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I am Generation X – Guest Post

January 22, 2010

I am Generation X.

Seriously.

I am participating in an online book club right now with some other lovely ladies from the blogosphere.  We are reading Feminism is NOT the Story of My Life by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese.  This post is not about Feminism nor really, the story of my life.  However…there WAS a conversation about our book in which one lovely lady pointed out that it would be helpful to remember what generation Fox-Genovese was “writing” to and realize the differences in perception of some of the different generations.

THIS generation thing…is right up my alley.  I am fascinated by the research done and conclusions drawn about my generation, Generation X.

When I was in college, I HATED being lumped in with Generation X.  They called us slackers and we all listened to “Grunge” music.  We hung out in jeans and flannel shirts over t-shirts.  We didn’t work hard.  We had a bad attitude.

This was a time (when I was in college) that Baby Boomers were writing about Generation X.

When I took a Generations class in my MBA program in the early 2000’s, I discovered that Generation X was now writing about Generation X.  Fancy that! 

But to get back on track…I felt like I really understood what Generation X was all about. 

It was written that we had “bad attitudes” and were “cynical” but there were explanations for that.  Events that impacted our generation were things like the Challenger explosion in 1986 – we were all watching that day in our classrooms as the first teacher in space was killed along with the entire crew.  We were the first (and really only) “Latch-key kids.”  Many of us grew up in single-parent families.  We saw the dawn of MTV and 24-hour news coverage.  We played Atari and watched too much television. 

Whatever it was…you name it, we were placed in front of it to keep us entertained while our parents lived at their jobs. 

Some other socio-economic factors that impacted our generation:  Divorce (specifically the legalization of “no-fault” divorce); Legalized abortion and contraception (we are the smallest generation by far – sandwiched between the mammoth Baby Boomers and the almost-as-mammoth Gen Y); Dual-income families; Big corporate layoffs and a crappy economy.

As a group, we were left to our own devices much of the time.  Many kids went home after school (the aforementioned “latch-key” kids) to an empty house, to entertain themselves while their parents worked until the evening.  This meant tons of TV, video games and computer time.  You can simply watch some of the movies popular during this time…and still very popular with Gen X – Sixteen Candles, Ferris Buehler’s Day off, The Breakfast Club – all screaming of adolescents who lacked attention and wanted to feel loved.  They had parents way too absorbed in themselves, to notice their needs.  Seriously…John Hughes, may he rest in peace, had the scoop on Gen X.

As a result of this upbringing, we became a fairly self-sufficient bunch.  As a whole, we didn’t ask for, nor expect help from our parents.  They weren’t around for the growing up, why allow them an opinion later?  Much of the research I read pointed to the fact that in the work place, Gen X was more interested in having the goal explained and the independence to get from point A to point B.  Because that is what we had done for most of our lives.  We rode the wave as our country shifted from a manufacturing economy to a service-based economy.  We were called “slackers” due to our impatience with a structured work environment and our disdain with micro-management techniques.  And we’re more likely to hitch a ride to a new job when we’re no longer pleased with the current one.

Many of us had parents who divorced and remarried later and had our Generation Y brothers and sisters.  This only continued to sour our perspective on life.  Not only did we miss out on having our parents and the security – both emotional and financial – that they should have brought to us…we had to watch as our now-grown-up parents provided that stability and security to our younger, spoiled siblings (our impression).

This only touches the surface, as I am sure you can imagine.  But my life was Gen X.  My parents were the beginning of the Baby Boomers.  They were both fairly selfish and they divorced when I was 8.  I was a latch-key kid…only I had the job of being responsible for younger siblings.  We walked everywhere together.  We walked to school, we walked home, we cooked our own dinner and put ourselves to bed.  We got ourselves up the next morning to do it all over again.  I admire my mother…she got through nursing school after the divorce and kept our family off public assistance in the interim, with the assistance of my father who never missed a child support payment.  But she wasn’t present for me.  My father was absent, too.  When the divorce happened he lived halfway across the country.  My siblings and I spent our summer days watching MTV, getting ourselves to and from swim practices, and spending a fair amount of time unsupervised.

To be honest, I think it will be very interesting to see the statistics as our generation ages.  How many of us married?  How long were we married?  Did we end up divorced?  How many kids did we have?  How many jobs did we have?  How much money did we have?  Did we ever get to appreciate inter-dependence rather than just prideful independence?

I’ll be the first to admit that this post is full of generalizations about Gen-X.  Obviously, some of us made it through with our parents’ marriages intact, no major job losses along the way, plenty of attention from our parents.  But the statistics bear out that this would be a minority.

Where do you fit in?  If you are not a Gen X…what is your impression of them?  It’s even more fascinating a topic when you start to research the interactions between the generations.  But that could be another blog post.  There are plenty of resources out there if this sort of topic floats your boat.  I highly recommend the book “Generations At Work.”  While this book applies findings to the corporate setting, it had some very interesting information on all the generations.

Thanks so much for reading.  I really enjoyed writing this guest blog post.  If you’re interested reading more of my stuff, you can find me at http://musingsofacatholiclady.blogspot.com.

Michelle writes the blog Musings of a Catholic Lady where she writes haikus, discusses the things that are important to her (in her ‘Why Do I’ series), and a million other things. Go visit her now 🙂

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. January 22, 2010 6:30 am

    What an interesting post! I straddle the line between Gen
    X and Gen Y, but associate more with Gen X.

    You have a very different take on this, and I appreciate your perspective.

  2. January 22, 2010 6:44 am

    I consider myself incredibly blessed to have been largely insulated from the whole Gen X thing. I’m smack in the middle of GenX, but I also grew up on a farm, with very traditional parents who are themselves very atypical Boomers. So your perspective on this is very interesting, although I’m afraid I don’t have much intelligent to add on the subject!

  3. January 22, 2010 7:19 am

    What a great post! I do have a question, cuz I’m not sure if I’m a gen xer or a gen yer (so what are the time frames of each generation?) I guess would be my question….. cuz I was in middle school when the entire grunge thing happened and I hate Nirvana, even today.

    Wonder what they’re gonna call my kids generation. I hope they get off the letter thing. Generation Z is weird. Maybe Generation Crunchy… or Generation Green?

  4. January 22, 2010 8:02 am

    I can so totally relate to this. In fact, I have an overwhelming urge to break out my Pearl Jam and Everclear CDs 🙂

  5. January 22, 2010 8:49 am

    Very interesting! I am pretty sure I am a generation X, but cannot remember what years it switched. I was lucky enough to have a mom at home though.. though most of my friends were latch key kids.

  6. January 22, 2010 9:41 am

    FYI – different sources vary on dates, but usually those people born anywhere from 1965 to 1981 is viewed as “Generation X’. If you’re on the “cusp” you can usually identify with either generation surrounding you. So, someone born late 60’s might identify some with Baby Boomers and X-ers. Someone born in 1981 might identify with X or Y. Generation Y is typically those who were born from 1980 to 2000 or so.

  7. January 22, 2010 12:12 pm

    You describe the times well Michelle. I think each generation is formed by the unique circumstances that surrounds it. I always found it interesting that we were all seen as slackers, but then the so called slackers ended up creating their own jobs in many cases. They were different kinds of jobs from what came before, but jobs nonetheless. Thanks for writing this!

  8. January 23, 2010 12:43 am

    I’m between X and Y and find myself associating with both. There was something about what events defined our lives. Some of the Gen Y things were even before I remember but by the years, I’m closer to X I guess.

  9. January 23, 2010 9:01 am

    What a fantastic post. Oh my goodness….. I remember the challenger explosion 1986 8th grade in science class. Both my parents worked and I was always involved in after school activities, thank goodness. But my sisters weren’t my sister Lynette was a latch key kid who walked to my other siblings schools and they all walked together home. When I think about it makes me sad for her. Now she is such a fantastic mom to her kids , a fantastic wife, and just a plain fantastic person.

    Thanks for posting this the flood gates of memories started flowing back.

    Here from Follow friday which today is actually Saturday but who cares right! LOL I am a slacker what else can i say ROFL.

  10. Rachel permalink
    January 24, 2010 9:42 am

    This was awesome!! Thanks for the memories 🙂 I can totally relate with both generations. I learned a lot about this in some college classes and it was interesting to see how older generations veiwed us. Now it will be interesting to see how our children grow up. Maybe it will be a “green” generation…not sure how I feel about that; I’ll let you know in a few more decades 🙂 Thanks again! Fun read!

  11. January 24, 2010 9:58 am

    Michelle,

    I definately fit into the generation X, latch-key era. The only difference for me is that my parents never divorced. There were some days we would only see our parents for half and hour in the morning and then again just in time to tell them good night and report we had our chores done. My sister practically raised my brother and I and she still resents it to this day.

    Thank you for your post.

    Shawna

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