(Not So) Common Sense
With a baby-boomer mentality, I’m not equipped to be a millennial.
By Carole Townsend
There are some words in the English language that are doomed to be overused. I have my own list, of course, as do most all writers.
“Surreal” was the word that topped my list for a while, until recently anyway. I have come to loathe the word “surreal,” because it is used to describe everything from crimes to surprise parties, breakups to births. Anytime a word is used too often, it becomes a boring, meaningless filler. However, it’s likely that you are not reading this column to learn about my weird hang-ups, so I’ll get right to the point.
In my humble opinion, the new overused and therefore boring and meaningless word is “millennial.” I have a general idea of what a millennial is; I’m mom to a couple, as it turns out. Millenials, at least the trending definition of the group, are“the demographic cohort following Generation X.” Also known as “Generation Y,” millenials are, loosely defined, the group of people born during the 1980s and after. So that’s settled.
As with any other demographic group, millenials are characterized by certain, well, characteristics. I have had a crash course recently in what those characteristics are; if you’re in the dark about them, I would like to share them with you here. I learned some of these, by the way, over a delightful lunch with my daughter down in the city. In other words, I got them straight from the horse’s mouth.
First, millenials imagine themselves to be the first group ever to ditch conventional thinking and rebel against it. Of course, many of them are in their early twenties. I hate to be the one to burst their collective bubble, but every generation that preceded them was also idealistic in their early twenties. I sure was. Let’s face it, at that age you’re too young to be either realistic or jaded. The early twenties are a strange age; adulthood is staring us in the face and baring its teeth, but childhood is still hanging on for dear life, crying and whining “don’t go!” Things like jobs, responsibilities, credit, sacrifice, discipline, structure, diapers and such leave a bad taste in an early twenty-something’s mouth.
This is the age at which a young person realizes that yes, I had it pretty good living at home and having Mom and Dad as a safety net. It’s a terrifying thought. Maybe, just maybe, my parents were right. Ouch. I used to tell my children when they were in middle- and high school, riddled with angst and unrest, that they’d better look around and enjoy life. From that point on, I’d warn them, it’s all downhill. Of course, I was joking (sort of).
People at this age (are they adults? children?) have a better idea; they’re going to do the exact opposite of what their parents did. All that drudgery, the focus on career and earning, on planning for the future when today is all that matters – they, at least, are smarter than we were. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we all resisted reality. It’s not fun, romantic, sexy or exciting. It just is, and it happens whether we like it or not.
This carpe diem mentality doesn’t just apply to working and career. No way. Millenials have adapted a strange and, in my opinion, nearly impossible approach to dating. A young man does not ask a young woman to go out on a date with him. Rather, he asks her to “hang out.” Or she asks him, it doesn’t really matter, because the rule is, there are no rules. They are both very careful not to call it “dating” or, eventually, “boyfriend and girlfriend.” No labels, no strings, no expectations, no attachments. It’s all just kind of loosey-goosey. From where I sit, this approach just leaves both parties confused and unsure, reluctant to expect anything from another person, and reluctant to have expectations placed on themselves. Can that really be healthy? I mean, how does a relationship ever get any traction?
When my daughter was finished explaining this concept to me, I was exhausted. Literally, exhausted. I am not organized enough to be a millennial. I’m not patient enough. I don’t have the attention span. Seems to me that, without a spreadsheet or timeline or a mood ring (compliments of the 1970s), how do they ever know what’s going on in their lives? How do they plan for the future? How do they plan dinner?
This generation also imagines itself to be the first ever to ask the question, “Hey, why can’t I have fun, travel, explore and experience now, while I’m young? Why wait until I’m old, fat and tired, or maybe even dead?” Again, I hate to be a drag, but all those things take money. Unless one was lucky (or unlucky) enough to be born with that proverbial silver spoon, it’s just the reality of life. Is having money and all the material stuff it can buy the purpose of living? Not even close. Does money come in handy for rent, car payments, clothes and food? In my limited experience, I’d have to say yes. There are exceptions to the “pay before you play rule,” I suppose. I’ve never met one, but I hear that there are exceptions out there. Ask any millennial.
Ah well, I should just be thankful that I am an observer of this generation and not a card-carrying member. I fear that I would be an unemployed, unmarried, disillusioned, fast-food-eating, not-sure-if-we’re-dating-or-hanging-out, mess.
What really matters, though, is the question of when we will move on to talking about the next generation of people, the one that comes after the millenials. The overuse of that term has become irritatingly surreal. Generation Z, where are you?
Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. She writes about family, from both a humorous and poignant perspective. Her newest book, MAGNOLIAS, SWEET TEA AND EXHAUST (July 2014, Skyhorse Publishing) takes a look at NASCAR from a Southern suburban mom’s perspective. She is currently writing her fourth book. Carole has appeared on local and national news and talk shows, including CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates. When not writing, she travels throughout the region, speaking to various civic and literary groups, and advocating for the health and well-being of the family, particularly women and children. For more information, visit www.caroletownsend.com.