Last Baby Boomer vs. first Gen X’er

My column from the May 16, 2012, Mille Lacs Messenger:

I realized recently why I can’t relate to the younger generations — meaning anyone under 49: I find their high self esteem incredibly boring.

All the interesting people I’ve known have spent life compensating for feelings of inadequacy.

Opinions about the end of the Baby Boom vary. Some say it was 1962. Others 1964. I was born Jan. 4, 1963. Rob Passons, my lifelong albatross, was born Dec. 31, 1963.

Here’s the main difference between Rob and me: No matter how hard I work, how awesome I am, how brilliantly I shine, I feel deep down like I will never measure up, that I am a fraud and an embarrassment to my species. No matter how often Rob underachieves or how spectacularly he fails, he thinks he’s as handsome as James Dean, as interesting as Hunter S. Thompson, and as lovable as a week-old labradoodle.

In other words, I am the last Baby Boomer and he the first Generation X’er.

Everyone younger than I am believes they are special, that they can accomplish anything they want, and that they are deserving of affection.

To anyone raised before the hippies took over elementary education, this sense of entitlement and innate worth is not only mystifying but annoying.

Sorry kids, but you haven’t really accomplished anything, unless you count all the new ways to waste time and burn fossil fuels. I’ll give you this: Your thumbs are very coordinated and you have an impressive selection of apps on your impressive collection of plastic rectangles.

We boomers never saw the point in video games or MTV, but we could fashion a toy bow and arrow from a lilac bush and a shoelace. You X’ers can’t go back to nature because you’ve never been there. You never cared for camping because it meant time away from your gadgets.

We boomers had to delay gratification. We waited for the bus (no ride from Mom), the mailman, the ice cream truck, summer (no trip to Mexico), and “till your father gets home!”

Space Invaders cost a quarter, so we had to save our money. No pill could cure our anxiety or depression, so we dealt with it. If we missed a good movie in the theater, we waited years for it to show up on TV.

We can’t program a VCR (or a satellite dish), but we don’t need to. There’s nothing so important that we can’t miss it, and nothing so compelling that we need to watch it over and over again.

To us boomers, there is Truth with a capital T and a universal moral code we will never live up to. To you X’ers, what’s true for you is not what’s true for me. Nothing is sacred except irony.

I’m still disappointed that my flower-child older siblings cashed in their counterculture for a minivan. X’ers find their idealism laughable and their materialism laudable.

We boomers know what it’s like to get a lickin’ from Dad. You X’ers know what it’s like to have a heart-to-heart talk with him.

My parents remembered the Great Depression and Hitler. My mom was Rosie the Riveter and my dad was GI Joe. They never listened to rock and roll or talked about their feelings.

Your parents came of age during the ‘50s and ‘60s, when the TV, not the radio, was the focal point of the living room. They were rebels without causes watching Ed Sullivan and drinking soda pop.

My peers, parents and grandparents shared the same philosophy that had served humanity since the days of Solomon: Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. Not only are you not entitled; you are undeserving. So if you ever get anywhere in life, consider yourself lucky, and try not to screw it up.

Ah, the good old days, when everyone was as miserable as I am.

Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.


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