The Magazine Reader

Wild Generalization X

By Peter Carlson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The folks known as Generation X are on the verge of turning 40, and apparently they're getting cranky about it.

The thirty-something generation is irked, irritated and downright peeved, writes Gen Xer Jeff Gordinier in "Has Generation X Already Peaked?," a bitterly hilarious screed in the April issue of Details, a magazine for young men. They're irked at their elders, the obnoxiously self-mythologizing Baby Boomers. They're irritated at the younger generation whom they consider airheads -- Generation Y or the "millennials," who came of age around 2000. And they're peeved that the media have failed to get sufficiently excited that Generation X is turning 40.

"While the boomers and the millennials have been out gulping up all of that mass-media oxygen, somebody seems to have forgotten to put together the Newsweek cover story about Generation X on the brink of turning 40," Gordinier grumbles. "Could it be that the age group that popularized the phrase jumped the shark has done just that? . . . Is Generation X already obsolete?"

Gordinier doesn't actually answer those questions, which are absurd and unanswerable anyway, but he does have a good time ranting and venting in delightfully comic fashion.

Here's what he says about the recent glut of media hype about Baby Boomers turning 60:

"You see this stuff everywhere, and you just know what's coming. David Crosby's face transplant. The James Taylor-Carly Simon remake of On Golden Pond . Woodstock IV: Return to the Garden, cosponsored by Nike, Botox and Ben & Jerry's. The Brown Acid line of tie-dyed Depends. It's only a matter of time. Those insufferable boomers are tucking into another gluttonous, cheek-smeared smorgasbord of self-importance. Don't even try to escape."

And here's what he says about the twenty-somethings of Gen Y: "The boomers bred and their solipsistic progeny have arrived . . . They just love stuff. They love celebrities. They love technology. They love brand names. . . . They're happy to do whatever advertising tells them to do. So what if they can't manage to read anything longer than an instant message?"

Gordinier tries to defend Gen X, but without much enthusiasm. "Generation X is still defined more by lasts than firsts. We're the last generation to produce and hold on to albums on vinyl, the last generation to read newspapers . . . the last generation to express any sort of resistance to corporate servitude, the last generation to produce old-fashioned movie stars (Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt) as opposed to manufactured aristocretins and reality-TV clowns."

Aristocretins! I love that. Finally, the perfect word for Paris Hilton.

Like all good rants, this one builds up a nice head of steam. It's big fun. But of course it's all baloney. The media's insatiable need to pigeonhole disparate humans into a "generation" with a single unifying personality is almost as idiotic as stereotyping people by the hue of their epidermis.

I refuse to get involved in this silliness. I'm a Baby Boomer but I love my little brothers and sisters of Gen X and Gen Y. And in the spirit of that love, I offer this sage advice to my young friends:

Work hard, kids. My generation has run up a huge deficit and you guys are gonna have to pay it off. And remember to pay your Social Security taxes. I'm looking forward to a long, happy retirement, and I'll need plenty of Brown Acid Depends.


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