Generation Map

“You’d really hate an adult to understand you,” one girl named Susan is quoted as saying. “That’s the only thing you’ve got over them—the fact that you can mystify and worry them.”

Others are quoted as saying things like, “Marriage is the only thing that really scares me,” and, “Religion is for old people who have given up living,” or, “I’d prefer to do something for the good of humanity,” and, “You want to hit back at all the old geezers who tell us what to do.”

Man, those millennial kids today have so much anger! Except each one of these quotes comes from a book published in 1964 in the United Kingdom called “Generation X.”

But 1964 is in black-and-white! (It is sad that people couldn’t even see in color back then.) It is ancient history. If we do the math, each of the teenagers quoted in the book was born before 1950; each one is now, if still alive, at least 65 years of age and perhaps a grand- or a great-grand-parent. Their kids probably hated to think that they understood them and treasured mystifying them, as Susan said, and now their grandchildren think they are quaint and, worse, cute.

A 19-year-old was quoted as declaring, “I think old people are ridiculous. So phoney, everything they do is false. I’m rude to my mum and ignore my dad, and that’s how it should be.” Punk rock was more than a dozen years off in the future in London. (And now it is almost 40 years in the past.) The young man who said this was probably wearing a tie while he was pontificating.

I loved to pontificate when I was 19. (Still do, obviously.) I had all the answers, mainly because I had a profoundly limited set of questions, so my complete set of answers, well, it covered just about every situation that my limited vision could imagine. It was exciting to know everything, and it was a thrill to know it better than anyone older than me, and I felt duty-bound to share it, emphatically and with a lot of hand gestures, every chance I could find or manufacture out of a cloud of nothing. And almost each answer that I felt myself to be in complete possession of fell in this general category: “When in Doubt, Do It Differently from My Parents.”

I was 19 in 1987. A 19-year-old reading these words will say, “Don’t try to tell me you know what it’s like to be 19. You have no clue what it is like.” And this straw man 19-year-old would be correct: I have no clue what it is like to be 19 in 2015. I also do not know what it is like to be 77 in 2015.

I know what I thought about being 19 at the time, though: I felt like everyone, older and younger, seemed to be getting along in the world so much better and more smoothly than I felt like I was. So I needed to pontificate to cover that perceived gap between me and the rest of the world. Which probably made me sound like those 19-year-olds from London in 1964.

And if any 46-year-old offered to tell 19-year-old me what I just wrote, I would have felt hugely insulted instead of relieved that someone “gets me.” (I also would have thought, “What a creepy old man.”) Because believing that I was alone in my experience and misunderstood by society when I was a teenager made me a universal teen, just another Bozo on the bus, and I held no truck with the idea that we were all alike in our uniqueness. Feeling unique as a teen is universal, and each generation is confronted with the next generation lecturing it about how unique it feels. Each generation is unique in how it learns that it is not.

Anyway, thanks to a test from the Pew Research Center, I was born in the mid-1980s. I scored an 82. How old aren’t you? Take the quiz and answer below. (Thanks to Random Storyteller, for sharing this quiz in her piece, “Mandela and Millennials.”)

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  1. Martha Kennedy · June 29, 2015

    After teaching generations of 19 year olds (beginning when I was 24) they are all the same except in the details (which do matter). The arrogance comes from 1) fear, 2) ignorance and 3) the fact that life for most kids is an ever-increasing accretion of physical and mental power of which 19 is a physical peak. Luckily for me, I like them (still) and it was great spending half my life with them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anton Wills-Eve · June 29, 2015

    Mark I had a wonderful generaton gap exerience. I’m 73 and I’ve never had a gap. at 19 I was at university in Paris and couldn’t care less about my peers in France. At 38 I was a war correspondent in the Falklands and was totally opposed to the war. It was irrelevant to my 57 (1999) I had covered 3 middle east conflicts, more than 3 years in Vietnam, five years in Northern Ireland, two gulf wars and 4 years in the Balkans. then in 2000

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Anton Wills-Eve · June 29, 2015

    I was diagnosed with cancer and my life began because as I fought my diease I was at last free to bury myself in the subject I spent studying to doctorate level. my family have helped me and suffered with me, but if my Gog spares me to 2018 I will be able to tell you what a generation of 19 years is actually like. cheers Anton

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Anton Wills-Eve · June 29, 2015

    nearly forgot. My subject was hagiography! (the lives of the saints)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Anton Wills-Eve · June 29, 2015

    God not gog 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. loisajay · June 29, 2015

    I scored 68 on the test. whatever.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. KarmenF · June 29, 2015

    95 on the test, but I must say, generationally, I’ve always felt an outsider. I identify with GenXers just as much as (if not more than, sometimes) millennials. I was born in 1980 in a middle class family, right on the cut off, and it was high school before I was even exposed to Windows or the Internet. (We had a Tandy purchased for my mother’s medical transcriptionist job and so I could use WordPerfect for homework essays, but it was a straight DOS system). So I don’t feel that I grew up with all of this technology and instant gratification that is attributed to Millenials, but I’m not quite a GenXer either. Anyone else feel their label doesn’t fit?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Identity Crisis: GenX vs Millennial | Conscious and Breathing
  9. Anton Wills-Eve · June 30, 2015

    Mark I wrote my tripartite piece above 10 hours ago. Well it’s ten in the morning now and I have just done the test and scored 76. But why is age not included? it makes all the difference. I have already attained success and wealth so these don’t matter, I am conservative but not in the sense that the people who devised this quizz meant. I guess they were ave age 40 and were trying to remember what used to matter to them and then tried to think what probably will matter to them. Not much of a quizz if they take probables and place them above experienced truths. For instance when I said I was conservative I was speaking as someone who HAD ALREADY lived though the seven ages of man and so could make considered replies to the questions and was saying what, taken overall, was the most consistently best type of government to live under (in Britain!!!) When that book was written I had left a top school in England when I was 18 in 1960 and never returned until after my Vietnam/Cambodia stint ended in Feb 1972. I didn’t even know who the beatles were! The irony here is that I am married to a Liverpuddlian.But if you factored in my experience, for which I have been awarded a medal by the US government, you you’d probably get a totally different – and equally meaningless result. Ciao. 🙂 Anton

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · June 30, 2015

      Thanks for your comments, Anton–here and elsewhere. I found the Pew survey odd, and I do not often find their social studies odd. They are very complete in their work. I think these 15 questions were a starting point and they used more as follow-ups. I, too, do not now exactly what the score corresponds to, other than the line graph they supply to translate. When I saw the prompt question, I thought I would write about demographics, and wanted to refresh myself about the origins of the term “Generation X,” of which I am a member, being born in 1968. My recollection was that we were the first generation so named and that social scientists hired by an ad agency had named us (we are approximately the 10th generation born in America–hence, Generation “X”). That memory was not bolstered by those pesky things, facts, but when I saw that book “Generation X” from 1964 and saw that teens sounded like teens through all of time, that was all I needed. And then I did not know what to do with my starting place, the Pew survey, so it got appended at the end, almost as an afterthought. Cheers, Mark


  10. rogershipp · June 30, 2015

    “It was exciting to know everything,” My favorite sentence !!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. berryduchess · June 30, 2015

    “Feeling unique as a teen is universal,” – this is so true. and i took the test. Im currently 31 and my millenial score was 52. 0.0

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Susanne Leist · July 24, 2015

    I took the quiz and I’m 55. It’s the same number as my age but it means I act older. Or does it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · July 24, 2015

      I think so … it is a confusing little quiz the Pew people published. Thank you, Suzanne.


  13. Teenagers are people who will one day grow up to be as dumb as they think adults are now, and that is a comforting thought. I admit I’m from the so-called Greatest Generation, and we grew up a lot faster.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: Generation X? | The Gad About Town

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