by Jen Selk
I hate millennials. Not all millennials, just those I've had the misfortune to know. I'm only half kidding. This is complicated by the fact that I may be a millennial. (Or rather, I used to be — more on that shortly.) Born in 1980, there is some confusion about the generation to which I belong. Some insist I'm on the cusp, straddling the line between Gen X and Gen Y. Others think Gen Y doesn't exist, or that Gen Y and millennials are the same thing. Olds don't trust Wikipedia, but The New York Times says one thing and Slate another, so where to turn for an actual definition? I'd like to go with the The Atlantic, which is both age-appropriate reading and which places me in Gen X (1965-1984),and not just because this placement honors my past crushes on both Ethan Hawke and plaid shirts with the sleeves torn off. Regardless, I think I used to be a "millennial," at least in all the ways that matter.
Millennials remind me of my younger self. I look back, cringe, and despair, because I exhibited many, if not all of their reportedly hateful qualities at one time or another, likely because I think those qualities are less about being born between 1982 and 2004, and more about being young in general. Luckily, wonderfully, I am at an age where I am expected to rag on the obnoxious, oh-so-recognizable youths of today. So without further ado, I present you with this list** of the three types of "millennials" I'd love to stab. They are truly awful, as I myself once was. Consider this presented with love.
1. The Newly Conscious
Growing up is absurd. We come into the world knowing nothing. Babies don't even know they're alive. In this sense – that is, in the sense of what we're aware of – we're all starting from zero. In the early years, it's cute. What's a banana? Hell if a kid who's never seen one knows. Do you put it in your mouth, sit on it, talk into it like an old-style telephone***? They literally have no idea. It is adorable when small people discover things about the world for the very first time. Less adorable is an ostensible adult waking up to that which they've never considered, particularly when they can't help but inform you about it, as if you've never considered it either. Lord, protect me from another 25-year-old who just watched Blackfish. Save me from the kid who just read Three Cups of Tea. I simply cannot tolerate the sweet summer child who backpacked through India last year. "Do you know what it's like in India?" YEAH, KID. I KNOW. And you know what? I can't listen to you tell me about it. I can't. That whole Eat, Pray, Love business was bad enough, but I lived through this nonsense with Alanis the first time. I was Alanis. Kill me now.
2. Ethical Extremists and the Ethically Apathetic
Immediately after their conscious awakening, a lot of young people become militant, strident mouthpieces for their shiny, new ethical beliefs. Suddenly aware of a few frightening facts about climate change or population growth, for example, you can count on many millennials to immediately begin trumpeting all the ways in which everyone needs to immediately begin behaving differently to solve that problem. And if the problem isn't solved? We're just not trying hard enough! We all need to stop driving, even those without access to public transit, who are tenuously employed far from home. We all need to go vegan, even those living in urban food deserts, even those who've never heard of quinoa. We all need to cloth diaper (if we've made the totally unethical choice to have children, that is), whether we have access to affordable laundry facilities or not. Unfettered by responsibility, and bursting with enthusiasm that hasn't yet been worn down, ethical extremists are exhausting. Equally exhausting are the millennials at the other end of the ethical spectrum. They are the "why are we still talking about this?" brigade, those who think every issue of importance has already been addressed. Much like Ethical Extremists, The Apathetic are prone to oversimplification, largely, I think, because they have had very few experiences. The apathetic think we're "post-racial." They "don't see color." They "don't need feminism." And even if they admit that perhaps the world is not a perfect place, who cares, because nothing we might do could possibly help. Protest is ineffective, revolution impossible. Netflix and Chill, forever.
3. The Ready To Lead
Young one's last job was what? Bartending? That's cool. Nothing wrong with that. Bars can be great and service jobs are tough. And fear not, he also did an internship during his last year of school. Great! I mean, working for free is shitty and it's really hard to build a resume these days. And maybe this person, in addition to both of those things, also spent a summer answering phones for some nepotistic relative. Not bad, kid. Not bad at all. But if I have to sit in another staff meeting with one of these people (someone who has been working at an actual grown-up job for five minutes, who nonetheless has one million ideas about how we might improve or fix literally everything about the way we work), I WILL STAB. I will stab that child in the eye with the plastic spork I've had in my desk since 2008. The Office Expert is the living embodiment of the song Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better) and Annie, definitely get your gun because I'd like to shoot this kid in the face. Millennials who roll out of the professional gate thinking they are ready to lead are insufferable. Work works the way it works (life works the way it works) for actual reasons and not because everybody over the age of 25 is an uncreative idiot.
In the end, I jest. I don't really want to stab millennials. I want them to tone it down a little, take a few steps towards the middle, and get that things are maybe more complicated than they realize. And I really want them to stop embarrassing me by reminding me of what I was like at 25. I want them to grow up. The good news is, they will. It's already happening. I don't know what we're going to call the generation born in the last ten years or so, (somebody come up with something catchy, quick!), but I promise you, they'll be as annoying to millennials as millennials have been to us. And then they'll grow out of it. That's what happens.
**This is really more of an essay than a listicle. I am too old to write a listicle. I also don't understand Snapchat.
***Bananaphone/Raffi shout out!
Jen Selk is a former journalist and current junk hunter. She is fighting a losing battle against mildew around her bathtub, but she continues to pursue The House Beautiful. You can find her on Twitter at @jenselk.