Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Generation Gap

When Sheri declared in a HimPlus17 post last week that I belonged to the Sesame Street generation, I considered it the end of a long-running debate. Finally (imagine me doing the
Kirk Gibson fist-pump) she’s surrendered the notion that I’m a Baby Boomer!

Though many demographers – and my boomer wife – have assigned me boomer status by virtue of my birth in the last months of 1964, I’ve never identified with the “Where-were-you-when-JFK-was-shot” or “Make-Love-Not-War” crowd. Though I appreciate much of what the boomers wrought in this country, I’ve sometimes found myself resenting their omnipresence and cultural self-obsession. That’s why I prefer the generational divisions made by demographers
Neil Howe and William Strauss who assign Gen X (my generation of choice) the birth years of 1961-1981. As Sheri noted last week, she’s Woodstock; I’m Sesame Street.

There is something tribal about generational identification, with accompanying tribal loyalties and myopias. I want Sheri and me to be different generations because it’s more interesting that way – we get to challenge each other’s generational assumptions. Anyone with parents knows that generation gaps can lead to fights. Generation gaps might even be as challenging as accomodating different religions
or politics or ethnicities or national heritages. Negotiating that gap is part of the fun of a HimPlus affair. Aside from the pop culture exchanges (she wanted me to see Midnight Cowboy and Chinatown; I showed her MTV and her first glimpse of a music video), there are ways we view the world differently that might be idiosyncratic, but that might also be generational. I worry more about unemployment and inflation;
she has a JFK-esque belief that anything is possible; she likes to watch the nightly news; I have a sense that change comes slowly, requires patience and is more likely to happen locally than globally or even nationally.

I thought about this after reading a
Washington Post article about a woman who consults with Boomer and Gen X business managers who can’t figure out the Millennials they’ve hired. Millennials are so different, this consultant argues, that Boomers and Gen Xers need a guide to work with them. So I wonder: what about love? What’s different in the world views of a Gen X woman and her Millennial man? What attitudes and assumptions would come into conflict? What would the couple have to negotiate?

If you are from those generations, we’d love to hear. You’ll be each other’s consultants.


  1. I just found your blog today and started reading it from the beginning, so pardon that fact that this comment came two years after the post date.

    My three-and-a-half year relationship and six-month marriage to a 16 years younger man has just ended. I am Gen X and he is a Millennial. The only differences I found were that he is very impatient (expects everything now, now, now) and does not like explaining technology to me; he would rather just do it for me than let me learn for myself. Other than that, we were very similar and compatible. I would even say soul mates.

    I have really been enjoying reading your blog and seeing your growth as people and as a couple. I love how you reveal your thoughts over time and the writing is absolutely beautiful.

    Thank you for putting this blog and your lives out there for the rest of us to see and read. I hope you continue to do so.

  2. Thanks, Ivy9, for your comment. We really appreciate your kind words, and we especially appreciate the insights into generational differences. Of course, it got us talking about them again, and once again I had to convince Sheri that I'm not a boomer.

    I'm so sorry to hear that your marriage ended, especially given how you felt your husband to be a soul mate, and especially because clearly something worked for the three years prior. I imagine it's a hard time for you, and I hope you find your way through it and onto something else that's good.