I’m not going to pretend that I speak for all Millennials.
I grew up overseas. The 90s nostalgia over cartoons, cereal, and toys was never part of my life. I’d made plenty of trips back to the US, but never really spent any time in the culture until I was 17, arriving on the shores of the new world like the opening of some cliched immigrant story.
So maybe I’m looking at things through a strange, distorted lens. Maybe I’m alone in feeling that I’ve been seriously shortchanged on my future in the land of opportunity.
But I don’t think so.
Still, as I was writing this, I was starting to have second thoughts. Maybe my tone was too harsh, my criticisms to generalized, my frustration too warrant-less.
And then I watched this SNL skit titled “The Millennials”
“Beautiful twenty-somethings (Kate McKinnon, Pete Davidson, Miley Cyrus, Jon Rudnitsky) search for the love and success they’re entitled to on The Millennials.”
We watch a couple god-awful caricatures of Generation Y make outlandish demands of their sensible, long-suffering precursors. Near the end of the sketch, one of the smarmy Millennials threatens to jump out of a window. The two older workers stand back and say:
“Just do it.”
Cue the applause and cheers from the audience.
So yeah, **** being nice and measured here. Let me break down what I’m sick and tired of hearing from Gen X and their Boomer counterparts:
I. Kindly Ease Up With Demanding That I Get Married/Have Kids
Yes, Millennials are getting married later than previous generations, but the average has only only gone up by a couple years. Yet to hear some folks talk, you’d think Millennials were actively attempting to dismantle the institution of marriage entirely.
I guess I just don’t understand what the big deal is.
Right along there with the pressure to get married is the pressure to spawn offspring- though again, the exact why isn’t ever really covered.
It almost seems to be presented as some kind of civic duty. That establishing the nuclear family is vital to ze velbeing of ze fatherland.
And I could deal with that.
I disagree with it, but I could deal with it as an argument. Just not one presented by the Boomers and Gen Xers.
I mean, seriously.
This is the generation of free love. The generation that felt it their moral obligation to have carnal knowledge of everything that moved. The generation that saw the peak of the divorce rate in this country’s history, with over a third of boomers having been divorced at least once. And divorce remains common in Generation X, with cohabitation outside the bonds of marriage rising all throughout he 80s.
And this isn’t to say that former generations aren’t aware of their position. Proponents have asserted that just because their generation saw a wave of failed marriages and broken homes doesn’t mean that Millennials are doomed to the same course. And y’know what?
That’s totally true.
Which is the whole reason Millennials are putting off marriage and kids until later. Many saw their own parents split over the stress and hardship that came with financial struggles. We’ve all heard that the most common cause of divorce is money, and with that in mind young folks are trying to better establish themselves before trying to raise a family. People aren’t saying no to kids (and even if they were, how is that your business?), they’re saying “let’s try to do this right.” And in spite of saying exactly that, people are still acting like this is the end of society.
It’s the whole “You young people have to fix our mistakes, but also, do everything the exact way that we did it!”
II. Enough With The “You Gotta Pay Your Dues”
“Kids these days think they can just jump in at the CEO position”
How many times have we heard that? Someone moaning about the entitled, snow-flake generation who feels like everything should be given to ’em on a silver platter.
Allow me address these folks directly.
One of those damn kids who won’t get off your lawn. I hear you’ve been irritated by Generation Y expecting rapid advancement and pay raises.
Kids these days, right?
Well let’s see here…
You’ve been working at the company for what? 25 years? Pouring your blood, sweat, and tears into the job all for…
Well, what, exactly?
Your benefits get slashed, pensions are practically nonexistent. You’ve got a mortgage you can’t pay and stomach ulcers devouring you from the inside. Heck, you’re probably about to be replaced by a machine who can do your job better, faster, and cheaper, leaving you and a hundred others stranded in a rough economy, unprepared and underqualified.
But hey- at least you got to be assistant sub-vice president of regional development.
Oh wait, you didn’t. You gave your heart, soul, and best years to a company that threw you out like a bag of shredded paper.
You ever hear that old joke about the smoker and the nosy lady?
Guy’s standing outside, smoking a cigarette. Lady comes up to him and starts chewing him out about it. Telling him how unhealthy it is. What a bad habit it is. She tells him that if he just stopped smoking for five years, he’d have enough money for a Porsche.
Guy turns to the lady and asks her if she smokes. Mortified, she exclaims “No!”
“Well then,” the guy says, taking a long drag, “Where’s your Porsche?”
What I guess I’m trying to say here is that lots of folks in my generation are pretty skeptical of the system. If you’re likely to be job hopping (and every trend is pointing that way) then putting in the decades of work to climb up the ladder just doesn’t seem to be much of a plan. I’m not saying that you can just walk in to a C-level position, and I’m not saying that people shouldn’t work the front of the line. Honestly, I think everyone should get some grunt work in there- just maybe that they shouldn’t have to do it for most of their adult lives before deigning to ask for something better.
It kinda sounds like “sour grapes.”
You got an entry-level job back in the day when an entry-level job had a livable wage. So you didn’t push as hard. After years of punching the clock, you found yourselves in middle or upper management, and mistakenly thought that because it took you a quarter-century to get there, everyone should wait that long.
Look, I’m one those “entitled” Millennial brats who’s constantly asking for promotions. And do you know what it gets me?
Sure, I haven’t been in the workforce long, but I have received- in every position I’ve held since college- either a pay raise or a promotion within less than year. Why?
Some of it is hard work, some of it is creativity. Most of it, however, is simply because I asked for one. Because I said upfront that I wanted one and outlined what measures I’d have to hit to get one. Because I have loans to pay off, rent to make, and because I want to build up some savings in case folks torpedo the economy again.
And speaking of the economy…
III. Don’t Talk To Me About the Economy
We can debate all day who is ultimately responsible for the Great Recession of ’08. Big banks. Big government. Shifty lenders. Stupid borrowers.
I got my own theories, but I’ll keep ’em to myself. The folks you can’t blame, however, are the folks whose sole financial holdings came in the form of lemonade stands and twenty dollar iTunes giftcards.
The burden of the errors of previous generations are being left to their children and grandchildren, who are the first generation since the Great Depression to be more worse-off than their forebears.
And that’s OK.
Bad things happen and there’s not always a reason for it. It’s something we’ve got to accept.
What we don’t have to accept is the backseat driving from the same folks who were involved in the greatest financial crisis in almost a century. The seemingly incessant Boomer/X-er hand-wringing about Millennials not buying junk (as if we didn’t have enough debt already). Acting as if bouncing from apartment to apartment is something we just do for fun.
So spare me.
I will buy a house when and if I feel like buying a house. I don’t owe a damn thing to the real estate market. We will push for a higher minimum wage if we believe it will be in our interests to do so. And don’t expect us to forever pay into a Social Security system we’re unlikely to ever enjoy ourselves. We never pledged undying fealty to American capitalism, so stop acting like we’re the only thing holding back economic recovery.
Our faith in the wisdom of economists went bankrupt just about the time the economists did. Whether that’s wise or foolish remains to be seen, but such choices are entirely our own.
Deal with it.
IV. Stop Boasting “If You Can Remember the 60s, You Weren’t There”
Which is supposed to be a cutesy, funny way of saying that for the whole decade, everyone was so ****ing high, they can only remember a blur of paisley, peace signs, and psychotropic drugs.
And in and of itself, I’ve got no problem with that.
Here is the problem. The same generation that solved all of its problems with pills subsequently became the most ardent supporters of the war on drugs. On brutal, 3-strikes policies which turned the US into the world’s largest prison-nation. Which wrecked millions of lives and unfairly targeted people of color for both arrests and obscenely harsh punishments. And yet “if you can remember the 60s, you weren’t there”
And the same goes for war. The boomers present the greatest accomplishment as having stood up to the “man”. As having put an end to a brutal, unjust war through draft dodging and nonviolent resistance. And yet the subsequent years saw involvement in Lebanon, Iran, El Salvador, Grenada, Honduras, Nicaragua, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iraq (again). And that’s not counting the dozens of smaller conflicts.
So where were the hippies when my friends were being deployed in pointless wars?
They had long shaved off their pony tails and traded in their picket signs for caramel macchiatos and middle-management positions at Cox and Boeing. Apparently “Hell no, we won’t go!” puts really strong emphasis on the “we” part. When it comes to fighting poor people in the desert for reasons that remain unclear, the boomers won’t stop reminding us of our patriotic duty.
Let’s be clear- you folks were never dauntless crusaders for peace. The warhawks were right, you were just cowards. The irony of me using a Gen X character isn’t lost on me, but I’m going to let SLC Punk! take it away for me:
V. Enough With The Incessant Whining About “Political Correctness”
Look, I will be the first to admit that plenty of folks are oversensitive- even complaining just to feel a false sense of moral superiority.
That said, it’s not like we didn’t seriously need a cultural discussion about the language we use. Just check out the following “Long Duk Dong” compilation from 1984’s supposed classic Sixteen Candles:
I mean, that’s pretty horrifying, right? And this ain’t some obscure flick we’re talking about, this is a celebrated piece of Americana. Say what you will about the portrayal of non-whites in film (please do- it’s a major subject on this blog), you can’t deny that there’s been some improvement over this cringe-worthy sequence.
And it’s not just the racial stuff…
There’s a difference between taking away someone’s right to say something and recommending that someone consider what the right thing to say is. And again, there are people who take it too far- that’s not a point of contention here. What I am going to declare, however, is that it’s not Generation Y leading the charge.
Just look at France.
France has had a number of laws put into place which very much deserve to be called political-correctness-gone-mad. France has famously outlawed the “Muslim” niqab– because there’s no better to protect a woman’s freedom than telling her what she can and can’t wear. France has, on the other extreme, just outlawed prostitution– because the only thing worse than a woman wearing too much clothing is a woman not wearing enough. And because France is a little bit crazy, they have protested similar laws in Iran which require wearing headscarves. Because we can tell you what to wear, but no one else. Because it’s not about choice or freedom of expression or any of that- it’s about enforcing a very rigid style that the state, in its infinite wisdom, has deemed healthy and proper.
That is political correctness and it is not coming from Millennials.
I wasn’t able to get a full list of the age of every member of the National Assembly, so I wound up having to go through ’em one at a time, and let me tell you, it’s not exactly a youthful place. Again- bag on the gross excesses of sensitivity all you want- just don’t be expecting to be blaming on kids these days.
Is that so much to ask?
A little bit of fairness?
I’m not asking for previous generations to like Millennials- I’m not even going to ask to be respected. But for ****’s sake, could we stop being used as the scapegoat for society’s ills?
We’re not always the nicest folks ourselves, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a Vine or YouTube sketch where kids ask Boomers/X-ers to kill themselves.
Seriously, SNL- what the ****?
So just… ease up, I guess.
People who live in glass houses probably shouldn’t cast stones. Especially when those glasses houses are being foreclosed on.
Yeah, that’s a subprime mortgages joke.
Always end on a strong one- you know how we do it.