Generation X – the perpetual middle child. We are often left out of conversations about generational contributions and that is most likely because of how we were treated from day one.
Growing up with the original “me” generation (boomers) as parents really took a toll on us as a group. We were seen as lazy in relation to their generation, but that was mainly because in the 80s/90s we were in our teens and twenties. What kids AREN’T lazy in their teens? Laziness is a defining factor of the teenage years. Sure there are those who have a drive from the day they are born, but those people are outliers. Most teenagers (and yes I am making a generalization here) are lazy.
Teenagers also need more sleep than children and adults do (read about that here) and so it can seem like they are lazy when their bodies are just craving more sleep. Due to their schedules, they usually don’t get the right amount of sleep (9 hours per night is what a teen actually needs) and so they may appear groggy during the day. Although these sleep patterns are seen in teenagers from all generations, somehow Generation X was tagged with the laziness and slacker labels. Due to these labels, we have been ignored or inched out of many conversations over the years and now, because we are a slightly smaller generation sandwiched between two larger generations (the ‘me’ generation boomers and the ‘me me me’ generation Millennials) things like this happen.
Being ignored has it’s upside too, though. It means that we were not marketed to heavily until we reached our 40s and 50s. Either advertisers didn’t believe we had disposable income (which could be the case since we lived through a pretty bad down turn in the markets in both 2001 and 2008) or they simply couldn’t figure out how to use our grunge music to sell us products. Our musicians didn’t sell out in their 20s like some of the current day musicians have. And hey – no judgement on the sell out thing – Millennials need to sell out in order to acquire all the things that will make them feel safe and happy. Gen Xers were just better at making due.
Now, we can thank our former latch key status for supposedly teaching us to be better with our finances, so it isn’t all bad, but it can be disconcerting to see our generation completely ignored. Especially when it comes to popular media. Specifically, a show that a lot of us adored when it first came out in the 90s, that has now decided to completely erase us from the timeline of, well, time!
That show is Tales of the City, which has been rebooted on Netflix for another go at it. Armisted Maupin has been brought on as a consultant and the new series revolves around the old characters, Anna Madrigal who is now 90 and the gang from Barbary Lane, who are now supposedly in their late 40s. They have also added new characters – Shawna, the daughter of Connie Bradshaw, who is 25 years old and a slew of other Millennials that are the new tenants and ‘Barbarians’.
I would normally suspend my disbelief to be okay with the fact that some of the ages of characters are not exactly correct, but when it results in everyone my age being written out of the story it makes me a little mad. I mean – Shawna should be in her 40s. She should be a Gen Xer. But that wouldn’t make for great television since they wouldn’t be able to have the boomers make fun of her as a Millennial (which they do several times throughout the new series). The main characters from the original series (Mary Ann, Brian, Mouse, DeDee, etc.), in this timeline, are actually Gen X, but because they should be in their 50s/60s, they act more like boomers. And they refer to them as old folks, even though the actors are clearly in their late 40s and early 50s. So although there are characters that are the age range of Gen X, they are not perceived as such. These people were in their 20s in the original show (filmed in the 90s, set in the 70s), which means that with the normal passing of time they would actually be in their 60s/70s now. All this to erase a generation that nobody wants to reference and be sure to include the 2 ME generations in the storyline.
I get that it is just a show, but think about how popular culture has treated Gen X over the years and you will see why this can be bothersome. It bleeds into other parts of our lives in a way that allows the 2 generations before and after us to not take us seriously. It allows them to dismiss us in order to serve their own needs. Even while we are generating social security to take care of the boomers and allowing the Millennials to come back home to live with us after college or their first failed attempt in the workplace. We have supported both generations emotionally for YEARS and what do we get out of it? Invisibility.
I suppose that as a generation, Xers might LIKE to be invisible as it did provide some good cover in our younger years. We had a lot more freedom than the Millennials are getting. But, in the long run, the price we paid for anonymity has caught up to us. We didn’t have to see our idols sell out for a quick buck, but we also lost a lot of our people along the way.
So – while we languish here in the next decade, trying to make our way as middle-agers, we will remain invisible. As we plow through all the stereotypical assumptions about our generation to help make the world a better place and rid our politics of boomers like our current POTUS*, we will just have to consider ourselves the new silent generation. Maybe we didn’t have a world war to unite us, but we have certainly had a lot to deal with in the last 40-55 years on earth and life will continue to be a grind. The upside is that Gen Xers know how to deal with ‘the grind’ and we will eventually prevail no matter how invisible we are. It is, after all, always the quiet ones that make the most lasting impact.