There’s been a lot of tension lately. Here, sit down, let me take your coat. Would you like some tea? I own sixty seven flavors of tea but I don’t drink tea. There, that’s better.
Now, I’ve heard you talking shit. I keep seeing you in the comment sections, in Time thinkpieces, on those silly someecards memes you share. You’ve got a couple of valid complaints, but you also say some things that make you sound like old geezers waving your canes on your lawn in your underwear.
For example, I saw your post on Facebook last week, mad about kids who haven’t paid their dues to society but expect cushy jobs with lots of vacation and high pay. (You’re a pretty prolific poster. Even though you pretended you didn’t know how to ‘like’ the page for my new startup for on-demand wheatgrass by crowdsourced bicycle delivery. Don’t think I don’t know you hit ‘ignore’ when I sent the invite for WheetGrassr.)
Some of the things I’ve read are just so full of misconceptions and a total lack of awareness of the economic realities of my generations’ lives that it almost makes me too sad to eat my homemade gluten free quinoa bars. (Thanks for buying a case of them, by the way — I can’t believe that GluQuinaBars didn’t take off on Etsy. I’ve been stuck eating them for, like, months.)
For example, I keep hearing that “Millenials can’t cope with anything because they were given trophies for participating! Real life isn’t like that, there are winners and losers!!”
And, honestly, that logic just makes my head hurt. (Or maybe I’m just developing a headache-inducing soy sensitivity from all those gluten-free microbrews, I’m not sure.) See, wasn’t it YOUR generation that was giving out all those trophies? If I recall correctly from my own days being forced to play a miserable season of softball, it kinda seemed like the parents were the ones that made a big deal out of it. Or, I should say, it was my mom who was mad when Donna from the PTA wanted to start an “all-star league” so her kid could get more competitive play while he worked towards that athletic scholarship. I distinctly recall overhearing, “Over my dead body will I let that stuck-up bitch pretend that her kid is better than mine.”
Is it maybe possible that the trophies came out of your need as parents to wear your kids like accessories, and prove that they were smarter, stronger, and better than your neighbors’ kids, as reflections of your own success? That’s what my therapist tells me, anyway.
Oh, and don’t even get me started on “When I was a kid, we played outside all day! You kids these days just want to sit on your butts and play videogames and stare at your phones!”
Do you remember what you told me when I wanted to go outside and play “throw broken beer bottles at the shopping cart in the creek”? (Yeah, our ‘outside’ was a bit more polluted than yours was.) You told me that there are perverts and creeps and axe murderers waiting in the woods to lure me into their unmarked vans with puppies and candy, and that I’d end up on the news just like those three kidnappings you saw on last night’s broadcast. I didn’t believe you and I wanted to go anyway but you told me I couldn’t get my softball uniform dirty because we had to leave for the trophy ceremony in an hour. (And by the way — why did you buy me a brand new console gaming system every single Christmas if you actually wanted me to be playing outside?? That’s just confusing.)
And yes, I know you think we’re lazy and entitled and don’t know the value of a good days’ work.
I don’t know where “lazy” is coming from, but if it’s the fact that I’ve been unemployed and trying to sell homemade quinoa bars and establish a viral Instagram marketing campaign to get WheetGrassr off the ground from your rec room for the past nine months, that’s kinda because the formal economy left us behind. I mean, you saw — I sent off two hundred resumes to companies that were hiring last month, and didn’t get so much as an email back. (And no, I will not just “go walk up to the owner and ask if they’re hiring. Do you want me to get maced? Because that’s how you get maced.)
While it looks lovely hanging next to the Gaslight Anthem poster in my childhood bedroom, my degree doesn’t actually mean jack. And benefits? You think I can find a full time job with someone willing to pay benefits to a twenty-six year old? That’s hilarious. You must be smoking some of that strawberry-flavored hookah tobacco from the sketchy vape shop downtown.
Not that I could afford to live on my own anyway, with $400 a month in student loan repayments on a barista’s take home pay. You see, you keep telling us that if we work hard and keep our nose down, we’ll pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and live the American dream. But, you know what? We don’t believe that anymore. We know you do, but we don’t. Because your generation could afford a house and marriage and children by simply not screwing up terribly — that’s why you spent so much time warning us about drugs and so little time warning us about, say, the chronic depression that comes from extended unemployment, heaps of debt and zero prospects in life.
I’ve spent a lot of time reading Slate articles and watching the Stephen Colbert and you know what I’ve noticed? The bootstraps thing is crap. (And literally, physically impossible. Just saying.) All my friends with rich parents are doing well and all my friends with poor parents are poor. Did you think we wouldn’t notice that? Do you really believe that every single poor person is lazy, and every single rich person got there by working hard and not, say, pyramid schemes, embezzlement and insider trading? Do you really still believe that “working hard” automatically brings you success? Well, except for Lucas down the street. His parents are poor, but he sold pot until he saved up enough for an industrial mower and he owns a pretty solid landscaping business now. But still.
I’m just saying, I know we don’t always see eye-to-eye. I know you think we’re addicted to our phones and — hold on, that’s my boss texting me — I know you think we’re addicted to our phones and expect a handout for everything. But I don’t want someone to hand me a pile of money and a pat on the head. I want to work. I want companies to stop taking advantage of workers my age by offering no benefits and paying wages that have not risen to reflect the cost of living in over twenty years. (Do you remember when wages did that? Because I’ve never lived in a world where that was the norm.) I want to start my life and own a car and a home, but there is no credit available for people like me who were stuck post-2008 crash with no credit history and a deathly fear of credit card debt. I would love to have a family someday, but with home ownership being lightyears out of reach and Tindr going offline for a few hours of server maintenance, that possibility is looking bleak.
That’s the reality, guys. We’re poorer than you. We’re a LOT poorer than you. I know you don’t think we are because we can afford smartphones — but smartphones are a commodity. You get them for free when you sign up for a contract. They hand them out like extra sauce packets at TacoBell. I know that, when you are paying off a mortgage and utility bills and a car lease and a four-line family phone plan and groceries that it looks like you have no money left over afterwards for fun things, and I have loads. But I can’t afford the mortgage and the car and the groceries. Not in a million years. My pay doesn’t come close to covering that — so I buy toys instead to keep me distracted from the fact that I’m almost thirty and going nowhere.
I’ll admit, there were a few times in college when groceries actually WAS TacoBell sauce packets while I waited for my paycheck from Hallmark to clear. I didn’t call you because I didn’t want you to worry, and I didn’t want anyone else to know how scared I was and how much I felt like a failure. I mean, I was in college during the worst of the recession. Everyone was scared and broke and felt like failures. Maybe you guys did too, when you lost your homes and your jobs and the credit collectors came around. Maybe it’s been a hard decade all around, and maybe us two generations should stop sniping at each another and stop to ask ourselves where all that money actually went.