We may have been labeled Slackers or Latchkey Kids, and called too independent and jaded. Growing up in the '70s and '80s, playing outside without a cell phone or care in the world, we never came back happily into our houses at sundown, when our parents expected – but we did come back. We are Generation X. We understood the rules. But I don’t think we understand the rules of being “middle aged” in 2021. Even if we did, we’d rewrite them as we went along.
As AARP launches a campaign to attract and invite us into their club, we won’t go quietly. As Alex Williams recently wrote in Generation X, Your AARP Card Awaits, AARP is rolling out ads to connect with Gen X. But it’s not that simple. If and when we decide to join, we will step carefully, with a healthy dose of Gen X cynicism mixed in.
Born 1965 – 1981, we are the smallest but mightiest generation, and we look out for ourselves. We always want to know exactly “What’s in it for us?” because we learned early on that life is uncertain. Many of our parents divorced, and broken homes became blended families. We watched the Challenger Space Shuttle explode on a regular school day. We lost musical icons like Kurt Cobain. From movies like Wall Street and Fatal Attraction, we had to rethink what being successful and being faithful mean. Greed, lust, betrayal. Surely these are all things every generation wrestled with, but they resonated strongly with us.
i recently got a pulse check about this new campaign in this post I posed to our Gen X Girls Grow Up Facebook page, and people had a lot of varying things to say! You can see one of the AARP ads here. We can be patient as we watch for proof that becoming a member of any organization will be worth it. We have plenty of patience. We had to use encyclopedias for answers, navigate the Dewey Decimal System and card catalogs at libraries, and type and mail cover letters for jobs. Waiting by the land line phone, in the line for our turn at the arcade and to enter the roller rink, for college acceptance or rejection letters to come in the mail. Now life, with all its technology and conveniences is moving fast, and so is every birthday. "Slow down just a little," I want to shout!
And the pandemic? Sure, we were poised to survive through it. We know how to entertain ourselves and be patient. But even we are at our breaking point. Life sucks in a pandemic, approaching middle age, with life amplified on Zoom and worrying about our parents’ health and our kids’ high school and college challenges.
So forgive us if we aren’t gung-ho yet, as we tend to peer beneath the surface and see what lurks.
We may very well need the wisdom and guidance of AARP, the discounts and deals, the expert advice. But we are weary of jumping headfirst into a club promising things we will gain, even if those things are real and true, and could help us. So entice us. Show us. Convince us. And most of us probably will.
Most importantly, let us believe we can still live a little, and retain some of that youth we still embrace, before we have to turn into grandparents or retired people. Promise us the future is bright, because we are holding on awfully tight to ‘80s nostalgia for a reason.