This post was contributed by a guest writer who wishes to remain anonymous.
I am one of the oldest millennials. Something terrifying is happening to us. We are dying while we are still children. We men are going bald, and the ladies are starting to sag. We have graying hair. Our eyes crinkle when we smile. We have unsightly fat deposits that are going nowhere. Our joints pop in the morning. We get injured by turning around too fast. Our vision is fading. Our reflexes are slowing. Many of us know someone our age who has died of cancer, a heart attack, or some other old-age disease that occasionally strikes the middle-aged.
And we’re still children.
The oldest of us are rapidly closing in on 40. We are the least married, least fecund generation in history. Really, only 30% of people under 40 are married! Big-brained thinkers blame economic conditions, largely because big-brained thinkers go through years of training to ensure they don’t see what is right in front of their faces. We started coming of age in 2003, and economic conditions were nowhere close to as bad as the 1930s, 40s, or 70s, when people had little trouble marrying and procreating. Yet here we are, aging out of our ability to enjoy childhood, feeling death creep up on us. The video games have grown boring. The TV marathons are suffocating. The candy tastes like ashes in our mouths. We’re committing suicide and consuming antidepressants at record rates. We try to accumulate even more, and it fails to make us happy. We don’t know why, and we don’t know how we got here.
Well, I’ll tell you.
My entire life, the only message I got from school, or church, college, and the media was that every decision I made, from what degree to pursue, to where I lived, to whether to marry, was with the goal of having a maximally pleasurable life. True, as someone raised in a conservative church, I was warned against fornication and substance abuse, but these were framed in terms of interfering with the good life. In the 1990s, there was no difference between Christians and non-Christians in that general outlook. Both Christian and non-Christians were equally horrified at the notion that a bright young woman might not end up “maximizing her potential,” which meant putting 40 hours a week into a cubicle. Both warned her against getting married too young, because marriage could cut short a promising career. Evangelicals, for their part, indulged in a pious fiction that the unmarried 25-year-olds in the church were all virgins, but still, everyone agreed that the proper way to treat the world is as your playground.
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Any kind of social responsibility or context to our choice-making was completely absent from what our boomer elders told us. What is the social purpose of marriage? Conservative boomers couldn’t say. They appealed to “tradition” without understanding why it existed, to a Biblical literalism that was as mindless as it was quaint, in a world where their own self-indulgent concept of marriage had led to record-smashing divorce rates in the 1970s and 80s, and my generation growing up with every weekend alternating between parents. The boomer had already set up the foundation of marriage as an exercise in self-indulgence; gay marriage came as the consequence. If marriage has a social purpose, to channel and direct human sexuality in a way that promotes social cohesion and provides for a man’s progeny, then gay marriage is nonsense. It’s an absurdity. But if it’s just to “be happy with the person you love?” Then why not?
Similarly, we weren’t told that the purpose of a job is to provide for your family. If that’s the point of working, then any kind of moral imperative to put women in the workplace evaporates. Why would they want to be there? Find me a woman who dreams of providing a new car for her husband, or who feels any satisfaction at knowing that her money will be well-spent by her husband for the children, or who feels that the ability to take the husband and the kids to the beach for a weekend is worth that drudgery in the office. We were told work would be “fulfilling,” that it would be yet another endless source of amusement for us. Turns out that work sucks. Nobody can really explain why Grandpa was willing to drive from town to town sell vacuum cleaners, because delivering the same pitch for the thousandth time isn’t fulfilling at all (none of us ever thought to ask grandma whether she envied grandpa’s long days on the road when she was at home with the kids). Millennials are bored and angry in the workplace. We were told fulfillment would be here. Instead, it’s…work. And since we don’t have families, it has no purpose.
It’s sad to watch my generation collapse into nihilism and fear as our bodies begin the process of dying. The men become bugmen, living to consume, filling shelf after shelf with toys their adult brains can’t find amusement in, because they know of nothing else to do. The women are in a panic, desperately trying to hold onto their evaporating youth, trying to prove to themselves that a woman can be just as sexy and alluring at 35 as she could at 23. There’s a lot of rage at the Boomers, but it’s aimless and uninformed. Mostly, people are mad that they “crashed the economy” or “destroyed the climate,” as though the double-digit inflation and choking smog of 1978 were so much better.
No, what the Boomers did to us was what their parents did to them. They ruined us by trying to give us the life they never had. Our grandparents grew up in the Depression, and overindulged their children with toys and attention to the point the boomers failed to develop any real sense of self-awareness. And what, you may ask, did the Boomers lack? The Boomers had their idyllic teenage years cut short. WW2 & Silents still ran the world, and made our parents put on a tie, go to work, and serve The Man before they were ready to stop playing. Your average Boomer male looks back at the summer of ’69 wistfully, wishing it could have gone on forever, slightly resentful that just a few years later, he was driving a shitty Toyota, getting nagged by his wife, and listening to a baby scream. The Boomer female thinks that if it wasn’t for that marriage and those babies she had by the time she was 26, she would have been an editor of a fashion magazine. She never would have gotten that baby belly. She would have been young and sexy forever.
Boomers have a perpetual teenage mentality that their parents never understood, and they raised us to be the eternal teenagers they didn’t get to be. When you’re 17, the idea of just buying cool stuff, having consequence-free sex, and binge-consuming media for the rest of your life sounds fantastic. You do not understand that when you are 40, you will not want that any more. There are tons of guys my age and younger, who wear Star Wars T-shirts, collect Marvel Funko Pops, and have gotten vasectomies, and they have no idea why they’re so miserable. There are women my age who just broke up with another live-in boyfriend of three years and have no children. So here we are, and we’re falling apart. Our parents instilled in us a totalizing selfishness that they never got to indulge, assuring us that marriage and family “would just come” when “the time is right.” As far as they were concerned, that’s just what happens. Except it “just happened” to them because of all the social capital of previous generations that was still there for them, which they razed to the ground. Now my generation is absolutely miserable, because we’re reaching that age where your brain shifts modes from “consume and copulate” to “prepare your offspring for adulthood,” and we don’t understand that’s what is actually happening. Women of my generation have been told their entire lives that loneliness is a psychological disorder, that children are parasites, and that exhausting yourself for 40 hours a week at work is the meaning of life. It turns out that continuing to live as though you were a teenager does not in fact bequeath eternal youth. “Age is just a number” is the most insidious of all Boomer proverbs.
For my generation, there is not really a path back out. All the social institutions of this country have been detonated in the quest for money and self, or via the hysterical condemnation of every kind of organic social relation as “sexist” or “racist.” In the cities, nobody knows anybody. Professional associations and social clubs are borderline nonexistent. Nobody knows or cares about anyone, and nobody knows how to start. It’s so sick and twisted that my generation uses the word “community” to refer to people who buy the same consumer products, like going to see a movie means you’re part of the “Star Wars community.” Even churches have been consolidated into massive theme parks where anonymous masses of people go to be entertained; centuries-old congregations have shuttered as the people moved to the megaplex. Brain-dead “conservative” pundits can only worry our declining birth rate in terms of funding entitlements or GDP; hardly anyone will come right out and say a society with low fertility is fundamentally sick and disordered.
Millennials need to accept that the values inculcated in us were a load of horse crap. I don’t see that happening, as we’re mostly are upset that we can’t live the idyllic lives of self-indulgence the Boomers promised us. Even suggesting that divorce should be harder, marriage should be younger, and women were built to be mothers, not office drones, causes the average Millennial to dissolve into hysterical outrage. We’re the generation that thinks having a country is racist and the most important thing about space exploration is making sure hijab-clad Muslimas are a part of it. So we’re probably not going to snap out of it. We’ll be buried in Batman coffins, surrounded by our Xbox games. Maybe whoever buries us will finally discard the morality of the Boomers.
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