Like most members of Generation X, I was born between 1965 and 1980. I gestated in the belly of a woman and the remainder of my DNA was created by a male sperm. But I don’t let that define me. When, in 1992, Time magazine declared, “Here they are now, the little bastards,” I announced in the Sexy Vampires AOL chatroom I’d created that I no longer identified as Generation X. I still don’t. But also, I do.
Gen X grew up with parents who were always getting divorced, and with siblings who were always drunk. When we came home from school, the house was empty, and so was the refrigerator. We were hungry, so we ate our neighbors’ pets.
When we weren’t watching reruns of “The Brady Bunch,” we slept in ditches and murdered one another. Everything smelled like cigarettes and Drakkar Noir and then our parents got divorced again.
Do you remember the 1990s, when we were young? We had telephones that attached to the wall and we watched garbage live music in dark rooms. There were so many cute moody boys and kick-ass girls who wouldn’t have sex with us. Wow, what a time. When Bill Clinton was president, everyone went to jail, which was lame. Sometimes magazines had fashion ads with black people in them. Oh my god, there were scrunchies.
Gen X’s work ethic, much derided over the years, was actually pretty incredible. I accomplished so much without even really trying, just because no one told me I couldn’t. I made it cool to be a hip-hop capitalist with my label Roc-A-Jew Records and helped mainstream different choices with my groundbreaking alternative lifestyle ‘zine Bitch Homo. My cable-access show “Grunge Dog Taco Truck” featured the first-ever incidence of someone urinating on Billy Corgan in public. That was great.
For a brief moment, Gen X owned the culture, like that sketch where Ben Stiller played a nihilistic camel named Winona Ryder who guest-stars on “My So-Called Life.” Movies like “Clerks” and “Slurpers” and “Shingles,” about a moody rocker played by Keanu Reeves who develops a skin disorder, truly defined us. Then we quit our jobs at the record store and moved to Portland.
But just because we spent our formative years overdosing on Prozac in our mall dorms doesn’t mean that Generation X has accomplished nothing. We founded Twitter and a nonprofit that gives the less fortunate access to Twitter.
Before we revolutionized shopping online, people only shopped offline. In politics, Beto O’Rourke was in a band where he dressed like a goat who rides a hacker skateboard. Barack Obama wasn’t our president, but he also was, because he was in the Choom Gang and was a cast member on Zoom and played “Doom” with a broom.
Gen X got married and we stayed married, even though we hated being married and published first-person essays about being sexually restless. Once we became parents, we were even more awesome, because we blogged about our babies on MySpace. We took our kids to see the guy from SoundWagon play at the grocery-store parking lot. He had a side project for kids called “Rock and Roll Rooster.” We played it over and over again even though it sucked.
Now our AARP cards have begun to arrive in the mail. This makes us nervous but it’s also okay, because there are so many amazing discounts. Despite it all, we’re happy because we have some money. Boomers will be dead soon and the millennials are starting to have hilarious health problems.
Gen X doesn’t want to be rich. We just want enough money to be able to afford to eat at the jidori hot chicken boutique pop-up at the nonprofit coffee barn in our neighborhood twice a week. When the bill comes, we want to be able to say, “It’s on me, I need the miles.” Also, we have a condo in Auckland that we need to pay off, but we’re renting it out most weeks.
In short, don’t write off Gen X just yet. We’re still here. Some of us are still queer. Entertain us.
Neal Pollack, The Greatest Living American Writer, is the author of many semi-bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction. He also cohosts the podcast Extra Credit on Audible.com with his teenage son Elijah. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his family.