OK, Boomer, a catchphrase and now an internet meme, landed on my radar, not with a thud but intrigue. A few days earlier, Isobel, my 17-year-old granddaughter said, “They should not say OK, Boomer to you. You are one of the good ones.” The #OKBoomer was spreading like wildfire encouraged by strong winds and high temperatures. I wanted to know more. But first, who are the Millennials, also referred to as Generation Y? They are our children or grandchildren born between 1980 and 2000.
OK, Boomer didn’t begin with the 25-year-old parliamentarian in New Zealand. But her short speech went viral, and within days a half a million people had watched the video on YouTube.
“Mister Speaker, how many world leaders, for how many decades have seen and known what is coming, but have decided that it is more politically expedient to keep it behind closed doors? My generation and the generations after me do not have that luxury. In the year 2050, I will be 56 years old.” When a Boomer parliamentarian interrupted her, she hand signaled “enough” and said, “OK, Boomer.”
Ten days after the video was posted, 29k (thousand) people gave it thumbs-up, and 1k rated it down on YouTube. Who cares? It was probably a bunch of Millennials who thumbed it up. But that’s missing the point. A jab from the young to the old is a rite of passage. In the sixties, we were the generation attacking the establishment. Perhaps this will be Millennials greatest contribution, bringing attention to climate change when the US president claims it doesn’t exist? In the 1960s, we focused on Vietnam, old men sending young men to war. Now we are the old men and women.
Growing up, I worried about the communists attacking Iceland. At summer camp, I washed my face and brushed my teeth in the nearby river. The food supply was untainted by chemicals and litter from plastic nonexistent. What does this have to do with people born between 1980 and 2000? To understand where they are coming from, I needed to contrast childhood memories that shaped each generations’ views and expectations for the future.
In the years between our childhoods (1950-1980), we saw incredible progress in human well-being on the planet. Two billion people gained access to safe drinking water and toilets for the first time. Good news.
The rest of the story hasn’t turned out as well. In the period when our children are coming of age, the population has grown by almost 40%. They witnessed (some experienced) the 2008 financial crisis robbing people of their homes, jobs, and security. According to Forbes, the cost of education increased eight times faster than wages. Human activity is putting unmatched stress on Earth’s life-giving system. Millennials are “witnessing a scale and intensity of floods, droughts, storms, and sea-level rise humanity has never experienced.” We will check out in the next couple of decades. It will be for them to deal with increasing debts and decreasing resources. Not us, but them, will need to address the refugee crisis, damage caused by global warming, and everything else that makes life worth living.
Because I’m a mom and grandma to seven Millennials, I’m guilty of assuming I know this generation. It’s easy to generalize based on a small sample. As often is the case, what I thought I knew needed updating.
An article in Forbes Magazine (2017) states that Millennials are about their community. They often do things in groups akin to small tribes. “Millennials show up looking to make an impact, be part of a team, and do meaningful work — that makes a difference in the world.”
They don’t equate the number of hours to achievement. Generation Y is turning its back on the yearly performance review, seeing quarterly meetings as more beneficial. Millennials want paternity leave, volunteer opportunities, purpose, and flexibility. The majority say they learn more from technology than people. HENRY Millennials (High Earning Not Rich Yet) seek quality instead of labels, shop for good deals, and demand high levels of customer service. Compared to us, they marry later, have more student loan debt, and postpone home buying.
Some Boomers call them snowflakes, can’t take the heat. We grumble; they’re destroying stuff we’ve come to love. Casual dining (Chilis, TGI Fridays, and Applebees) is coming to an end. Millennials prefer using apps like Uber Eats and GrubHub and have the meals delivered to them. They drink less alcohol than Boomers and prefer wine and spirits, putting the brewing industry on notice. Fabric softeners and dryer sheets, along with our wedding crystal and inherited treasured figurines, are out. The Salvation Army has no use for them either. Generation Y prefer small houses in urban landscapes over a brick colonials in the suburbs. Our perfect grandkids are growing up in cities! No wonder we are upset with their parents. Instead of moving into golf communities, wealthy Millennials are joining agrihoods, planned communities centered around community farms. Who is going to buy our 55+ homes? They are green-minded and willing to give up personal information in exchange for something they want. They go to swap meets for clothing, and 60% (AARP) look for the cheapest price. Nearly two hundred GAP stores are closing. Guess who doesn’t like wearing clothes with logos? As far as diamonds, well, they are glorified rocks. Ouch!
The cruise industry will fade to their desire for “more authentic experiences.” What’s more real than sleeping under a duvet (think ducks) in the middle of the Atlantic? Clearly, they didn’t grow up watching Loveboat. Then, just as we settled into our recliner with Xfinity remote in hand, another shift. Out with cable. In with streaming. How will we ever catch up? After I finally signed up for Paypal, my son said Apple Pay was a better choice. With Paypal and Apple Pay, youngest daughter says, “Mom, could you please use Venmo?” We signed up for Facebook to see what our family was up to, and Millennials moved to Instagram.
So enough about them. But what are Millennials saying about us? The #OkBoomer meme sure chimes like a complaint about the older generation. What could we possibly have done wrong? From boredpanda.com, Millennials speak up about us. @Sophxthomson writes, “‘Kids these days have it too easy,’ says the generation that could buy a house on a wage from unskilled work at age 21.” Musicality writes, “fun statistics for adults! ‘When I was a kid, I had no help with college tuition, I was hardworking and paid it all myself.’ — Annual tuition for Yale, 1970: $2,550. — Annual tuition for Yale, 2014: $45,800” [2019, $53,430].
Our kids say we let government and corporations pander to their religions while we are shocked at the idea of a woman nursing her baby in a public place. That we object to same-sex couples, yet fly off the handle when someone takes a knee. Moreover, they claim that we complain they are disrespectful, and then we act like homophobia, racism, and social inequality are normal.
Aside from a love for one another, blood, and roots, the generations share interests. Knitting and needlepoint are making a comeback. Vinyl records and polaroid camera sales are experiencing an uptick. Our kids are using libraries, and the 18-34-year-old group is driving house plant sales.
So, are Millennials different from us? Yes. More than we were from our parents? Probably not. Will our grandchildren be different from their parents? For sure.
Baby Boomers want to be respected and appreciated for their contributions. In a Forbes article, Baby Boomers’ Legacy, 5,000 adults were asked what our legacy would be [results in parenthesis] : Helping to bring lasting change in social and cultural values and ending a war (27%) Ushering in an era of consumerism and self-indulgence (42%) Nothing at all, nothing really special (32%)
Generational differences are not liabilities, but opportunities to link arms. Boomers didn’t get together, drink beer in a suburban backyard, and plan how to trash the Earth and burden our kids with paying it back. We did our best, and in retrospect, often, it wasn’t good enough.
Millennials ask that we understand they are inheriting a world we didn’t take good care of, and the old slogan, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” no longer applies. Their accomplishments are for them to decide and record in the history books.
Day in the life of a Millennial:
Mary makes coffee before heading to a local boutique (fitness studio), where she pays per class (in place of membership). She adds items to her shopping list, “Alexa, put almond milk, kale, and menthol floss on my grocery list”! Back home and showered, she puts on trousers flexible enough to do Downward Dog at her office and a cotton shirt, both purchased online. The Uber ride to work is some of her best think time and helps her get focused for the day ahead. At work, she toggles between work email, Messenger, Venmo to reimburse a friend, and checks LinkedIn and Instagram to see what she missed. An Amazon package is at her front door, and GrubHub delivers her evening meal. Her “tribe” arrives with bottles of TPW (The Prisoner Wine Company) wine to watch the final episode of Game of Thrones.