Hey, Generation X: Stop Apologizing. We don’t owe anyone jack shit.
Gen-X cartoon and cartoonist Tim Krieder used to be kind of funny, but I think he’s had one too many crates of bourbon. Here he is, featured in the New York Times, blaming his generation—my generation—for accepting and continuing everything from “rotten institutions” to gender roles. Because, as the smallest, most ignored demographic alive, we have the power to do things, you see. I’ve also heard hilarious fairytales coming from the youngsters—kids still living at the expense of their suburban parents, cawing about how being in your 40s brings you privilege. We owe them our attention, and ought to step aside.
Step aside? When the fuck were we in front? I guess in some alternative timeline, we run the world. I don’t know about other industries. But in this version of the universe, writers and journalists who were born in the dark heart of Gen X, between 1970 and 1980, own and owe nothing.
We worked our asses off to have the rug pulled out from under us, apprenticing without the benefit of either connections or the Internet, only to have the entire world change just as we had learned to deal with it. Most of my friends are dead or dying of alcoholism, suicide, or early disease. In the context of what most of us went through, the spectacle of a genuinely privileged token X’er douchebag like Krieder trying to get hipster points by pretending to hang his head is appalling. No matter what you mewl, the kids are coming to eat you, too. And it won’t be so cute and fun when it’s you.
Does anyone remember the 2008 recession?
Rather inconveniently, it happened around the same time that the entire world became Internet-based.
While the Millennials were in college moaning about how the Even Better Depression, as my sister likes to call it, was going to ruin their future, it was actively ruining the best years of their elders’ lives.
We were in our mid-30s. We had done our apprenticeships, learned our professions, and were supposed to be making our career, making money for retirement, reaping the benefits of a youth spent groveling in low level jobs while waiting for the Baby Boomers to condescend to allow us to move past entry level. We had learned to write and were putting together our first novels, hoping the publishing industry would hang together long enough for us to actually meet someone in it.
It was our time. Well, it should have been our time. But the bottom dropped out. For the best years of our lives, it stayed out. When I was 34 years old, after apprenticing for most of my 20s in journalism and then going back to school, I was bussing tables till two in the morning to pay the rent. Because I worked with illegal South American immigrants who couldn’t speak English or defend themselves, it was all my coworkers and I could do to ever even get paid our paltry wages, much less get ahead. I wasted a ridiculous amount of energy fighting to get myself and my coworkers paid our scraps to stay alive, rather than working on my “blogging career.”
But alternatives were few. Aside from the state of the economy as a whole, the newspaper industry where I and many others had patiently trained had died. And what replaced it, the Internet industry, had limited jobs available, at much lower pay than what we had been watching our elders take home just a few years before. Worse, the Internet didn’t give a fuck that we had spent the best years of our lives apprenticing to be journalists. After telling us all throughout our twenties that we needed to earn our stripes to become higher-level reporters, ya know what the Baby Boomers did?
They decided thirty-something was too old, and started hiring Millennials instead.
We watched as the standard age for a reporter went from ten years older than we were to ten years younger in the space of five years. From “You need decades of experience to become a serious journalist!” to “You’re too serious; we need someone hip and young!”—the rules flipped as the prime of our life passed us by. You had to grab whatever crap job came by just to survive. If you had a trust fund or other wealth to cushion you as you set up your own thing or waited for your blog to take off, you might be OK. Then again, you might die of an overdose.
And now we’re supposed to be checking our privilege. I would rather you check my asshole.
My fellow Gen Xers, don’t you dare fucking apologize.
And don’t treat the kids like they’re hip, or like they have some youthful wisdom that you should respect. Doug Stanhope was right: this is the first time in US memory that the older generation has looked back at the younger one and been shocked—not because they’re rambunctious, but because they’re boring, uptight, self-righteous assholes. From word-policing SJW maggots to would-be woman-resenting “traditionalists” who are blatantly mad that they can’t get laid, you needn’t consider any of their opinions as anything more than the squalling of a terrified, sheltered, digital imbecile.
All you owe anyone is a middle finger.