Growing Up X-ish: Notes from a Straddler

Selena’s Gen X article from a few weeks ago resonated with many people. I enjoyed it too, as I remember watching both Heathers and Reality Bites in my teens. On tape. Because I was too young for them when they first came out.

I was born in 1982. According to the ever-wise internet, this puts me on the cusp between Generation X and the “Millennials,” which is one of many names for the following generation. This poses a bit of an identity crisis for me, because what it means is that I don’t fully relate to either generation. I was aware of most pop-culture or political events that influenced the Xers, while being a little too young to truly understand them. I haven’t “always known” the internet or cell phones. I remember them being new.

Allow me to trot out my X cred, if you will. I remember learning the card catalogue and Dewey Decimal System at the library. I remember rotary phones. I remember the first time I was in a car with electric windows (you don’t have to crank it!). When I moved to a new town in sixth grade, my friends and I kept in touch with hand-written letters for years. I didn’t buy my first CD until 8th grade.

But then again, I didn’t know high school, or anything beyond it, sans internet. In my high school years I sat in front of my family’s computer, trying over and over to log on to AOL so I could talk with my friends. I started college during Napster’s heyday, and my friends and I snatched up as much free music as we could before the government decided it was illegal. I’m also guilty of the instant gratification/”what’s in it for meeee” attitudes that plague this generation’s members.

Previous generations were so perfectly categorized. The Lost Generation. The Greatest Generation. The Baby Boomers. Even the term “Generation X,” coined when the Xers were young, referred to the fact that generation had yet to be defined. What is it that is making it harder to fit people into perfect generational boxes?

Generation XX

Is it the fact that previously major events such as war, which defined many of the previous generations, affect a smaller percentage of the population now? Could it be because advertisers and marketers have commodified generational identity to the point that it has lost its meaning? Or maybe it’s simply the speed at which information and opinion can now be shared. Here I am, on this blog, writing and reading with women who are up to 10 years apart from me in age, and I’m seeing how much we have in common.

I don’t really mind being a straddler. I’ve always been one who enjoyed floating among social groups; why should generational groups be any different? The only thing that really gets to me is when I hear The Olds lamenting the things that people my age never knew or experienced. That’s when I trot out the card catalogue knowledge to shut them up.

Image Credit by Heather Kennedy on Flickr

5 thoughts on “Growing Up X-ish: Notes from a Straddler”

  1. Born in 1987, in a community that was, in general, at least a decade behind for reasons mostly relating to income. I, too, remember rotary phones, learning DDC and card catalogs, and the first time I was in a car with electric windows or locks (it was my grandma’s, and I thought they were magic.) I got internet in 7th grade, and was on dial-up until college.
    I also don’t get 90s cartoons (at all) and just generally don’t feel like I fit with any particular age group. Which works out nicely, as my friends currently range from 18-50.
    I kind of think generations, outside of individual families where you can really discern based on grandparents, cousins, second cousins, and so on, are kind of bunk. A “generation” that spans 20 years doesn’t really have a lot more in common with members on the other end than they do with the one that followed them, do they?

  2. I’m almost a decade older than you, and I feel like a straddler. Most of the things associated with X-dom don’t apply to me, for whatever reason. Especially now with the recent deluge of 90s nostalgia. Some of that, I think, is because I was a few years too old (a huge difference when you’re a teen, now, not so much). My teen years were spent in that weird netherworld between the 80s and 90s: the pre-internet, Bush the first years that no one remembers. Most of my friends have always been older than I am, so maybe I’m straddling those years between generation X and whatever it was the came before.

  3. I am also a straddler, and I find it pretty difficult to fit into neat little generational summation pieces on Slate. Even though I remember the card catalog, I don’t really fit in with my older cousins. And I’m certainly not of my brother’s generation, even though he’s only seven years younger than me. I wonder whether other straddlers of different generations feel the same way, or if it’s something peculiar to the X/Y split?

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