"Generation X", earlyish cite (long posting)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Mar 30 06:22:00 UTC 2001

This was the earliest unambiguously relevant cite of the term I could
locate on Nexis; unlike other articles on the
generation-without-a-label, this one doesn't include "baby busters"
among the options for individualizing the "no-namers".  Note that
neither this piece from the Toronto Star nor the slightly later
posting from the same source mentions the purported (Canadian) coiner
Douglas Coupland.


The Toronto Star
February 24, 1989, Friday, FINAL EDITION


HEADLINE: The no-name generation Group born in the '60s now left
behind in the wake of successul baby boomers

BYLINE: By Kim Zarzour Toronto Star

    It's the kind of generational blip that invites a witty simile:

They're the lowly clowns who follow behind the parade and sweep up
the remnants. They're the cow's tail. The tag-alongs, hanging on to
coattails of the baby boomers . . . tossing in their wake . . .
choking on their BMW dust.

We're talking about young people in their 20s: the no-name generation
sandwiched between The Big Chill arrogance and the pampered
pubescents of The Breakfast Club.

They were born in the '60s, and from day one, experts say, the deck
was stacked against them. They're growing up in a world already too

"The yuppies and the baby boomers are still in power and they
influence what we do - the radio, all the TV programming - they're
the people
with money and influence," says Andrew Consky, 19, a radio and
television arts student at Ryerson. "And if they're still running the
show, I
don't think we can do anything about it."

"Throughout their lives," says Landon Y. Jones in Great Expectations:
America And The Baby Boom Generation, "they will face the
prospect of salaries that were not quite as large as they hoped,
devalued education and difficult promotions."

As kids, their big brothers and sisters got the attention for doing
all the wrong, rebellious things.

As teenagers, they missed the big Beatlemania and Woodstock-style
love-ins, but boy did they hear about them.

And now, as young adults, they're banging their heads on a top-heavy
job market crammed with thirtysomething career folk who don't plan
to budge.

The boomers above them - 10 to 12 years' worth - have sucked up all
the nice jobs and good apartments, then rammed the real estate market

These folks don't even have a moniker. Some call them afterboomers;
others, like Decima pollster Allan Gregg, label them Generation X.

Their very nonentity is their identity.

"The last of the baby boomers (those in their 20s) are having the
toughest time of all," says Leonard Kubas, head of Kubas Consultants,
market research firm.

"They're swimming along behind them - it's kind of like being towed
along by the Queen Mary in all that wake and turbulence."

For the most part, their lives didn't start out turbulent. In fact
U.S. author Susan Littwin says that may be part of the problem. It
was such a
smooth beginning: childhood in a comfy, complacent cocoon of the 1960s.

In her book The Postponed Generation, the Los Angeles sociologist
says many Generation X types were raised by affluent, educated parents
who wanted everything for their children, who never told their kids
the world was tough because this was the booming 1960s and they'd
forgotten it themselves - and maybe they were a little tired of the
dreary, Depression-era lessons about hard work and frugality they'd
raised with.

These youths grew up in the pretty suburbs, Littwin says, raised by
parents who read all the right books about parenting, chauffeured them
to activities, helped them with their homework, and taught them what
mattered was not so much what you produce, but you.

But what they raised, she says, were youths who don't like authority
or nine-to-five jobs, expect to have power, and believe that work will
have meaning, that they have a right to self-fulfilment and that the
world is strung with safety nets.

"These were the special children of perfect parents, and they've had
very little practice in dealing with failure or rejection," she says.

"But fate has taken these bright, charming middle-class aristocrats
and dumped them into a rude, tight-fisted world. They tried
it didn't work, and that sapped their confidence and sent them home crying."

So instead of protesting, many avoid growing up, hanging around their
parents' home afraid to make commitments or compromises because
it would mean giving up some dreams.

That may be part of the reason why, across North America, young
people are taking longer to move out on their own.

They're marrying later: In 1985, average marrying age was 24.6 for
brides, 26.7 for grooms, up from 22.4 and 24.7 a decade earlier.

And they're living at home longer: Statistics show there were 808,040
families with children older than 18 living at home in 1981. Five
later, that figure had lept to 1,058,150, according to Statistics Canada.

The transition from childhood to adulthood is taking longer and
presenting more pitfalls today, says a Washington study called Youth
Indicators: Trends in the Well-Being of American Youth.

Since 1970 they have been delaying marriage to significantly later
ages, the study says, and since 1980 they have found their average
declining while those of older workers have increased.

It adds up to angst.

"I think sometimes I'm never going to grow up. I'm always going back
to my parents for help," laments a mortgaged-to-the-rafters
30-year-old struggling to keep her yuppie-aspiring head above the
weeds of debt.

It also adds up to anger.

Sociologists have detected a rising resentment against the once
rebellious, riches-scorning yuppies who now suddenly have decided
works pretty well after all.

"I foresee bigger problems in finding a decent job - one that enables
me to afford a house and a car," say Salman Nensi, 20, a student of
politics and mass communication.

"Most of the jobs seem to be taken by the baby boomers and they're
not approaching retirement age."

Tom Vanek, 21, a York University student who's hoping for a career in
constitutional law, worries too.

"Once I get out of university, how am I going to survive? I can't buy
a house, and if I do get an apartment I can afford, how will I ever
for a house?

"I know of so many people who have degrees from York and U of T in
history or political science or psychology or sociology - and it's
just a
useless piece of paper. They end up going someplace like Seneca
College (for a practical education) before they can get a job. (A
degree) is more like an endurance test for youth."

Donald Posterski, who with sociologist Reginald Bibby conducted
several youth surveys, is concerned about his findings.

Many young people feel that adults lack confidence in them and do not
respect their opinions, he says. And for some reason, adults are being
put on the defensive and are feeling intimidated by young people.

What's most alarming, he says, is that this chasm exists not just
among teenagers, but into the mid-20s. This may be creating a new
generation gap, pulling young adults away from grownups and toward
their own friends - and an extended adolescence.

"They're all driving fancy cars and living in fancy houses," Consky
says of the boomers.

"But they're also the people that are running the businesses and
that's intimidating. They have an air to them that they know more
than we

Nensi is bothered by the 60s hype.

"It's as if the 60s were the be-all and end-all, the only period
worth remembering; if you weren't there, you're nothing.

"Their influence is overpowering in most areas of popular culture.
Their values and goals are inescapable.

"Their music is rammed down our throats," Nensi adds, saying this is
mainly because the radio people who play the music come from that
era, and would rather listen to that, and relegate any new music from
his generation to the few struggling fringe stations.

"They're calling the shots. If you want to get ahead, you dress like
they do. And you like what they like, which is '60s music and '60s
We definitely feel something's wrong; we're being forced to do what
we don't want to do."

While some young adults simmer with resentment, others seem to have
bought into the myth of a happier era that wasn't theirs. It's spawned
a new one for Freudians: Sixties Envy - and fringe groups of
long-haired "pseudo-hippies."

"A lot of kids are saying, 'Why was I born (to be a teenager) in the
'80s?' " says one young student. "It's such a pathetic time.

"They had such cool clothes and music back then."

Most rock stations today add liberal doses of '60s music - like Q107,
which has expanded its Psychedelic Sunday from six to eight hours and
Psychedelic Snacks from 20 minutes a day to 1 hour.

Andy Frost, Q107 music and program director, started the program in
late 1985 and never expected it to last as long as it did, nor to

Groups like the Doors and Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd still sell like
crazy, to both the young and the yuppied.

"It's unbelievable; these are kids who were not even born. They were
born five years after Jim Morrison died," says Frost.

The funny thing, says Gregg, is that though there's some resentment,
these young people blame themselves for their tough lot in life, and
believe they must upgrade their education and work harder to get over
that bump in the population.

"When they buy that Phil Collins tape, they don't think there's
anything funny about the fact that this rock superstar is 43, has a
double chin
and bald head," says Gregg.

"They don't relate to it completely. They relate to it vicariously.
They're like a cork in the water right now; they don't have any strong
collective direction . . . they're bobbing in the crosswinds."

Like some businesses today, many struggling young adults are
overmanaged and underled, says Posterski. Their early indulgence may
been too stifling, he says, and didn't teach them to solve problems
or make decisions.

"When are we letting our young people grow up in our society? Adults
need to own up to their responsibilities, rather than point fingers."

Somehow, society has to reawaken the sleeping conscience that the
baby boomers used to have, when they cared about the world, says
housing market expert Chris Mullin.

In the early 1970s, housing was the big issue because that's what the
boomers cared about, Mullin says, so the governments poured money
into land and affordability plans.

"Now the group is middle-aged and fat and thinking, 'I'm all right
Jack, to hell with everyone else.' "

Says Mullin: "The baby boom generation has got to come to terms with
the legacy they're leaving behind . . . There's a tendency there to
pretend they don't exist, to not believe there's a younger generation
feeling like orphans . . . and being left behind."

The other possibility, adds Gregg, is that the Generation X-ers will
cope by changing their goals or changing their behavior.

We expect they'll "act as anticipated - which is having to wait
around for the other old farts to retire. The problem is (they) are
in their late
30s," he says.

"What if this Generation X turns around collectively and comes to the
conclusion they can't sit around waiting, and instead (they) start
own businesses and get into entrepreneurship. Who knows, maybe
they'll all go join the Peace Corps."

Meantime, the no-namers grin and bear it, vowing that one day they'll
take the limelight back from the boomers.

"We can change things once we're at the top," Nensi says. "No way are
we going to do it from down below. No way

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