Select Page

Death of John Hughes: Invitation to Generation X

The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club

Death is an invitation like no other. The loss of a life calls us into retrospection, introspection and examination of reality-as-time.

When Michael Jackson died in June, I suddenly remembered what I’d forgotten: how much I’d loved his music. The fancy glove, the fancier footwork and the beat evaporated. To think, I thought it had only transformed and transported itself to another place and time.

When Farrah Fawcett died the same day, I was instantly transported to the toy aisle of Wacker’s Variety Store, Kermit, Texas. I loitered in the aisles playing with Charlie’s Angels dolls. Do you know hard it is to play with dolls still in the box? The year was 1977, but it doesn’t seem so very long ago.

But, that’s just it. It was a long time ago, more than 30 years ago to be exact. So, why does 1977 feel like yesterday?

Life at Breakneck Speed
I graduated from college nearly 20 years ago. I immediately clocked eight years building a career at breakneck speed before having children. Then, I had a baby, and a year later I went through a divorce. I trudged through nearly five years in single momdome.

In 2003, I remarried. I busied myself having two more kids while I still had eggs to spare. Then last year, with two children still in diapers, I did the unthinkable. I up and QUIT MY JOB. I started freelancing. I became a stay-at-home mom sans the mini-van, and hello, I suddenly find myself over 40. Where did my life go? When did the line from that Stevie Nicks song start applying to me: Time makes you bolder, children get older, and I’m getting older, too?

At what point did I live long enough to remember Oklahoma City before its current prime? To have memories that speak of a distant past, of restaurants closed and subcultures faded?

Death of John Hughes and the Illusion of Youth

For my entire career Baby Boomers have reminded me how young I am, and now my icons – those whose music, style, beauty and art framed my youth – are dying. Most of my fellow Generation Xers haven’t even been promoted into senior positions yet. They’re all still stuck in middle management, turning grayer by the day. This is weird, and it perpetuates an illusion of youth, especially for Gen Xers born between 1961-1969 who have already turned 40.

And, now John Hughes, purveyor of the Generation X zeitgeist, is dead at 59. This is the death that serves as invitation. More than once I’ve had tears streaming down my cheeks. Suddenly, my father seems less weird all the time for all those times I saw his eyes mist when he talked about Buddy Holly and Patsy Cline dying in plane crashes. I bet my kids really think I’m weird.

What is going on with me? And, I’m not the only one crying here, just so you know. I’ve heard a few confessions over the last 24 hours.

Drowning in Nostalgia Not Allowed
I guess we all found elements of ourselves in John Hughes’s characters. I related to Andie most of all. I am sure if we could go back, we’d work harder to craft a day off, Ferris-style. We’d be the jock who risked reputation and grabbed hold of the weird and the beautiful. She was a girl, and you were into her, but you let her go. We all have our regrets.

But, we can’t go back, and so we are left with this rich collection of movies – perhaps like none any generation before us has had – and I refuse to drown in nostalgia, even though someone called me the Patron Saint of Generation X once.

What’s Left
What is left is that high Strauss and Howe promised in the mound of generational research that ultimately led one of them to call Generation X the stupidest generation to ever walk the face of the earth. (Thanks a lot, dude.) What is left is finding ways to create a life in the here- and 30- and 40-something now worthy of being nostalgic about later. Not for look-back’s sake alone, mind you.

Dickinson runs through my mind, and I twist her words: Ample make this life. Make it round. Let no sunshine, yellow noise, interrupt this ground.

Tonight, in the city in which I love you*, I will attend an art opening. I’ll leave a tip for the free champagne I will not drink and I’ll meet with friends in warm embrace. We’ll commiserate about how grateful we are that the fetters of youth are wrent in twain, all the while wishing to return for just a day to the temporary trappings of a brain; an athlete; a basket case; a princess and a criminal.

Staring Down The Pipeline
I’ll take to my Robert. I choose him every day. I’ll memorize his peppering crown and fold into the lines deepening in the corners of his eyes. These lines, which are hastened by the pursuit of a second Bachelor’s degree, hoping somehow it will make the future brighter than the past has been. The Generation X experience is so incredibly weird.

We will all stare down the pipeline of 40 and 50 together – knowing our lives amount to more than children we did or did not have; experiences we savor; missed and regret. Tonight, I live as if John Hughes is watching me like he was watching me then. Art imitates life and I’m not going to mess up any part of this script.

How has the death of John Hughes impacted you?

*From Li Young Le

Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

Thank you for subscribing. Posts are delivered ONCE A WEEK on Sundays at 6 p.m. You can unsubscribe anytime with one click. Also, we will not share your email address with anyone.


  1. David Kirk

    Hello once again from Kermit Texas! John Hughes was a great storyteller. I will miss him!

  2. jenX

    @LOREN – I have to admit, I’ve watched Sesame Street (new) with my kids, and they don’t really like it. I can’t believe it. As my older brother will tell you, I LOVED Sesame Street. I think your son’s review should be sent to them! Did you catch the disclaimer on the old SS? Like it’s dangerous for kids to watch!

    @DADDY FOREVER – You and me both!

  3. jenX

    @REMI – Thank you! I’ve been missing you here and there – on your blog. I look forward to your posts and that feeling I get when I read something new from you. I wonder if I can start thinking of Time as my friend…????

    @RAGAMUFFIN GAL – Thank you. That scene from Sixteen Candles – birthday party – is so memorable – and heart breaking!

  4. jenX

    @DEBRA – It’a new chapter; a new era. I think it will be the best yet, Debbie.

    @SCOTT RUSS – Thanks for visiting! I took it as a challenge, too. In fact, in the early 90s, when I first started reading about my generation, (Gen X) I was so excited. But, after awhile, I was like, “They don’t like us very much. What’d we do ?” =/

    @AJ in NASHVILLE – Thanks for visiting. I find myself wishing I’d done just a little something to keep up with John Hughes’s career. I’m grateful for his body of work!

  5. Loren Christie

    Great post Jen. I love how you weaved Dickinson into it. I an a sucker for the movie Say Anything. Off topic- My kids love old school Sesame Street. I find this interesting because the format of S.S. has changed over the years. My oldest says he likes that there is no Elmo in the old episodes, and he has been making up game shows like Guy Smiley. He told me that the old episodes are more interesting (there are more mini-movies on nature and how things work). He says the puppets back then were much funnier. Well, I agree, (Cookie Monster used to act much crazier), but I am surprised by his opinion. I thought this generation of kids would like the quick-paced, more interactive Sesame Street of today better. It’s not so. Maybe my kids are just odd like me. 🙂

  6. Daddy Forever

    Don’t you think it’s a bit strange that so many people that we grew up with died this year. Certainly makes me wonder when my time will come.

  7. Ragamuffin Gal

    Your writing sings in this post! I immediately thought of Sixteen Candles when I heard that John Hughes died. Very well written!

  8. Remi, United Kingdom

    Wonderful post :-))) Not 20 years since graduation, but getting there slowly and surely.. lol

    at “death is an invitation like no other” So true, so real. Death is an invitation no one can refuse to accept, the only question is when!

    This thing called time huh?

    Have an wesome week in God’s grace and favor. Much Love x

  9. Debra W

    Ah Jen…Where is our generation going? When all of the icons have passed on, who will remind us of our youth? My heart is filled with such nostalgia, yet my spirit knows that the future will be wonderful memories made.

    Beautiful writing, as always. Watching the way in which your writing have evolved has been such a pleasure. You are such a delight.


  10. jenX

    @BALONEY – Thanks you! Thanks for stopping by. I always love me some visits from Tulsa. =)

    @AVT COACH – I do miss your posts, and if you return to regular posting all your followers will return!

  11. jenX

    @ANDI – I hope you’ll write it if you haven’t already. He’ll only die once. Capture the moment. You express yourself so well. Why hold back?

    @LANCE – That comment is memorable. I need to have posts dedicated to just comments. I’m serious. This sang like a song, Lance. I read it three times, trying to decide which phrase I liked the best. I guess this one: “The people. The love…”

    @FLCONFETTI – Yes, Natalie Wood was another one both my parents mourned. My mom still talks about Rock Hudson, John Wayne. I remember thinking – why are you sad – you didn’t know them. But, like you, I get it now.

    @GEORGIE – I’m f-f-f-f-f-f-f-forty-wwwwwwwww-one. LOL!

    @BRUCE – Oh, yes, all the smart boys preferred Sabrina. I never understood why everyone made over Jill Monroe. Ha!

    @JIM – Me, too, Jim. I feel like I should start writing advanced obit-posts of all my Gen X icons – like E! does. Geez. Imagine the confessions we’ll all have over Papa Don’t Preach.

  12. AVT Coach

    This post is exactly why I have missed blogging. I have missed reading posts that put so eloquently what I have been thinking in my head but did not have the words to say. I’m on the early born end of genx. 1961 and it’s been 26 years since college and my kids are on their own. I do have to say that now more than ever I am aware everyday of the importance of relationships and keeping in contact with people in my life. I do still have alot to say however, I just need to find a way to post more. Thanks for the depth of thought in your posts! Blessings!

  13. Baloney

    You have such a way with words. I love your blog header, by the way!

  14. ♥georgie♥

    what a fantastic post! are we close in age?

  15. Jim Smith

    A great challenge Jen. I’m hoping it will sink in for me without too many more untimely deaths.

  16. FLConfetti

    I remember seeing my mom cry when she found out Natalie Wood had died. That was HER icon of youth, and someone of her own age, as well. I didn’t understand her sadness then when I was 9. But I get it now.

  17. Lance

    Can it be? Nearly twenty years since college graduation, for me too? This day, there was nothing oddly strange about it, still the same 24 hours each and every day has. Nothing strangely quick about it. Yet…here I am, staring down the beginning of a new decade…and thinking, it’s all gone so fast.

    And then stories like this, of life ended too soon. And I see that the ‘now’ is all we have. Life is fleeting, even if there are days that seem long. Life is what we have now…

    Death is a tough one for me. It seems so final. Perhaps, it’s because I can’t see, really, beyond here.

    So, today I choose to live. Fully. To savor the moments. The people. The love…

  18. Andi

    As always well said, poignant and rings true. I am still struggling with my John Hughes post, his movies had a huge impact on my life and it is hard to express the loss.

Pin It on Pinterest