Boomers to Gen X: Quit Your Whining

You can thank US for everything you love about Philadelphia

IT’S AT WORK THAT I FEEL IT MOST — a strange disconnectedness, the sense that I’m peering into an aquarium filled with fish of an exotic new species. When did people start putting smiley faces on routing slips, or cheerleading in what used to be routine e-mails: “This month’s issue looks great!!!”? This is a workplace, not the land of Hello Kitty. How am I supposed to take colleagues who do such things seriously?

And yet I have to. They keep getting hired, these peculiar young folk, these grown men who warm up Lean Cuisines for lunches, these women who accessorize their workspaces with pillows and beads and inflatable orb-chairs. What’s more, they keep monkeying with office culture, making me change my habits; they want me to plot my vacations on CommonOffice, schedule meetings on an iCalendar, wrap up the workday in time for them to hit the gym. There’s a weird reversal of roles here; aren’t they supposed to learn from me?

Not likely. They’ve got nothing but contempt for my generation, for the big bubble of boomers they trailed into the world. We can’t figure out how to update our browsers. We eat corned beef specials. We still drive SUVs. In their eyes, I’m a dinosaur, bloated from squandering their birthright: cheap oil, open land, clean air and water, Social Security.

We’re not used to being resented, you know.

In fact, we’re used to being celebrated, our every milestone examined in painstaking detail by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek: our Dr. Spock childhoods, the rebellious teen years, our marriages (or non-marriages), the era when we were young parents, the dark days when our children left home, and the darker, recent days when recession sucker-punched us just as we should be joyously retiring. We’ve been the center of attention all our lives. Which is why it’s so strange, not just that we’re being supplanted, but that the generation coming up behind us despises us and can’t wait to shove us aside.

Every generational shift is seismic. And it only makes sense that a shifting of the biggest generation ever would be more seismic than most. Before we get out of Gen X’s way, though, I’d just like to point this out: We were right. We were pretty much right about it all.

[sidebar]IT’S NOT LIKE WE ASKED to be born all in a lump like that. We just came to be, in Levittown houses with white picket fences, and then came of age rattling around in un-seat-belted station wagons, and duck-and-covering beneath our desks. Our father was Frank Rizzo, jackbooted and threatening, sweetmeats tucked into his belt when he hit us. Our mother was Grace Kelly, lovely and distant and cold. We were afraid of him, and we alternated between loving and hating her, with her chic hats and bridge club and Pall Mall cigarettes. They never showed affection for each other. She kept the house very clean and practiced casseroles on us.

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  • no

    Thank goodness Boomers are also able to write pompous articles better than any other generation… younger people aren’t nearly delusional or cranky enough to write articles making excuses about how older generations do nothing but make excuses.

  • Julia

    Who is self-righteous? Boomers consistently try to pass off the civil rights movement as their own (how many boomers were on the Christian Coalition or were freedom riders anyway?). I guess Susan B. was doomed to fail since she wasn’t a boomer, huh? Thank goodness you fought your parents and their boring black & white world, they were too busy creating a middle class to be bothered with the really important stuff. If you want credit for the things your generation has accomplished perhaps you should lead by example. Without your parents, boomers would not have had the luxury to dream their dreams. Perhaps that is what is wrong with those kids you work with – a distinct awareness that such luxury is in short supply.

  • Julia

    Note to Neil Young, Benny Goodman and Muddy Waters, et al, might have thought the same thing …

  • alex

    “We’re not used to being resented, you know.”

    That’s because you haven’t been listening for the last 30+ years. Any shock you feel should be taken as an indication of how completely you ignored your own offspring for your total self-absorption. You might as well not even try at this point.

  • nadine

    –Still, my peers and I are trying to be gracious about handing over the reins.– Well, aren’t you full of yourself. To a delusional degree. You won’t have to condescend to give anything. We’ll take those reins, thanks so much. The question for you is how many bruises to you want to collect by being bothersome about it.

  • s

    I dunno. Looks like the Boomers are offended by the cover art and we’re offended by the content. Maybe if we don’t take it personally, there’s something for all of us to learn. Made me feel sympathetic for them – and how rough it must be to feel mortal and edged out.

  • Phil

    Love the line “we made it a rainbow of races and genders and candy-colored Spandex bike shorts.” Love hearing that from a hippie who had her butt kissed for the past 40 years because she was part of a group that was large and white. Their children will be minorities. Can’t wait until the new majorities push these relics aside.

  • Nancy

    My daughter is Gen X, she wouldn’t have written or condoned that particular front cover. We love each other. She respects me; I respect her.
    Apparently the Gen X have problems with their parents/upbringing. What was said is a generalization of both Gen X and the Baby Boomer generation. I feel so sorry for the poor Gen X who felt he/she had to write that. We didn’t ask to be born, but like the Color Purple, we’re here by God, we’re here.

  • Howard

    Do you think it wise to condemn and chastise the very group of people that will be making laws, that will be running retirement homes, that will be running the country tomorrow?

  • sid

    Boomers became exactly what they condemned. it was them who robbed the banks and it was them who keep robbing the banks. they became what they despised. Bush was a boomer,

  • Edie

    If you’re so sick of us, stop listening to our music and stop smoking our dope!

  • Anna

    If you don’t love this article, then you are more self-righteous than the author thinks you are. This will be our generation in a few decades, having our achievements overlooked and being the new scapegoat. We can do all we can with what we know, but that’s it. This article is deliciously cranky, like Carl from Up, but even grabbed some balloons and rolled out. The Boomers aren’t done yet. That goes for you too, Sandy.

  • Anna

    If you don’t love this article, then you are more self-righteous than the author thinks you are. This will be our generation in a few decades, having our achievements overlooked and being the new scapegoat. We can do all we can with what we know, but that’s it. This article is deliciously cranky, like Carl from Up, but even grabbed some balloons and rolled out. The Boomers aren’t done yet. That goes for you too, Sandy.

  • Grace

    To the aging hippies: Thank you. Your contributions are duly noted and appreciated. Some of us Xers and Yers are trying to better the world, too, continuing where your generation is leaving off. Thx (sorry, “thanks”) for helping to make cities livable. We’ll try to be patient with your generation on technology, and call older relatives who aren’t online 24/7.

    Generations aren’t uniform, though, they’re multifaceted constructs. While some of you were anti-Vietnam, pro-peace and happiness, others were pro-corporate greed and pro-military-industrial. While some of “us” are self-absorbed gym rats, others are focused on “new age” concepts like yoga, organic healthy eating, and promoting happiness of self AND others while addressing social problems like economic disparity, violence, dwindling natural resources, poverty, war, etc.

    Yeah, we like to do things our way. So did you. Eventually we all land in the same cycle of work-home-work-home trying to make ends meet and find extracurricular fun or hobbies for balance, hoping our work and activities in some way contribute to a greater whole.

    Thank you for what your generation did in the 60s and 70s to address civil rights and the environment, we’ll take it from here. Good luck finding a happy retirement.

    • Jhm813

      Their generation did squat for civil rights – It was the generation before them that fought for civil rights – They were suppose to pick up the torch in the 70s and 80s but became consumed with disco and drugs and making money. Don’t be fooled by the rewrite.

  • gretchen
  • gretchen

    A quote from an article written by Sandy Hingston telling her daughter about her abortion when she was 19. So I do it. I tell her that I had an abortion. It takes a long while. I start the conversatio

  • George

    Whatever. You’ll be dead soon.

  • Jack

    So we’re supposed to thank you for bringing PETA into existence? Great. And you wonder why we X-ers are tired of your self-important nonsense, not to mention the hideous music that you still hawk on “Time Life Presents…”
    We’re done with hearing how “the 60’s” was like so groovy man, how you stopped a war, and all the other amazing socially conscious stuff you want to credit yourselves for creating. Maybe if you would be a little more self-aware and recognize how your era’s self-absorbed, all-for-me, pseudo-radical posturing left a few not so great residue, we might take you seriously. Not to mention that all of your supposedly earth shattering steps toward liberation were pretty much the exclusive domain of privileged white people. Keep convincing yourself that you matter, hippie. The rest of us just roll our eyes and at least take solace in knowing that we don’t have to suffer from Grateful Dead shows anymore.

  • Mike

    The Baby Boomers remain America’s most narcissistic generation bar none. I recommend this reply here:

  • Dave

    Typical. I’ve met few boomers who aren’t convinced of their own greatness. Have fun on your lonely ride to the grave.

  • Lenore Kaibel

    I know this is old, but this person does not seem to know the difference between Gen X and Gen Y. Gen X is no longer super young, the oldest of us are middle aged. Boomers were born from 1946 to 1964, Gen X begins in 1965 (me!) and goes through 1975 or 1980 depending on who you ask. Gen Y is 75 or 80 through the early or mid 90’s. Leave it to a boomer to think everyone after them is one big generation blur. I don’t decorate office spaces with pillows and bean bags but I very much know how to update my browser. I do not remember when RFK was killed, but Hello Kitty has not been a fashion statement for me.The article is essentially flawed because it is lumping all non boomers into one mass.

  • Jhm813

    Boomers take credit for other peoples hard work and think they should be given the praise because they “collaborated” on the work. Go plan another social event or meeting – there’s real work to be done.