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generation x


Gen X has hit 'that stage' of life and is not handling it very well

We are NOT prepared for Salt-n-Pepa to replace Michael McDonald in the waiting room at the doctor's office, thankyouverymuch.

Gen X is eating dinner earlier and earlier. It's happening.

The thing about Gen X being in our 40s and 50s now is that we were never supposed to get "old." Like, we're the cool, aloof grunge generation of young tech geniuses. Most of the giants that everyone uses every day—Google, Amazon, YouTube—came from Gen X. Our generation is both "Friends" and "The Office." We are, like, relevant, dammit.

And also, our backs hurt, we need reading glasses, our kids are in college and how in the name of Jennifer Aniston's skincare regimen did we get here?

It's weird to reach the stage when there's no doubt that you aren't young anymore. Not that Gen X is old—50 is the new 30, you know—but we're definitely not young. And it seems like every day there's something new that comes along to shove that fact right in our faces. When did hair start growing out of that spot? Why do I suddenly hate driving at night? Why is this restaurant so loud? Does that skin on my arm look…crepey?

As they so often do, Penn and Kim Holderness from The Holderness Family have captured the Gen X existential crisis in a video that has us both nodding a long and laughing out loud. Salt-n-Pepa in the waiting room at the doctor's office? Uh, no. That's a line we are not ready to cross yet. Nirvana being played on the Classic Rock station? Nope, not prepared for that, either.


Hoo boy, the denial is real, isn't it? We grew up on "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, for goodness sake, and it's starting to feel like we made a wrong choice a chapter or two back and suddenly landed our entire generation in a time warp. This isn't real, is it? Thirty years ago was the 1970s. That's just a Gen X fact. So what if we've lived long enough for our high school fashions to go out of style and then back into style and then back out of style again?

Seriously, though, we can either lament our age and stage in life or we can laugh about it, and people are grateful to the Holdernesses for assisting with the latter. Gen X fans are also thrilled to see their own experiences being validated, because at this point, we've all had that moment in the grocery store or the waiting room when one of our jams came on and we immediately went into a panic.

"They were playing The Cure in the grocery store and I almost started crying," wrote one commenter. "I mean, how 'alternative' can you be if you're being played in Krogers? You guys are great! Thanks for making us laugh."

"I couldn’t believe it when I heard Bohemian Rhapsody being played in Walmart," shared another. "That was edgy in my day."

"I know!!! Bon Jovi at the grocery store!!! That was my clue in!!" added another.

"Long live Gen Xers! We have to be strong!! We can get through this together!! #NKOTBmeetsAARP" wrote on commenter.You can find more from the Holderness Family on their Facebook page, their podcast and their website, theholdernessfamily.com.

This article originally appeared on 1.28.24

Pop Culture

Cruel meme about time has Gen X feeling 'dazed and confused'

Uh, there's no way this math is right. Right? [Grabs calculator.]

Photo (left) by Oskars Sylwan on Unsplash, Photo (right) by Taylor Flowe on Unsplash

The difference between 1976 and 1993 felt like ages.

The "forgotten generation" has hit peak mid-life crisis time, as Gen Xers find themselves careening through their 40s and 50s. And like presumably every generation before them, they're reeling a bit, asking, "How did I get here already?" as they pluck gray hairs out of weird places, send kids off to college and obsessively check their retirement accounts.

And now a meme that hits right at the heart of that crisis has Gen Xers feeling even more dazed. One might even say…confused.

In cruel bit of calculation, X user @AZNotoriousJPG shared a screenshot image from the cult classic "Dazed and Confused" with this caption:

"Dazed and Confused came out in 1993 and was based in 1976. A comparable movie today would be based in 2007."

Wait, what? No. NO. That can't be right. That math isn't mathing. Where's the calculator?

[Frantically calculates this very basic subtraction problem four times because there's no way.]

It's right. How? How is this possible? The '70s felt like they were ages from the 90s, while 2007 was only like three years ago. Right?

First of all, I'm wrong. 2007 was 17 years ago—that's basically an entire generation ago. (I know, I have to let that one sit for a minute.) But secondly, it seems like there was much more of a cultural difference between the 1970s and the 1990s than there was between the 2020s and the 2000s.

But why? In some ways, the 2000s feel like they've all been one long decade, at least in terms of "feel." The 1960s, '70s, '80s and '90s each felt like they had a distinct feel in terms of style and culture. We can pinpoint fashions, slang, musical genres and what was popular during those decades. Can the same be said for the 2000s and the 2010s?

Maybe it can. Facebook came out in 2004 and the iPhone came out in 2007, so I'm sure that changed things significantly. Social media and smartphones? That's huge. Is it just because we're (gulp) so old now that Gen Xers can't differentiate between recent decades? Are we just so out of touch with young fashions and hip culture that we don't even see it?

Honestly? Yeah, probably. I've heard my teens say something along the lines of, "That's giving, like, early 2000s" when referring to a song or a fashion choice. I guess I should be happy that I'm "with it" enough to know what "giving" means, but I'd never be able to tell you how something from the early 2000s is any different than something from two years ago.

Gen Xers have not taken kindly to having this timeline change thrown in their faces:

"Oh!! This hurts!!"


"I was having a good day. We were all having a good day."

"I get, we’re old!!! Quit reminding us!"

"All I see from this is that I am old AF."

"That doesn’t make any sense. 2007 was last week. I have medicine in the closet which expired earlier than that. Not possible."

"Nope, that’s not okay."

"You didn't have to choose violence, yet here we are."

You can tell the Gen Xers from the millennials and Gen Zers in the comments because the younger folks just keep commenting with "Superbad," a coming-of-age comedy that came out in 2007. What they don't understand is it's not the number of years that hits hard with this meme, it's the vast difference between how 17 years felt between the 70s and 90s and how they feel in the 2000s.

You have to have lived it to get it, I suppose, but "Dazed and Confused" in 1993 felt more like a movie made now based in the '80s would feel. Think "Stranger Things." That's what the time difference felt like for us.

Time is weird, man. But even 30 years later (wait, what?) "Dazed and Confused" is still a fabulous film, and Gen X is still the coolest generation.


Those 'carefree' 70s and 80s childhoods weren't the utopia some make them out to be

Let's ditch the rose-colored glasses and acknowledge that Gen X childhoods included a lot of unspoken and unresolved trauma.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Gen X childhood wasn't as "carefree" as it seems.

Everywhere you turn these days, someone is celebrating the simple joys and freedoms of childhood in the 70s and 80s. Indeed, in some ways, Gen X childhood was glorious compared to how kids grow up today. We went outside and rode our bikes without helmets. We went to the park, climbed trees and risked our lives on questionable play equipment. We knocked on our friends’ doors without calling first and spent endless hours in play and adventure without supervision.

We had television and video games, but what we could do with them was limited by the technology itself. We didn’t have social media or cyberbullying or sextortion to worry about. We didn’t have doom and gloom news blasted in our faces 24/7. No cell phones, no GPS tracking, no Life 360. Our parents only had a vague idea of where we were and what we were doing most of the time. And despite staring into the faces of missing children on milk cartons at the breakfast table every morning, we just accepted that benign neglect was a normal aspect of childhood.

But did we, really? As much as Gen Xers love to reminisce about simplicity of our 80s childhoods, evidence suggests it wasn't quite the free-roaming utopia many make it out to be. After all, a lot of Gen Xers turned into “helicopter parents”—the polar opposite of the way they were raised. There's a reason for that.

Maybe it’s time to ditch the rose-colored glasses and acknowledge that the “carefree” childhood Gen X enjoyed actually included a lot of unspoken and unresolved trauma.

Anyone who has read “Lord of the Flies” knows what can happen when kids are left to their own devices, so let’s start with some of the unsavory things that happened during all those hours Gen X kids spent unsupervised. If you were lucky enough to have a peer group with decent heads on their shoulders, you may have fared okay, even with some ill-advised youthful shenanigans under your belt. But not every Gen X kid was so lucky.

A lot of people came away from those 80s childhoods with experiences no one should have. Bullying was a huge problem, but awareness about bullying was lacking, and if you weren't the type to fight back, you basically just put up with regular abuse. Sexual harassment and assault were common when we were growing up as well, but they weren't talked about in a way that led to support or empowerment of victims. Gen X didn’t have a “Me too” movement before or during their formative years like young people today have. Our generation was left on its own to figure out how to handle those things.

We were left on our own to figure out how to handle a lot of things. That’s likely what made us the resilient, independent adults we are, but that doesn’t mean our generation acquired those traits in a healthy way. Some of us did, but for some of us, independence and resilience were a trauma response.

How about the fact that Gen X grew up during the peak in divorce rates? Or the less talked about reality that millions of Gen Xers were raised by Vietnam vets, some of whom lived with untreated PTSD and who themselves were children of traumatized WWII vets? Or the fact that two-parent working households were new and no one had figured out how to do that without the kids feeling neglected in some way?

As a 2004 study concluded, "Generation X went through its all-important formative years as one of the least parented, least nurtured generations in U.S. history."

That's…not great.

I know I’m painting Gen Xers with a broad brush here. Not everything here applies to everyone, me included, but these are all things I've witnessed in my peers. The reality is a lot of Gen Xers grew up feeling unsafe and devoid of parental guidance a lot of the time, which is probably what prompted so many of us to lean so far into safety and connection with our own kids.

On the one hand, yes, the pendulum may have swung too far the other way into overparenting instead of underparenting. On the other hand, Gen X's own kids have grown up in the safest era for kids America has ever seen. That's not bad. It also appears that Gen X, at least anecdotally, has a closer relationship with their kids than they had with their parents. That's also not bad. We have a lot more research about what helps and harms kids when it comes to parenting, so despite raising our own children in the uncharted territory of the age, we at least have some psychosocial tools in our tool belts that previous generations of parents didn't have.

It's not a bad thing to want to give our kids some of the outdoor play and simple, non-screen-oriented joys we experienced as kids. But in advocating for such things, let's not pretend that our 70s and 80s childhoods were ideal when, in many was, they were anything but.

Pop Culture

The Gen X grief when a 'Sesame Street' character dies is so real

We're the first generation to have educational programs molding our core memories.

Bob McGrath, one of the original "Sesame Street" actors, has passed away.

"A loaf of bread, a container of milk and a stick of butter."

It's a simple, repeated line from a one-minute sketch, but as a Gen Xer raised on public television, it's one of thousands of "Sesame Street" segments etched into my brain. Such memories still pop into my head at random times, clear as day, well into my forties. Bert singing about his oatmeal box while playing it like a drum. Kermit lamenting that it's not easy—but it is beautiful—being green. Buffy Saint-Marie breastfeeding her baby and explaining it to Big Bird. Mr. Hooper—the sweet, bow-tied man who ran the Sesame Street corner store—dying.

I was 8 when Mr. Hooper died. It was a big deal. I rewatched part of that episode recently to see what I'd think of it as an adult. The "Sesame Street" gang of 1983 handled it masterfully, helping us all process his unexpected death through Big Bird's own experience of learning about what it means to die.

"Big Bird, when people die, they don't come back," said Susan.

Big Bird let that reality sink in, then said that things wouldn't be the same without Mr. Hooper—exactly the sentiment we all had.

Bob comforted Big Bird, saying, "You're right, Big Bird. It'll never be the same around here without him. But you know something? We can all be very happy that we had a chance to be with him, and to know him and to love him a lot when he was here."

And now the always kind, always gentle Bob has joined Mr. Hooper and the original Big Bird, Carol Spinney, in whatever comes next. Bob McGrath passed away this past week at age 90, and I found myself mourning the loss more than I would have expected.

I suspect I'm not alone.

Those of us in the original "Sesame Street generation" were the guinea pigs on which the theory of educational children's television programming was tested. It was an experiment that proved beneficial for millions of us, helping us grow up smarter, stronger and kinder, according to research—but it also gave us a unique relationship with the people and characters who lived on Sesame Street.

The generation that came before us didn't have anything like "Sesame Street" or "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" or "The Electric Company," and the generations after us have had so much more educational programming to choose from. But those shows were all we had besides mostly-horrible-in-hindsight Saturday morning cartoons. For us, the people and characters on "Sesame Street" formed a core part of our most wholesome childhood memories. They weren't just entertainers, but teachers. They helped us become better humans in addition to teaching us our letters and numbers, and the emotional connection created from that mentorship during our formative years is profound.

I'm not a huge crier, but I cried when Mr. Rogers died and I cried when Jim Henson died. I didn't expect it, but I couldn't help it. And when I saw the news this weekend that Bob McGrath from "Sesame Street" had died, I had the same visceral reaction. A piece of my childhood is gone, just like that, never to come back. I didn't know him, of course, but I felt like I knew him. And in some odd way, I feel like he actually knew me, because he knew and understood kids.

Perhaps that's why so many of us feel an emotional attachment to our childhood educational show icons. We weren't just mindless consumers of cartoon entertainment to them, but precious children with the potential to learn and discover, to become more caring and more knowledgeable. We knew they saw us and understood the stages we were going through. I felt that genuine respect for me as a human being even as a young child. And as an adult, I've learned about the sincerity and earnestness of the "Sesame Street" creators and how hard they worked to create the absolute best for kids, which only crystallizes what I felt back then.

"Sesame Street" didn't just make learning the alphabet and counting entertaining. It taught us about life, about people, about relationships and about ourselves—lessons that became part of our identities. I've often thought that the world would be an entirely different place if every young child was raised on a steady diet of "Sesame Street," and the older and more experienced I get, the more I believe that. It really did make us smarter, stronger and kinder.

Rest in peace, Bob. Thank you for everything you taught us and for being such a positive part of our childhood memories.