Have you seen the “Millennial International” video from satirist John Crist? It pokes fun at Millennials, describing a program where you can support a Millennial and his or her daily needs—for only $2900/month. It was funny, for sure. I appreciate John Crist’s work because I believe comedy like his is needed in a culture that sometimes takes things too seriously. And it’s good to laugh at ourselves sometimes. Satire is one of my favorite genres because its purpose is to make people laugh and think at the same time.
But I’m wondering if the thinking part of this video was counterproductive, or perhaps misleading.
I’m a millennial. A closet Millennial, really. Not that that’s something you can actually hide, but in all the noise and shame we are getting these days, it doesn’t make me want to jump when I hear “will the real Millennials please stand up, please stand up,” you know? So I’ve kept quiet.
Until now. It’s time to clear up some misconceptions about the generation gap. I have a unique perspective on this because of my position in the generational timeline: my dad’s an Elder, my mom’s a Boomer, my siblings are Xers, I’m a Millennial, along with two of my seven nieces and nephews (and the other five are whatever’s next). Go figure. All that to say, I was really raised more as an Xer by my Elder/coBoomer parents. So I have a better understanding of a wider range of generations than perhaps my millennial cohorts. Which is why I want to bring some clarity to both sides of the Generation Gap before it grows so wide that nothing good ever comes of it.
But before we jump into the issues sitting in the divide, a word to my Millennial friends…
Breaking the Cycle, Bridging the Gap
I know it’s annoying when people speak condescendingly toward us. Like, really annoying. Not long ago I sat next to an acquaintance at a dinner party who started right in on us, and boy did I want to speak my mind to him. (Okay, maybe I did a little, against my better judgment.) But now I’m learning how to turn my negative emotions and annoyances into a positive force in the generational conversations.
Because when I hear the shame being broadcasted by some members of the generation before us, there are two things I immediately want to do. The first, of course, is point out all the ways and reasons their generation created the problems of ours. But then I remember that usually doesn’t end well, so I’m tempted to do the second, the next best thing: make fun of the generation behind me. It’s easy, really, with their One Directions and flat-billed hats and the unnecessary use of basketball socks with sandals. I’ve learned the condescending tone of our cultural script. Besides, I’ve paid my dues… hurt people hurt people, right?
But then, I hear my mom’s words in my head—from first grade, when I would complain about the big kids patronizing us first graders—she would say, “Now you know how not to treat kids younger than you.” My mom, folks. She’s smart.
So I swallow my pride and bitterness and push my condescension into a positive force—making friends. Accepting them for who they are, boy bands and basketball socks and all. Not trying to change them, but encouraging them on to be world changers. That’s the cure for the generation gap.
Because here’s the thing. We don’t have any control about how people treat us. But we do have control over how we respond, and in turn, how we treat other people. And, we have to be honest—there will always be some members of the older generation poking fun at us, and how we’re everything that’s wrong in the world. But. We do not have to perpetuate the cycle. We don’t have to memorize and recite that part of the script. Instead, let’s make a new one, one that’s not condescending or patronizing. Let’s be the bridge in the generation gap.
That’s how we change the world.