Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What makes an Xer?

I love trailing edge Boomers (born 1958-1964). And I think this is because they are not Boomers - but Xers. And they are Xers who understand Boomers better than most other Xers.

Here's what got me thinking about this: Barack & Michelle Obama. Whatever your political leanings are, you have to admit that this couple does not represent the Babyboomer generation like the Clintons or the Bushs. Yet they were born in 1961 and 1964, respectively, officially making them Boomers.

The thing about generations is that the lines are drawn based on birth rates. And yet birth rates do not affect the way we are as adults as much as formative cohort experiences - what was happening when we were coming of age. Going to college in the 1980s (like the Obamas) was not all that different than finishing up in the 1990s (like me). Sure there were differences, but not as drastically as the difference of finishing up college in the 1960s.

Even now, I look at someone who is going into her senior year of high school and think, "How different is her experience from mine 20 years ago?" Not nearly as different than the experience my parents had versus what I had. I remember looking back at photos of my parents when they were in high school - always black and white film, always looking like they were from another planet. I look back at my high school snap shots and it's not the same. Sure we had stupid haircuts, but it wasn't like girls weren't allowed to wear pants to school - or boys had strick rules regarding hair length.

Even looking to the entertainment industry: Gidget (Sally Field) versus Molly Ringwald versus Miley Cyrus. Molly and Miley as teens are equally worldly. Not so much with Gidge.

Which brings me back to the Obamas. What do you think - Boomer or Xer? Is it the year they were born - or the years they came of age - that determined their generational characteristics?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Gen X marketing gone terribly wrong

I've been meaning to get this entry out there. It's about the JC Penney commercials that I'm not getting. It tries to be the Breakfast Club with kids who were not born when the film came out. And it pisses me off (almost as much as the stupid Swiffer commercial where the chick runs around her house mopping to Devo's "Whip It" - or should I say "Swiff it good.")

Here's the thing - Xers hate when marketers commercialize stuff from their youth - unless it's really funny. It may have been accepted that the Beatles "Revolution" was used to sell Nikes, but this kind of marketing is not effective within this demographic. And when I looked online to see what the "kids" were saying about it, I found all sorts of questions like "What song is that?"

Anyway, grab a barf bag and check out the commercial.

Okay, so have you ever eaten something that you didn't like, so you need to take a sip of pop to mask the nastiness? Consider this a refill on me:

Oh, yeah, kids. The band is Simple Minds. And I had the tape!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Boomers: Ernest Borgnine reveals the secret to youth

I know that Boomers want to stay young. They are keeping plastic surgeons in business these days. However, it turns out there's an easier - and cheaper - way to stay young. It's a hands-on technique to beat old age. Ernest Borgnine explains.

What DO Gen Xers want?

Typically, when someone tells me to go read this or that article on Gen X, I do, but then I cringe. Like the time my old boss told me about this book I should read. "It's about Gen X," he said. It was actually about how nobody has manners anymore.

However, today I got an email from my friend Karen who told me to check out this month's issue of Business Week. I did - and it's great. It has a lot of stories about how different generations approach corporate America (and a great picture of Rainn Wilson on the cover).

If you want to know what Gen X wants at work, ask writer Tamera Erickson. She wrote an awesome story called: Don't Treat Them Like Baby Boomers: Generation X has a different set of values. Deal with it

Erickson writes, "Don't expect that the same approaches that worked well with a boomer workforce will work equally well with Xers. And don't assume that Xers will come to value the same things boomers did "when they grow up." Xers are grown up—and they don't think like boomers."

How true.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Are YOU hung up on your age?

I have this theory that Gen Xers don't really have an age issue. We don't worry so much about getting old - we're more worried about not being cool.

For instance, my husband and I watch this old guy at our church who is an usher. He looks about 150 years old. Each Sunday, he shows up in a suit and shakes hands with the people he knows. We call him "Liquid Cool" (not sure why - my husband made it up and it seemed to fit). Anyway, we always joke that the people Liquid Cool shakes hands with were those who attended his party the night before. We imagine Liquid Cool handing out martinis and cigars to all the other cool people at church. Then one Sunday, Liquid Cool shook my husband's hand. It was nirvana.

The point here is that we want to be like Liquid Cool when we're old. We don't want to try to stay 25-years old. We want to own our wrinkles and be old.

I think the Silent Generation is like this. But the Boomers are another story. I just read this post called 5 Reasons Boomers are Not Seniors. I couldn't help but think - why get so upset? It's not like they're calling you a slacker.

So I'm wondering how you feel about aging. Fight it or own it?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Does Hollywood misrepresent today's teen vampires?

So I rented Lost Boys 2. Couldn't help myself. When I was in high school I was in love with Jason Patric in the original.

Here's the thing. Yes, the original film was campy. And some of the jokes were goofy. But it had a point: Teens searching for family/father figure find it by becoming vampires - and head vampire is searching for mother for his "boys."

Lost Boys 2 is about teens who want to get laid. They become vampires so they can continue to get laid.

I think Gen Y is so often portrayed as sex addicts. The music marketed to them is all about getting booty. Television shows have them hooking up all the time - and going all the way. Shoot, even MTV's The Real World - which was very issue-oriented when I was in my 20s, especially season 3 with Pedro Zamora - has become a vehicle for watching drunken orgies.

I don't think Gen Y is like that. I'm around a lot of this cohort as an adjunct professor. But what is shocking to me is that how often they are not bothered by this portrayal of their generation.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Where have all the Boomers gone?

I made an interesting observation last week while camping - there didn't seem to be any Boomers around.

I saw lots of Xers. We were swimming with our kids during the day and drinking some brews by the campfire at night once the little ones were in bed.

I saw lots of members of the "Silent Generation" - both with and without grandkids. Man, those folks like to have fun.

But Boomers, I couldn't identify one person that was absolutely, definitely, a member of that cohort.

Then, of course, I came up with my own theory on this one. The Silents and the Xers have a lot in common. The Silents are a smaller generation that dramatically changed American society (it was this crowd that we can thank for Civil Rights, for instance - MLK was NOT a Boomer). And Xers are a smaller generation that has dramatically changed American society (the founders of Google and Amazon are not Millennials - they are Xers). And both of these generations are doers - not show boaters.

So camping makes sense, doesn't it? Low key. Lots of activities. Time to spend with your kids (or grandkids).

It does make me wonder what the Boomers are doing with their vacation time? If I know the Boomers, they're using it to get some work done.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Heading out into the wilderness

Well, not really. But I am going camping where there is no internet access. I'll be back with lots of interesting generational observations from the campground in about a week or so.