Notes from the Zombie Apocalypse: The Lost In-Betweener Mini- Generation. We Like the Boomers Who Failed Us Even Less than We Like Gen-X Who Didn’t Care. Give us the Millennials. At Least They’re Trying.
I was born in 1959, after the heart of the baby boom and before the people who never knew John F. Kennedy. Americans my age don’t have a generation, at least not one that the media recognizes. Now that I’m locked down here in Illinois from COVID-19, I’ve had time to think about this. The Boomers pushed us out and we never related to the Gen-Xers. We’re the secret mini-generation, the In-Betweeners mini-generation.
My mini-generation watched the boomers fight the Vietnam War (both for and against) and criticize capitalism. After the Pentagon Papers ended the Vietnam War, we had a front row seat to the Boomers new wars and vulture capitalism. Jerry Rubin went from hippy/yippie to yuppie and his fellow yippie leader, Abbie Hoffman, killed himself, a signal of trouble to come.
We In-Betweeners were the first mini-generation who really grew up on television. By the early 1960s, almost everyone had a television and some even had color television. Television informed our opinions and made us less racist and more feminist than the Boomers. No more Ellie the lady pharmacist who was fired for being too feisty. Embarrassing depictions of African Americans were far less tolerated. Julia was a relatable African American nurse and Mary Tyler Moore had a credible profession. Carol Burnett make us laugh like women were not supposed to do. Our Lucy wasn’t loved by any man. She worked for Mr. Mooney who yelled at her and treated her badly, but recognizably needed her.
We were playfully sarcastic and cynical but no where near as seriously sarcastic and cynical as Gen-Xers. Being cool became very important to us as we grew and to that end, we watched the Smothers Brothers and Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in. If you were really cool, you watched Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
The “news” on Laugh-In was the likely model for SNL’s Weekend Update. Pat Paulsen, from the Smothers Brothers, ran for President in 1968. So did Snoopy. Even as kids, we knew either one of them would have been better than Nixon.
The boomers loved him, but we hated Reagan. We were taught to vote by our WWII generation parents. The Gen-Xers didn’t vote as a cosmic joke on, not the Boomers they disdained, but themselves. Selfish idiots to the left of us, angst-riddled fools to the right, we were the “I told you so” mini-generation.
In-Betweeners started some trends that didn’t stick. We liked our parents. We smoked less and did fewer hard street drugs. We preferred earth tones, but not camo, too military. We liked everyone’s music, except disco (see below). We loved our too long ripped jeans and moms everywhere were warned not to cut off the frayed ends. We watched Gen-X raise their jeans hems, and laughed at them when they ripped their sweatshirts and dyed everything black.
There was no new, interesting pop culture just for us. That was all for the Boomers. They stopped rocking and disco’d. We gaped in confusion and stopped dancing completely. We were mostly too young for the famous disco clubs and didn’t care. Gold ropes keep people out? Uh, no thanks. Let’s take a long walk instead. We liked to take walks and watch people.
The women of my generation didn’t have to register for the draft, and neither did the men. The In-Betweeners were the first to experience the end of the draft, and after observing 1968 from a distance, few if any of us were interested in volunteering. College was still cheap and we went in droves.
We first went into the city to work, not to protest like the Boomers and not to shop like the Xers. We found employment more easily than Xers, but not as easily as the Boomers. We got promoted less than the Boomers, but more often than the Xers and we rose higher in the company but it was harder and less appealing than it had been for our predecessors, mostly because of them. The Boomers had decided greed was good and ruined the workplace before we got there. We received 401Ks instead of pensions and our retirement savings became dependent on a volatile stock market and the con men who sold Boomers on the plan. We laughed a little when employers stole Boomers pensions from them through bankruptcy.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s when we were babies and toddlers, Boomers complained about their Depression Era parents as their oppressors. They had no idea. We lived our lives but we knew that jobs, wealth, belonging, music, culture, none of it was for us. The Boomers controlled. They grabbed, held and controlled. They did not share and would not shut-up. The Boomers were our slightly older oppressors, yet we shared and still share, their bad name.
We waited a long time through the blah Gen-X years when nothing mattered but money on one end and paralyzing ennui on the other, leaving us in the middle to figure out how to create the much needed change we knew we needed, the change the Boomers promised and abandoned. We didn’t have the numbers to make the change and the Xers didn’t have the energy to discuss it much less create change.
Now, we have the Millennials, finally. We love the Millennials. To us, they’re who the Boomers claimed to be when we were too young to protest and be-in with them and admired them from afar. We noticed how quickly the Boomers abandoned everything for wealth and selfish power. But, the Millennials are really doing it. They’re not going to become investment bankers and rip-off artists. Before COVID-19, they weren’t hiding in studio apartments caring about nothing. They were out organizing and voting and registering others to vote. They’re caring about each other, if not their bosses. And, if not super-successful as of yet, at least they’re complaining about things that need complaining about, and at least they have some really good ideas to change things.
The only things we don’t like about the Millennials are the beards. Really guys? When you’re so cool, ultimate coolness was something my generation admired, when you’re so cool, why do you want to look like the post-Civil War Republicans who decided corporations were people and gave land promised to the former slaves to the railroads.