The Blue Plate Special features a weekly roundup of Gen-X headlines and content.
Before we get to the main dish, I’ll start things off with this tasty appetizer: Motherland, Amy Sohn‘s “Brooklyn-based novel on the dissatisfaction of urban parenthood.” If you missed her interview on NPR, Struggling with Parenthood in Utopic Motherland, check out her interview on Mommyish, Why Gen X Parents Are Spoiled. Here’s an excerpt:
“The problem with Gen X parents is that we had too-high expectations for marriage and for family life. They were bound to be disappointed. We were so spoiled by being able to create our own careers and own schedules that we mistakenly thought we could create our own kind of parenthood. But parenting is giving up control. You are in jail for a couple of years or more, depending how many children you have. While older generations expected that jail, we thought it would work out differently for us, and when it didn’t, many of us got angry, got drunk, or got out. The problem isn’t marriage or family life itself, it’s our overly high expectations and projections.”
Salad: On Two Counts
This week, you get a salad with your Blue Plate Special, or as my children, who watch too much Sponge Bob say, “suh-LOD!” It’s offered in the form of a soup question (as in a very personal inquiry vs. “What’s in the soup?”)
Were Count Chocula and Count von Count brothers or cousins? I’ve been waiting at least 35 years to ask that question. Sadly, the voice of Sesame Street’s Count von Count, Jerry Nelson, died this week. A writer who covers Generation X topics for Examiner.com wrote a nice tribute to “her first math teacher.”
Now, here’s your hearty main dish. Never before have I seen more mainstream ink on Generation X as I have the past two weeks. It’s all Paul Ryan’s fault.
Born in the sweet spot of 1970, Ryan is not a cusper like President Obama who has been claimed by the Boomers, Gen Jonesers and Generation X. (Tami Erickson of the Harvard Business Review and author of What Next Gen X? wrote a blog post a few years ago arguing Obama as an Xer. Read: Our Generation X President’s First Year.) Still, some want to argue Ryan’s Gen-Xer-ness as if the years of one’s birth are not the qualifier, but rather, how closely one is associated with a collective stereotype.
The distrusting, latchkey, ironic-T-shirt-wearing cynic-slacker continues to prevail in the national dialogue about Generation X. It’s like there’s a virtual punch card of Generation X experiences and if you haven’t had the majority of them hole-punched your membership is invalidated.
Check out U.S News and World Report’s article, Paul Ryan and Generation X: It’s Complicated. Here’s an excerpt:
“Ryan has displayed his generation’s cultural colors—indulging the media in stories about his love of alt-rock bands like Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, and Nirvana. However the admiration was not mutual for Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello, who wrote a scathing op-ed for Rolling Stone calling Ryan ‘the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades.’
“In Ryan’s defense, he did say that he likes Rage’s sound, but not their lyrics…”
And, so the term Generation X as a pejorative continues.
This is so ridiculous. I don’t know of any other generation that has to deal with this, but this is how it goes. For example, everyone knows Mitt Romney is a Baby Boomer, but nobody asks if he was at Woodstock, got high on LSD or drove of VW van. And, nobody weighs the authenticity of a member of Generation Y (the Millennial Generation) against how many video games they’ve played or piercings they have.
Even a recent New York Times piece about Generation X and Paul Ryan, For Gen Xers, A Wake-Up Call, uses the adjective “so-called” to modify the noun “Generation X.” This is done quite frequently to underscore — what? The doubtful existence of an entire generation?
Still, the New York Times piece is terrific and has a very funny quote from wry Elizabeth Wurtzel author of the highly-acclaimed Prozac Nation.
“Vice president: it’s the perfect Gen X job, isn’t it…To have no responsibility, to have only the perks of what was left behind by the responsible people.”
The Atlantic Wire also has a great piece about Generation X and Ryan. I love the headline: Generation X Mystified (Again) By Growing Up. Here is an excerpt:
“…Of course, it’s not, for myriad reasons ranging from political to apathetical, and also because Gen X hasn’t really needed to ‘come together’ since Kurt Cobain died, or maybe some time thereafter…This is because Generation X has kind of grown up, despite many fits and tantrums along the way, and moved on to different things, like their own individual lives. Gen X is no longer, as an age group, going to Lollapalooza and watching Reality Bites and Singles for life lessons and heating up Ramen for dinner.”
Actually, for me, it was rice cakes, but who’s keeping track?
I take some issue with writer Jen Doll’s notion that Generation X hasn’t needed to come together since Cobain died. First of all, not every Gen Xer liked Cobain, and while his death was a terrible experience for a lot of young, mid-to-late-wave Xers, it was not a defining moment for our generation. We did not come together then and we are not going to come together because of Paul Ryan.
Because, what does coming together mean anyway? Generation X will never come together in any way the media will ever be able to report unless there’s a civil war on our kids. Otherwise, Generation X comes together every day — in private ways over coffee or through email, discussing our fears and dreams, the horrible economy, and the new normal.
Finally, here’s an excerpt from a GQ.com article, Gen Xer Paul Ryan Probably Hasn’t Smoked Pot and That’s A Problem:
“A quick scan of the Ryan bio reveals a somewhat dork-ish striver, a guy named homecoming king his junior year of high school, pegged in the yearbook as the class brown-noser, who later went to work for a congressman and moonlight at a margarita bar. And then there’s his intense exercising, checked shirts, and theatrically furrowed brow. All of which paint a picture of a guy who more than likely spent his best stoning years worried that if he toked up it might come back to haunt him when he ran for office later in his life. Call it the first Ryan Plan…”
With that lovely indictment, I think it’s time to move on to some side dishes.
American Entrepreneurs in Paris
My friend Andi of Misadventures with Andi wrote a piece recently about entrepreneurial Americans in Paris. By the time I got to the end of the post, I realized that all of the women were Gen Xers. It shouldn’t have come as a big surprise — Xers have long been known for their entrepreneurialism. It was just very cool to see this collection in such a tight niche (Paris, France).
This same spirit and success are replicated by women all across the Blogosphere. If Gen X men own the startups of Google, Twitter, etc., then Gen X women own online cottage industries. Generation X pioneered the model from which every other generation draws a blueprint.
Lullaby Renditions of KISS
I love the line of Rockabye Baby CDs, and they have a new one out this week featuring gentle renditions of rock anthems from KISS. Does your baby shout it out loud every time the lights go down? Do sleepless nights make you rock and roll all over? Check it out! It’s the cure Generation X is dreaming of.
She the People
This week, Parker has a post up about the political influence of Duran Duran on aging female fans or “Duranies.” Check out Duran Duran, a Political Unifier Among Gen X Women. She the People is a Washington Post blog that features the work of Generation X freelance journalist Suzi Parker. Earlier this month, Parker published a piece on Janna Ryan, the wife of Paul Ryan, in which she described the Madill, Oklahoma native as the poster child for Generation X women who wanted to have it all. Read: For Janna Ryan, Family Comes First.
Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt. She’s one of very few writers on the national scene consistently churning the Gen X meme. Susan Gregory Thomas who wrote the Generation X divorce memoir, In Spite of Everything, is another.
“Ultimate Nerdy Gen X Dream”
This next item is less like a side dish and more like that tart peppers-in-vinegar condiment. Celebrity Dirty Laundry recently reported that David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are living together. The two co-starred in the popular 1990s TV Show, The X-Files. It was very Gen-Xerish with Scully and Mulder’s Baby Boomer bosses relegating the FBI agents to the basement to investigate marginalized cases. (Hat Tip: Jessica Reed of the UK’s The Guardian.) I can’t help but feel a little giddy and weirded-out at the same time that Scully and Mulder are together in real life.
What’s a Horshack?
That’s the question Gen Y was asking on Twitter when they heard that Ron Palillo, a.k.a. Arnold Horshack of Welcome Back, Kotter, died. He was 63 and at the time of his death was working as a drama teacher at a Florida high school. How wild is that? The Vulture published a great tribute to the actor and why his character on Kotter mattered. Hint: He showed everyone is totally OK to be a loser.
1992: The 25 Best Bands
The website Weeping Elvis has created a list of the 25 best albums of 20 years ago — 1992. “The year that Generation X musicians came into their own and began asserting their distinct worldview in their own heartfelt yet wryly ironic musical voice.”
Finally, here’s your free dessert sampler — a few fun things I’ve discovered lately while surfing the Internet.
From My Tree and Me: Modern Genealogy, a custom print of up to seven generations. The one below comes in a 16×20 and sells for $120.
From the blog Histories of Things to Come, a re-posting of a cartoon from XKCD that illustrates when the majority of American will have no memory of the things we consider major events or milestones today. It’s pretty interesting if you ask me! For example, by 2020, the majority of Americans will not remember Chernobyl. By 2025, most people will be too young to remember (OMG!) the Soviet Union, and by 2032, most people will have no personal memories of Princess Diana.
And, from Break of Day Comics, I leave you with Grandma!