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“But I’m not GenX; I’m a late Boomer!”: Who Is, and Who Ain’t, Generation X in America

E. Forrest Christian Change, Generations Leave a Comment

Who is this “Generation X” or “GenX” that I keep talking about? Surely, it’s not you, right? And isn’t this whole generations stuff just invented to sell products?

The first question comes from the idea that “God, please don’t make me a part of GenX”. Even people who are in it don’t want to be identified with it.

Which is telling.


No, not those X-ers!

I’ve been talking about generational issues for the last 22 years, focusing on the Baby Boomer-[next generation] war. I say [next generation] because 22 years ago, it didn’t have a name. When I started studying this in the late 1980s, we referred to the post-Boomer births as “baby busters”, which simply defines them negatively against Boomers. Bill Strauss and Neil Howe tried out “The 13th Generation” and “13th-ers”, which didn’t catch on. Douglas Coupland popularized “generation X” in his novel,Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, which he took from Billy Idol’s old band, Generation X, which Idol had taken from the title of Jane Deverson and Charles Hamblett’s 1965 book on British youth culture.

Generation X stuck.
On dates, I tend towards Strauss and Howe’s definition of 1961-1981, although I prefer 1961-1978. Most people start it at 1964 and go through 1978. Strauss and Howe have a pretty good argument for including the late “Jones Generation” people, since they really aren’t a generation.

So, are you a GenXer? Look at the birth years: 1961 to 1981. Most of you who read this are. Here’s what Strauss and Howe said about GenX (which they call “13ers”) back in 1993:

Theirs is the American geneartion thathisory has charged with the tesk of cleaning up after everybody else’s mess…. So too theirs is the generation charged with showing others how, in this millennial era, Americans can still enjoy “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” without letting the world fly to pieces, without bankrupting the nation, without squandering scarce global resources. [13th gen: abort, retry, ignore, fail?, pp. 228]

Are we having fun yet?

On the issue of generations as being manufactured: it’s just not true. Generations have been complained about for centuries. “Wicked generation” isn’t a new phrase.

The Baby Boomers make it seem like “generation” was invented just for them, but that’s simply because they takeover everything. It is true that marketers have been savvy about marketing to generations, going back to the 1920s and teens when marketing was just starting. “It’s not your mother’s ________!” They are simply exploiting characteristics of different generations. The Boomers, like all boom children, are liberal in some fashion. They needed to overturn their parents’ ways. GenXers had different marketing. It’s not just that the kids are getting more or less of something. It’s that the marketers are responding over time to the changing nature of the people at that age group.

Does any GenXers really think that Yale could have put out a musical video brochure for it’s prospectives? This is so bizarre to me that it’s worth embedding.

It’s the difference in the generational attitudes at work here.

About the Author

Forrest Christian

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E. Forrest Christian is a consultant, coach, author, trainer and speaker at The Manasclerk Company who helps managers and experts find insight and solutions to what seem like insolvable problems. Cited for his "unique ability and insight" by his clients, Forrest has worked with people from almost every background, from artists to programmers to executives to global consultants. Forrest lives and works plain view of North Carolina's Mount Baker.  [contact]

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