My generation has long been a scapegoat for all the modern ails of society. From the crash of the housing market to the perceived widespread “softening” of culture, to the death of Applebee’s. Nevermind that most of us obeyed our Boomer parents and got neck deep into student loans in order to graduate from college into a recession with no savings or that it was our Boomer and Gen X parents that gave everyone participation trophies at no-direct-eye-contact football. And as far as Applebee’s goes . . . Okay, yeah, we’ll totally take credit for that one. Death to all mundane-mediocre-fare pushin’ chain restaurants! But I’m not here to discuss all the nuances and complexities of those important parts of our society. I’m here to defend my generation from the ever-growing, incorrect popular narrative that it was we millennials that were crowding the beaches during Spring Break amidst the growing threat of COVID-19.
Just look at the pictures and video footage from Spring Break. All the cliches of a bad, raunchy late-night comedy are there. Young people spouting proudly to a camera, under the influence of cheap alcohol and dumb music, about their YOLO perspective. But there’s also the too-old-to-be-at-that-bar patrons in not enough clothing to cover their Bon Jovi tattoos, under the influence of the same cheap booze and lack of brain cells, arrogantly professing that they, too, don’t know when to stay inside during a pandemic.
The Millennial generation spans anywhere from as young as 23 to a nodding-off-at-10:00 PM-to-reruns-of-The Office 39. I personally am considered an “elder Millennial”. I know how to work an iPhone but Snapchat scares the hell out of me. I can complete a brisk hike but I’d be equally satisfied and winded discussing the Downton Abbey movie. There seemed to be a wealth of generations represented at the crowded beach having a great ol’ time, public safety be damned. Stupidity has a very diverse portfolio, it is a true champion of equality. It’s simply not fair, or accurate, to ask one single generation to shoulder the burden and carry the banner of idiocy in America. No, that honor must be shared by every single one of us. Just look at the exit polls in the most recent elections.
So what are the rest of us, sans death-wish, Millennials up to during this time? Well, we are trying our best to homeschool our kids without going all The Shining on them; we are teaching our older co-workers how to use Zoom and YouTube; we are self-teaching ourselves home repair and contemplating the possibility of adopting a tiger cub because we’ve watched too much Tiger King. We are doing the careful calculations of mental math to justify Postmating ourselves ice-cream for the fourth day in a row if we promise to also Amazon Prime ourselves a home-gym. Followed by feeling guilty for using delivery people too much and wondering if our petulant demand for instant gratification is the core source of exposing these hard working people to the possibility of more disease or if it’s giving them an opportunity to make money when they otherwise may not have income. Then there’s the sobering fact that most of us Millennials are the ones with the part-time delivery jobs as a secondary source of income to pay off our graduate degrees or to pay rent or to keep up with our $100 a day Ben and Jerry’s habit. We are growing tired of explaining to our more worrisome family members and friends that this is serious and that “Martian Law” isn’t a thing, but the death rates of people over 50 is.
And if you are saying to yourself “Hey, I’m doing all those things and I’m a Gen X-er, a Boomer, an etc.” then perhaps it is because much like carelessness and selfishness, we are all the same when it comes to anxiety and managing stress and compassion and doing new and hard things. We are all really the same when it comes to coping in America. I’m going to stop pretending that we’re all really that different. Sure, you may have grown up wasting hours in front of an Atari (shout out to Pitfall Harry) and I may have grown up wasting hours in front of a Nintendo 64 (shout out to the true believers of Goldeneye), but we both also spent a lot of hours biking around the neighborhood and playing in a sketchy creek bed. We are both bemoaning the fact that Jeff Bezos paid less in taxes (less as in $0) than either of us, yet we both can’t stop binge-watching Amazon originals (although for millennials it’s Fleabag and for boomers it’s…Bosch? The Grand Tour?). We both know something is wrong and something is afoot and we are both a little spoiled.
The sooner we can say we are the same and this equals unity and here is where we are different and this equals variety, then the sooner we can get on with it and truly help each other instead of pointing fingers. The sooner we can come together for the noble work of figuring out how to educate our kids while school buildings are closed, of how to flatten the curve, and of how to prove once and for all that Carol Baskin definitely murdered her husband. And of course that no one, Boomer, Millennial, or otherwise, should ever own a tiger.