When did your parents get divorced? This question seems central to the childhood experience of so many Gen Xers. Was it in fact the defining moment for Generation X? Is when our parents divorced the equivalent of the Baby Boomer’s “Where were you when JFK was shot?”
Susan Gregory Thomas who often writes about Generation X, presents this argument in this weekend’s edition of the Wall Street Journal. I found the follow excerpt about her parents divorce in 1981 particularly gut-wrenching:
“When my dad left in the spring of 1981 and moved five states away with his executive assistant and her four kids, the world as I had known it came to an end. In my 12-year-old eyes, my mother, formerly a regal, erudite figure, was transformed into a phantom in a sweaty nightgown and matted hair, howling on the floor of our gray-carpeted playroom. My brother, a sweet, goofy boy, grew into a sad, glowering giant, barricaded in his room with dark graphic novels and computer games.”
I have written extensively about divorce on this blog. I have also discussed latchkey kids in 44 different posts. Divorce, remarriage, absent fathers, broken homes, latchkey kids — all of these represent some of the most fundamental building blocks of Generation X’s collective persona.
In her WSJ essay, Thomas likens Gen Xers to war orphans who want to now give their children everything. She cites research that reveals Generation X’s quest for “perfect nests.” With the economy in dire straits and seemingly getting worse not better, it’s becoming impossible for a lot of Xers to keep all that perfection together. Check out Thomas’s memoir, In Spite of Everything, in which she explores her own seemingly unlikely divorce.