Not X. But Not Quite Y.


It’s pretty much a given that generational demography turns out to be a softer science.

I am most commonly thrown in with “The Millennials” (which is what they apparently settled on for the initially-named “Generation Y”), though anyone who’s talked with me on the subject knows I don’t really feel connected to that generation, its ideals, or its accepted behavioral norms.

I had always attributed this to where I’d grown up1, but last week, a couple of friends pointed me to a couple of articles illustrating that I’m not alone in this unwillingness to fully embrace Millennials, despite not feeling like a Gen X-er, either.

Dorre Shafrir’s “Generation Catalano” second paragraph nailed it for me:

The Carter babies—anyone born between his inauguration in January 1977 and Reagan’s in January 1981—are now 30 to 34, and, like Carter himself, the weirdly brilliant yet deeply weird born-again Christian peanut farmer, this micro-generation is hard to pin down. We identify with some of Gen X’s cynicism and suspicion of authority—watching Pee-Wee Herman proclaim, “I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel,” will do that to a kid—but we were too young to claim Singles and Reality Bites and Slacker as our own (though that didn’t stop me from buying the soundtracks). And, while the proud alienation of the Gen X worldview doesn’t totally sit right, we certainly don’t yearn for the Organization Man-like conformity that the Millennials seem to crave.

I’m not sure I like the name she proposes—what’s so wrong with reclaiming Generation Y?—but I certainly identify with sentiment, and the article accurately captures what a lot of us (surprisingly!) seem to feel.

Switching gears to a more whimsical treatment of the topic, I got linked to “22 Signs You’re Stuck Between Gen X and Millennials.

Signs 22, 53, 64, 75, and 136 are certainly true; 37, 108, and 219 feel right. And 110, 1111, and 1912 are all factually accurate.

It’s nice to see that I’m not the only one who feels a bit too young to be an X-er, but “generationally challenged” when it comes to identifying and interacting with “Millennials.”

All of this discussion on “micro-generations” reminded me of another discussion I had with a friend that sliced and diced this issue in terms of technology: his posit was there exists is a [micro-]generation, of which we’re both a part of, of people who are old enough to have learned and dealt with an specific era of technology, but are young enough to have also learned the (beginnings) of the new technologies.

My favorite example of this concept is the card catalog: I can remember having to learn to use it in elementary school, but no one ever did after 5th grade. Records are another: I grew up with them13, but like most teen-aged Millennials, I started collecting compact discs when my age rose into the double-digits.

I remember an Internet where gopher, email, and FTP ruled the tubes, and that sweet sound of a handshake produced a very real emotional response, even though when I graduated high school, “the Internet” was pretty much solidified in the cultural consciousness as only “w-w-w-dot-whatever-dot-com.”

In other words, the emerging, world-changing technology isn’t foreign to us, as it was been to X-ers and Boomers, and we were able to incorporate it into our lives and identities, but we still have vivid memories of “the old way,” which I think imbues a sense of both perspective and respect not only for the way things were, but that such a world could exist without ubiquitous cell phones and fast, always-on Internet, bringing us music no one buys physical media for anymore.

Perhaps it is this perspective that contributes to the feeling of being between Gen X and the Millennials, and yet not of either of them.

  1. And, to a lesser—but still notable extent—how I’d been raised
  2. You don’t identify as being either Gen X or Gen Y, but when pressed, you’d rather be seen as a Gen Xer
  3. You can’t name more than three ’90s Nickeleodeon shows.
  4. You have no idea who Lizzie McGuire is
  5. Gen X had The Electric Company, Gen Y had All That, but you had You Can’t Do That on Television.
  6. And you didn’t get a cell phone until you were at least 22… Meanwhile, your little sister had already had one for a couple years
  7. You feel your identity is slightly mixed up, like millennials are the bubbly, naive side of you, and Gen X is the cynical, pessimistic side.
  8. Whenever Time has done one of these huge generation pieces, you never feel as though they’re talking about you.
  9. You feel torn between valuing the old and completely embracing the new
  10. You were born between 1975 and 1982.
  11. When you hear the word “turtle,” you think of this
  12. [You actually drank] Zima
  13. And a skipping record always produced uncontrollable giggling from me as a toddler