we lived in fear balanced by pleasure.

All of a sudden, in December 1989, it was all over. The great game of chicken with Russia (or the USSR, as it was called back in the day) was over, and Generation X had to find something to do.

The Generation Ys, Zs, and Es have nothing on the Xs. We do it and have it all—the women bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan.

The men succeed in business and appreciate the value of a good spa service. Relationships mean love, work, home improvement, and kids, but only if you want kids.

We transitioned from verbal support for doing the right thing (finding a cure for AIDS, ending hunger, following the plea of another King to “just get along”) to overzealous volunteerism…at the local school, performing arts center, political party.

By the new millennium, Gen X had arrived. So now, in 2011, if we had it all, why are we having such a dramatic mid-life crisis?

Those lucky baby boomers seemed to be blissfully unaware of aging until about 2009. 

I’m 40 now…40, forty, 4-0. Does that mean I have to stop wearing jeans every day?

Has a healthy dose of social cynicism transitioned us from rebellious to irritable?

Do I have to acknowledge that my 401K will never go up as fast as my age?

Can I dance with my eyes closed anymore?

Turning 40, becoming middle-aged…you become part of the larger group.

You are no longer the future or making a name for yourself, you are just part of the whole.

Generation X has joined the greatest generation, the baby boomers, and everyone else, on the road to overwhelming the Social Security system and struggling to remain viable in the workforce.

All this togetherness does not seem to foster similitude, though.

Edmonds is home to members of all of these generations, and even though most of us are in the same boat, we do not always see eye to eye.

For example, I think we need to take care of and improve the parks we already have, and there are only a few buildings in town that need protecting.

I love skateboards, don’t like awnings, and prefer contemporary public art. Does any of this matter to the Generation Ys, Zs, and Es, or the boomers or the greatest?

The only thing we all experience is that the world does the only thing it always does—change.

I’m not sure which generation likes change the most or the least, but I’ll be along for the ride with the rest of the whole, remembering Rodney King’s words.

By the way, do I have to give away the black leather pants I got in 1985?

Can I still have a serious conversation about reading Castaneda?

And am I allowed to dye my hair any of the colors it has been in the past, other than my natural color?

When do I stop asking for permission?

Maybe that’s at 50…

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