You’d think someone who wrote a novel that discusses inter-generational tensions would be happy “OK Boomer” is the latest cultural meme. But this type of generational sniping isn’t new. In fact, it even happens within generations. How do I know? Because even though I can be classified as a Baby Boomer, I’m not fully part of that generation.
I was born in 1961. I’m not really a Baby Boomer. I’m the Baby Boomer’s younger brother. We missed out on all the cool stuff like sit-ins, Haight-Ashbury, and admiring Jack and Jackie without knowing about the affairs and drug use. We got the Baby Boomers’ hand-me-downs. They got the Beatles; we got the Bee Gees. They got Jimi Hendrix; we got Peter Frampton. They got LSD; we got Quaaludes. They got free love; we got safe sex.
We’re not really Baby Boomers, but we’re not Gen X either. They wouldn’t let us near their club. “No, you can’t use my NES! Why? Because you keep asking what the A and B buttons do! No wonder why the Super Mario Bros. movie was so bad! Don’t you know what a Goomba is supposed to look like?”
These generational demarcations haven’t gotten any better. My daughter is a millennial, but my son is considered Generation Z even though they are 4 1/2 years apart. What exactly does that mean? Is it because she grew up with Windows 95 while he grew up with Windows XP?
The only thing that is true about generations is that the older one complains about the younger one. We feel we’ve earned this right because our parents complained about our generation. And when our children have kids of their own, they will complain about their generation.
And the younger generation complains about the older one. They accuse us of creating the mess society is in. That we are too rigid and old-fashioned in our thinking. We are closed-minded. We had forsaken our principles. We sold out. They may be right because we accused our parents’ generation of doing the same thing.
Having been on both sides of the generation gap, I see it less a function of age and more about perspective. It’s one generation seeing the past through warm, hazy, faded Kodachrome nostalgia and the other scrutinizing its flaws and injustices. One generation enjoying the rewards of a lifetime of work and the other barely surviving on entry-level jobs and wondering if there will be anything left when they get older. One generation wondering how many years they have left and the other wondering if they will have a future at all.
To bridge this gap, we need to shift our perspective. The younger generation can learn from the experiences of the old, and the older generation can open themselves up to the new ideas of the young. We can drop the envy and prejudice towards each other and find ways to work together to move forward. We pave the way for our children’s generation as our parents paved the way for us.
We elders may not have the flexibility to dab, and the youth may not have the patience to use a rotary phone. But we all have a past to learn from and a future to build. We need to make a better future for ourselves and the generations who follow us.