Shafted! #5: Generation X

we all fall down

When you’re a kid you want everything to be fair. I can remember, on a long car ride from Massachusetts to Miami, my dad went into a gas station and came out with a Sprite for my brother and nothing for me. He may as well have taken a knife and stabbed it in my heart – how dare my brother gets a Sprite and I get nothing! This was a travesty! What sort of father would do this to a child?

Well, the older I got the more I learned life was anything but fair. Indeed, from the minute you’re born the playing field is already unlevel. Whether you’re born on a rice paddy in Vietnam or in a mansion in Silicon Valley is beyond your control – it’s just life. Whether you’re butt ugly or shockingly beautiful is basically predetermined the minute your parents copulate (sorry for the visual image there).

When you were born also has a lot to do with your advantages and disadvantages in life. The Boomers certainly didn’t have it great and wonderful – the minute they were of age, they were shipped to Southeast Asia to fight an unpopular war. They also had to contend with the very real possibility of nuclear annihilation, and a 1970s economy that was nothing like the Land-O-Plenty their parents were able to enjoy after WWII.

That being said, Gen X (and you could easily argue the following generation(s) as well) has been completely, incontrovertibly, wholly 100 percent shafted. Let me count the ways:

high tech

In terms of economics...

By the time the Gen Xers reached adulthood a single income home was no longer the norm. Most families need two incomes to get by.

The gold standard had been abolished and the country is trillions in debt; the flourishing economy of the 80s and 90s is a long time gone

Social Security will most likely be tapped out by the time Gen Xers are senior citizens

Given the anti-materialist mantra of the hippie generation, it is a tad disconcerting to see the money-lust that exploded on Wall Street of late. Certainly not all the culprits were Boomers, but the big players in the game were primarily from the same generation that preached so convincingly against greed thirty years before.

Champagne Swingers

In terms of lifestyle...

In the wake of the excesses of the Boomers in the seventies, all the debauchery seems to be played out. Now that Boomers are much older and “wiser”, drugs are suddenly verboten and the Sexual Revolution is a distant memory.

In other words, we missed all the fun. By the time Gen Xers were old enough to enjoy it, the discos and the hot tub parties were extinct; replaced by a more politically correct and "healthy" environment.

In terms of the workplace...

The workplace has become much more rigid and stress inducing. Hence the Starbucks on every corner and 5 Hour Energy Drink in every desk drawer. The number of hours worked per week has increased significantly and company loyalty has all but disappeared. Where I work, employees used to drink martinis during their breaks; now, you’d be fired for that.

Small businesses, bustling downtowns, and restaurants with character are becoming rarer and rarer as franchises and super centers homogenize every McCity and McTown in McMerica. Yes, the previous generation has given us a country that has been royally Starb***ed.

I could go on, but you get the picture. It certainly wouldn’t be right to place the blame solely on the shoulders of the Boomers. You could argue that these changes were inevitable, and that “The Greatest Generation” was no shrinking violet in this whole mess. It wasn’t the Boomers who elected the president that would chunk the gold standard, for example.

You could argue the rest of your life as to the real cause of the situation we’re in; however, life isn’t that simple – it’s a multitude of factors. In the end it doesn’t even really matter because, as I said before, life is not fair. Your brother gets the Sprite, not you.


  1. That's another amen. Too bad Tom Brokaw never wrote a book called "The Worst Generation" about the Boomers.

  2. There was an incident with a friend of mine growing up. Scott considered himself the smartest, brightest, wittiest, etc., over everyone else. Hanging out one 1970s summer day, it was he, I and a new friend he had made. At one point, we go inside to get a Pepsi. This was before 2-liters and it was rationed like gasoline during WW2. Anyway, Scott gets three glasses and starts to put ice in. The New Guy says, "No ice for me". Scott pours, and suddenly realizes that Mr No-Ice is getting more Pepsi than he is. Needless to say, that was the last I ever saw of The New Guy.

    p.s. BTW, that brunette in yellow working that calculator? H-A-W-T!

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  4. what a coincidence to post this on the anniversary of the day Reagan unsuccessfully was shot. Good reading...thanks :)

  5. I was born a Generation Xer and I really wish I had been born in the sixties. I'm so jealous my Dad was a child of the sixties. :(

  6. Sad but true, I was a teen in the '70s and was just a little too young for all of that. Now that I'm middle-aged (if I live to be 100), I really do not want be a member of the staring-down-into-a-little-electronic-device generation. Still, I have managed to have a lot of fun, go figure.

  7. I'm with you here! I was told before I got out of high school (1984) not to expect Social Security.

    Still, I like Boomers on a case-by-case basis.

    I can't believe your Dad did that to you!

  8. A good article, from a distinct point of view.
    However, it is always interesting how rose colored glasses can be looked through two ways.

    What you described could also simply be called "times change." The "Golden Age" is always that other time before YOU had a chance to experience it. "Kids these days" don't know how lucky they have it. While we all miss the "simple, innocent" times past.

    The easy and solid agrarian days of the turn of the last century led to the roaring 20s where you could do what you want, where you wanted. That led to the great depression with all of its horrors, that produced "the greatest generation." They fought WWII, an end of innocence buy an engine of social change that made a woman Secretary of State, and a Black man President. It also educated a generation that could never dream of going to college, and that led to the social revolution of the 60s.

    The fifties are seen today as the age of American superiority and rampant commercialism. It is still how we define the "American Dream." (Job, Home, Family) Yet it is also what bred the revolutionary spirit of the 60s. Plus and minus. Virtue and vile.

    When we need to make a point gilligan, we cast the 60s as the "anti-materialist mantra of the hippie generation." It produces a quick "straw man" we can bend to our current argument, whatever that would be. But the 60s were not just Hippies. In fact, very little of it was. It is just easier to use THEM to make your point, than it is to use Carnaby Street and Austin Powers, the other end of the scale.

    The seventies were hell compared to the "sweet and innocent" 60s but brought free love ans you so often point out. The eighties ended that with AIDS, but Yuppies did not seem to mind. Life goes on. And as much as we joke about that time as simple and stupid (pet rocks???) I have more 70s and 80s tunes on my iPod than and other decade. How about you?

    We, who are a little older, look at the toys the kids have today with envy. The projects I could have done at school if I had only had the Internet. We also look at them with pity. That same internet is clogged with sickos just waiting to grab our kids.

    Every generation thinks the one before was the golden one, for different reasons, and laments that they must live in a colder, harsher world. The world the next generation will envy as the "quieter, simpler time."

  9. I was born between 1945 and 1960, and want to thank you for not blaming every ill from the past 50 years on me and mine (as these essays tend to do). It certainly wasn't any picnic working your way toward a college degree and being told by your instructors not to expect a satisfying career ahead.
    Also, mainstream in-your-face sex and drugs wasn't all it was cracked up to be - there's a lot to be said for the thrill of the illicit.

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  11. Well, the debauchery had to end when it did, because AIDS got dumped into our laps just as we were hitting sexual maturity, how fun was that?

    My peers have known since high school that SS would be empty by the time we got there; just another part of reality. More of a shouldershrug than anything else. What can be done, anyway? Some one has to get the short straw (rather it be me than my parents).

    However, I do see some benefits to Gen X's generational timing (for me, at least):

    -Got to watch the Berlin Wall come down as idealistic young adult.

    -Got to witness 80s performance art weridness as an adolescent (Laurie Anderson!)

    -Sexual definitions more fluid in 80's-90s than before or since, imho (androgyny!)

    -Got to grow up actually encouraged to play sports and stand up for myself as a girl (O thank god thank god I was born after 65!!)

    -Got to make a road trip cross-country in 90s when gas was 98 centes per gallon, something those who come after will likely never know.

    -We gots de internets (as adults, so not brainwashed by it since infancy)

    -We gots de Burning Man (which is becomming so large and hard to manage that I doubt its survival)

    -We gots you babe.

  12. Do you read Vice? They had a great issue on the Boomers, you can check it out here: