By Anne T. Donahue
This week, I learned that according to Gen Z, skinny jeans and side parts worn by millennials are largely a marker of someone who’s washed and uncool. Of course, I was not surprised by this. To start, many of us are washed. We’re in our thirties and we’re tired, and some of us (hello) have begun overromanticizing KRAZR phones because we have nothing left in our sad, exhausted lives. (Sorry, families and friends. But we all know it’s true.) But secondly, how dare any of us be surprised by this. Millennials? We once thought Garden State was the pinnacle of culture and sophistication. We deserve to be dragged, and dragged publicly.
Plus, it’s also what happens. Young people are supposed to look at adults and call them out on everything they’ve done wrong and how weird they are about a shit-ton of things. This is how growing up works: once upon a time, my friends and I thought we were fighting the system by smashing mailboxes and throwing stolen McNugget sauce at stop signs. (Sadly, for us, we weren’t fighting anything, we were just very hormonal and angry.) We complained about our parents and their generation and drew attention to their lacklustre records of making the world better in any real way. We said we’d be different and better, and in some ways we were. But then we graduated to a world of saying “doggo” and aligning ourselves with Harry Potter houses to the point of it being upsetting, and we ascended to a realm of earnestly caring about interior design Instagram accounts. Which isn’t bad, but isn’t useful. And it’d be concerning if the up-and-coming generation didn’t look at us all and think, “Why?”
And do you think we could answer that question? Really? Not a chance. Yes, we’ve come to recognize some of our shortcomings and where certain parts of our trajectories went wrong (which we will not get into right now because none of you want to read a ten-part manifesto), but if we could really pinpoint the beginning of our end, we certainly wouldn’t be getting rattled over the youth disliking our pants. We, like all generations, are the product of our upbringing and the environment in which we lived. No two millennials are the same (you know, like all people), but it must be accepted that our fixation on breweries and plants and whatever people are doing fitness-wise these days add up to a caricature with many similarities to the real deal.
But what are we going to do? Get mad? Please, no. Every think piece about why Gen Z is wrong about us is another brick on the pathway to becoming Michael Scott getting very defensive about his Sebring. So instead, maybe we listen to their criticisms and think “fair.” Because maybe when they, an objective party who did not grow up amidst our generation, says a behaviour or trait is bizarre or problematic, we stop and examine why that might be. You’re only ever a lost cause if you decide to stop learning; if you “LA LA LA” your way through criticism instead of either laughing it off (because look: I did post a lot of Harry Potter quizzes in my time, and I can’t pretend I didn’t) or acknowledging your mistake and learning how to be better (on your own time, because you are a grown-up and can read and do research). Because when I think about it, I got most annoyed with anyone older than me for putting their defenses up instead of listening to why something needed to improve and change. Frankly, it was only in those moments of feeling dismissed or misunderstood when my friends and I would tap into our anger and do something stupid (since the Internet back then was like, the dancing baby from Ally McBeal placed several times over a Geocities page, and we were largely useless as people). Hell, even when harmless roasting was met with a knee-jerk reaction from a teacher or uncle, the moment went from lightheartedness to an “Okay cool well we’ll just never try to joke with you again.” And what type of way to live is that?
Not a great way, believe me. Because frankly, who cares if we’re not cool anymore? Who cares if we were ever cool at all? What is cool? It’s nothing! We’re just people! Older, very tired, financially irresponsible (hi!) people. If I cared what anybody really thought about my clothes anymore, I probably wouldn’t go to the grocery store in a very large men’s flannel, jogging pants, and Uggs, ready to load my arms up with various types of candies that will make me absolutely sick to my stomach (in the Imodium way). I wouldn’t trust a generation who wasn’t ready to look at us and think, “Yikes.”
Just please don’t come for my Beanie Babies.
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