How Much Sharper Than A Serpent’s Tooth

Speaking of maligning a generation, my sons inform me they’re sick and tired of all the articles maligning the Millenials.  To be sure, even I am tired of those, and weirdly it starts me feeling sympathetic to my friends who are boomers, and understanding why they get so upset when people like me (the in between generation) and genxers pile on them using the worst members of their generation to pillory them.

To be fair to us, the obnoxious boomers are very obnoxious.  And to be fair to those who pile on the millenials, what they’re mostly complaining about is the echo boom.

The echo boom was the long-delayed reproduction of most boomers, and technically my son Robert – born in 91 – is one of them.

Which shows you the craziness of this whole “generation thing” being by years, and not by “general definitional experiences.”  To lump me with the boomers – conceived by WWII veterans after their return home, by definition – for instance, is fairly nuts, since my dad was a child during WWII, and since – born in sixty two – what the “summer of sixty eight” means to me is that I learned to write.  (I’d known how to read for a while, but arguably my handwriting wasn’t readable till I was 19 – for a brief and shining moment, at that.  Since I’ve typing mostly since then, my handwriting has gone back to “flog me if I know what I wrote down.”)

So, mostly the millenials who upset the general public – you know, the entitled, unique special flowers with “all the right credentials” who melt when asked to do any actual work – are the children of “the bad boomers” – the noisy stereotypical ones who give roughly half the generation a bad name.  And technically those kids aren’t “millenials” so much as defined by being born to those boomers who thought they were re-inventing life.  The president is one of them, and he’s a year older than I.  BUT arguably my kids went to school with a lot of them.  This was probably worsened by their being in gifted classes.  In their case they were in gifted/advanced classes because they bore easily, but the system is gameable by determined parents, and the sort of parent I’m talking about is very determined to get their little display child everywhere.

My kids, and the other half of their generation, who weren’t born to parents who sent them to an urban public school with five hundred dollars of pocket money a week (you only think I am joking) had to work very hard from kindergarten on.  Because this is when the generation of “question authority except mine” was in charge of education and therefore the children had to be (and often were) more responsible and organized than the adults.  My kids had to compete against kids whose parents had had the one, special, important child late in life, and helicoptered around it so hard it was hard to hear for the sound of their rotors.  They did their kids homework for them, sometimes engaging the resources of an entire office which they managed to research it for the precious snowflake.  (You only wish I were joking.)  This meant even when number two son, who is always a perfectionist, would devote a month to his geography project, including art and all, he would have a B, because you can’t compete with professionally-generated booklets.  It also meant when applying for universities, they competed against professionally completed applications by people who are paid to get the special kids in.  (They have a name, but I can’t remember it, so I want to call them Fluffers.  They cost from a couple thousand of dollars to tens of thousands.  They write the application essays, buff the resume, etc.)

At this point you’re probably asking “But Sarah, you have resources – why didn’t you help your kids?”  Oh, I did.  I spell-check, and copy-edit their essays or any other piece of writing.  If they remember to show it to me.

No, seriously.  Why not?  Because that is the source of all the moaning we hear about millenials.  “They can’t perform.”  “They don’t take criticism.” “They have no idea what effort is.”

I’ve been fortunate, as a parent, to have my teeth kicked in several times while pursuing my chosen avocation.  What I mean is, writing is a difficult field to break into when you have no connections, no idea how to navigate the network, and no interest in fitting whatever the flavor of the month NYC was looking for.

Complaining?  Don’t you believe it.

This is not fifty shades of writer, and I didn’t enjoy my eviscerations by publishers and critics any more than the average human being, but I tell you what, it taught me that life is never a little padded playground.  If you want to play with the big boys and at the big level, you’re going to get bruised.  The trick to life is not to never be knocked down – it’s to have the resources to get up and fight again.  Read the biography of any man who accomplished anything, from the founding fathers to oh, Heinlein, and you’ll see their eventual success was preceded by a series of often stunning failures.

Studies have been made.  People who are most successful at love are those who aren’t afraid to fail at relationships.  People who are most successful at business are those who survive failures and go on trying.  If you’re afraid to fail, you’ll never get anywhere.

So I figured the best gift I could give the boys, given I don’t have a few million to cushion their way through life (and at that, that might be child abuse), was to let them learn to fight their own battles, skin their own knees, bruise their own noses.

Has it worked?  Who knows?  I’d say they have a tendency to be perfectionists, who try too hard and become more neurotic than shaved monkeys, but that’s probably hereditary.  However, I do know they’re not like the millenials people complain about.  They don’t require praise and cup cakes just to do their job.  They work hard – really hard – at what they’re supposed to do and always go a little further.  And they have learned that failure isn’t the end of the world.

Oh, yeah, and they resent being lumped in with the precious flowers.  As they should, because they aren’t like them.

And because this isn’t generational or time bound.

Take the SFWA thing, for instance.  No, I’m not going to harp on it.  Yes, I find it palls, too.  But I use it was an illustration, in this case, so bear with me.  I use it as an illustration because I’m in possession of facts the average outsider probably lacks for what really is at the root of all this.  And it relates to the theme of this article and is universal.

When I was trying to break in, back in pre-history circa 1998, as a young mother of 36, I read all the industry news religiously.

Imagine how I choked on my own tongue when the editor of a large magazine said in print that no one under 40 had enough “life experience” to write well.  Yes, the editor was one of those boomers, but then most of them were.  Long march, and all that.  I was 36 at the time, and I figured that this was their equivalent of “never trust anyone over 30” — now “never trust anyone under 40″ since their parents weren’t trying to break into publishing, and designed to keep people like me out.  Because it made no sense in any other way, since well… life experience has nothing to do with how long you lived, just like writing practice has nothing to do with how long you’ve been writing.  You might have been writing since six, but you write an essay a year.  Or you might have been writing since six, but you write five novels a year.  Even if the first person has been writing for thirty years and the second for five, the second has more writing practice.  In the same way, I know young people who’ve survived massive personal tragedies and fought for everything they have, who are more mature, more “experienced” than pampered college professors who have done nothing, their whole lives, than live in the hot house of academia.

But little by little I found out at that point in time, that was the general opinion of NYC publishing.  (Except Baen, of course.)  “If you’re under forty, you’re too young to write well.”

Fast forward five years.  My first series had tanked, and I was submitting proposals everywhere.  I kept getting back rejections not to the material but to me.  “We’re looking for younger writers.  Early twenties.  See, we need to attract more young readers, so we need young writers, who speak their language.”

As someone who both speaks English, just like the younger writers, and who was reading Heinlein when she was in her teens and he was in his sixties, I tend to think no rational person could believe that the age of the writer has anything to do with the age of the reader.  The cynic in me goes “Oh, so the editors had twenty something year old kids at that time.  Or their friends did.”  On the other hand it’s possible they aren’t rational.  Certainly this sad tale shows that this thing is both still going on, and that it defines “not rational.”

That btw is the sad story of a twenty something year old writer, who got a 200k advance for a book of essays, which then proceeded to sell less than 8k copies, which didn’t daunt the publishers from offering her 30k for her next book.  And she’s lamenting about it all in a tale that  you’d have to have a heart of stone not to laugh at like an hyena.  But see, she’s a “feminist socialist” and young and female and so, of course, exactly what NYC publishing was looking for, since well… they often confuse the wrapping for the gift and the writer for the work.

Anyway – the most important influx of these writers, who got doors thrown open for them because they were the right age/gender/upbringing – most of whom were very young and female – was about ten years ago.  Young women just out of college were getting huge offers for books that were what young women just out of college and with no life experience would write (and no, I’m not committing the error above.  This wave of what I call “red carpet acceptances” was targeted at young, just out of college and parroting the right “truths” – no life experience or rational thought wanted, or, in fact, accepted.) – very derivative, with a lot of sex and, in mystery, a lot of shoe and fashion shopping.  (I read Manolo shoe blogger, but look, there are limits to how much I care about shoes.)

Which brings us to now.  These young people, often very protected, were taken in and told they were the next best thing.  Not because of what they did, but because of what they WERE.  Success was their right and inevitable.  Like the poor kid who wrote the essay I linked, they were told they were so smart and brave and stuff for exactly parroting what they’d been taught.  And by and large – with a couple of exceptions – their stuff didn’t sell all that well, though they’ve won awards and been fetted and told how wonderfulglittery they are.

And even the ones who were successful are now shaky, because all they ever did was enter into traditional publishing and be massively supported and do fairly well within that framework.

I don’t even know if the smartest ones know all the breaks they got.  I doubt it.  First of all, because in publishing this stuff is all hidden and it’s hard to realize how much support you had, or even that other people didn’t get it.  (Unless you don’t get it, in which case you start wondering how the process broke down, then find out this is standard.)   Second because it’s human to take credit for our own success, no matter how helped.

So, you see, in their eyes, they think everyone else got this sort of magic carpet ride.

Now, as the carpet wobbles in the air currents, going indie is unthinkable, and of course someone else must be doing something wrong.  It must be those old, antiquated people, out of touch with the current generation, who refuse to retire.  Or perhaps it’s discrimination.  Must be discrimination.

And now you know what is at the back of the SFWA hysterics, and also what is coming to us, in society in general.  In the case of the SFWA darlings it’s worsened by their being now in their thirties.  When you’ve been told you’re so special BECAUSE you’re young, the thirties have to be a shock.  And you’re not famous yet, and people like Heinlein are still more read/influential than you – and… trembles lip… they’re dead.

But this is coming to society at large, because we do have a lot of kids my kids’ age, (and about ten years older) just about, raised by helicopter parents under the idea that children were trophies.  They’ve been making sure Johnny and Jane (only for this set they’re likely to be spelled Gionny and Gianne) never experienced failure and had perfect credentials since kindergarten.

I’ve actually heard parents bragging about that entire generation as “the best educated, the nicest, kindest” – sorry guys, I vouch for my kids being fairly well educated, generally decent human beings.  Not for any “generation.”

But  little Gionny and Gianne don’t know that.  They were told all their lives how special and important they are.

Only the economy – Summer of recovery 6 coming up!  How that must perk you up! – not to mention technological change are ensuring these people – who have never skinned their knees —  meet the wall at speed at face first.

How will they handle it?

One would like to think they will pull themselves up and charge on.  Doubtless a lot of them will.  Maybe even the majority.  But that will still leave a vocal and noisy and very large group of people who will throw serial tantrums because it can’t be their fault.  And who will try to pre-emptively protect themselves from any hurt-discrimination. And who will scream it’s all the fault of those bigoted old people who don’t have the decency to die.

So, hold on to your seats.  The ride is about to get rough.

And if you have kids, let them fall and skin their knees and bruise their noses a few times.  The most interesting people have scars.  Being thirty five and behaving like an unspanked baby is a dreadful fate.(VERY interesting people are a mass of scars.) 

And some things – like failing – you can only learn to survive by doing.

No one likes kicks in the teeth.  But you learn to wear a mouth guard.

* Oh, and if you’re a beginning writer, there’s a post on how to start your career over at Mad Genius Club.

191 responses to “How Much Sharper Than A Serpent’s Tooth

  1. When I (a GenXer) was the age the Millennials are now, you would have thought the sky was falling. GenXers were incompetent slackers. We got exactly the same complaints we hear now about Millennials. So I figure we’re all doing a lot of hand-wringing over something that cures itself in time; Xers managed to grow up and I suppose this generation will too.

    • It’s not quite that — as the mother of kids this age, having seen their classmates … a lot of them were HYPER protected. It’s a combination of affluence and smaller families. Every child becomes the “all precious child.” Little Emperors, they call them in China.
      That said, I agree with you most people will grow up. It’s the one who don’t that worry me, as we’re watching with the SFWA spectacle.

      • On a related note:

        http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-02-20/go-ahead-let-your-kids-fail

        I’m on the road this week, giving talks on my new book about learning to fail better: that is, first, to give ourselves the permission to take on challenges where we might very well fail; second, to pick ourselves up as quickly as possible and move on when things don’t work out. This is, I argue, vital on a personal level, as well as vital for the economy, because that’s where innovation and growth come from.

        The other day, after one of my talks, a 10th-grade girl came up and shyly asked if I had a minute. I always have a minute to talk to shy high school sophomores, having been one myself.

        And this is what she asked me:

        “I understand what you’re saying about trying new things, and hard things, but I’m in an International Baccalaureate program and only about five percent of us will get 4.0, so how can I try a subject where I might not get an A?”

        I was floored. All I could think as I talked to this poor girl is “America, you’re doing it wrong.”

  2. Why not? Because that is the source of all the moaning we hear about millenials. “They can’t perform.” “They don’t take criticism.” “They have no idea what effort is.”

    Two major places I hear this from:
    folks who are constantly trying to get others to do the work and throw fits at criticism
    folks who don’t consider folks who don’t do this millenials, no matter our age.

    Sort of like how “boomer” is frequently used to mean “manipulative, entitled old hippy.”

  3. On the single snowflake child– I think that may be partly the fact that they only have one kid, so it’s harder to see kids as little people, rather than a pet, clay or an automation.

    She says, trying to wrangle the three very different little people into shape!

  4. You mentioned Dover clip art books earlier for book covers. Which do you find the most useful? They have quite a few actually. . . .

    (Buckling down to hard work here. 0:)

    • the painting ones, but honestly Mary, Art Renewal is just as good, if you make sure the artist died before 1927. (Which makes you feel like a ghoul. you find a painting and go “come on please, have died earlier?”)

  5. I will say that a lot of children who are “eased” through life have parents who don’t understand that one of the greatest elements of success is the possibility of failure: I give the modern-day proverb, fresh from my own mind, “when failure is not allowed, success is impossible”

    • Irony: several people I know are of the type to spout fluff like the tale of the butterfly NEEDING to struggle to leave its chrysalis, in order for the wings to develop and unfold properly, are also the same ones who great their kids way and arrange exudes and mitigate consequences.

  6. This is a battle I fight with my ex-wife on a regular basis. She seems to think that the kids are entitled to anything they want ever. My oldest is eight. She has her own laptop and Ipod, paid for by her mother. My ex wants me to buy her a cell phone. It’s not going to happen. She’s freaking eight.

    I’m hoping that she’ll learn something by spending time with her father. I do my best to make her responsible for herself, at least to an extent. She has to make her bed and clean up her own messes. She has to brush her own hair and her own teeth. She has to get her own shoes and put them on, etc…

    She acts like she’s been assaulted every time she’s told to do any of the above. Actually, that’s not fair. It’s been a year and a half since the divorce became final and she is getting better. But it’s been a long road and I’m not there yet. It’s not easy though, because of the way she’s been treated. The fact that her mother lets her stay home from school because “It’s fun” doesn’t help either.

    There is hope, but we have to do something about these parents and I’m not sure what we can do. People have the right to raise their own children. It scares me though. If my kids are like this with one parent who actually does his best to teach them something, what happens when both parents are like my ex?

    • The fact that her mother lets her stay home from school because “It’s fun” doesn’t help either.

      Crap. How does she get away with that? I’ve been threatened with jail for letting my son stay home because his allergies* made it impossible for him to get anything done in school, and it would be a complete waste of time.

      *Apparently, if you don’t have a life-threatening food allergy, people don’t believe that an allergy can be debilitating, but when your eyes burn so much that you can only keep them open for seconds at a time, and your head feels like you have the flu, it’s basically pointless to go to school. The allergy shots have made him tons better, but for a while, I had no money to take him to the allergist.

    • My sympathies. I know someone who has the same problem you do. Except in his case, it’s getting worse, and the ex-wife has no job and leeches off the child support.

      Actually, I know a number of guys who have this problem. I feel sad for them and the children, because that’s a waste of a good father, and children being wasted as well.

  7. Fluffer.(definition NSFW).

    Appropriate, but a little surprising:-)

  8. I remembered in the 80s when some of the Boomers (not the military group represented by Vietnam Vets and others btw) complained that we were too materialistic and didn’t like to play. Our generation were tired of living in tents and communes (not that I lived in a commune, but with such a large family it sometimes felt that way) and were busily living better lives. Also– AIDS became a thing. It seems that we were considered too dull and the extreme Boomers decided to train the next few generations to follow in their footsteps.

    I still dislike the term “child of the sixties” because many of those “children” were adults.

    BTW I think you have every right to be proud of your sons.

    • I wouldn’t think that it would be out of character for the military Boomers* to complain about people being to materialistic and not liking to play.

      *Military Boomer=21B combat engineer :)

      • My hubby is a Vietnam Vet too– he used a portable transmitter (chained to a jeep), RFD unit. :-) I can’t remember his designation in the army– Brain fart and chemo has been very bad for me.

      • Ah but your definition of play was very different from the hippie Boomers. ;-)

      • It wasn’t the military boomers. It was the slacker boomers.

      • Dear God, there are two of us, on here? Although, I’m old enough to have been a 12B enlisted swine, then a 21B still enlisted swine, and then 12B, yet again. Still wonder who got the OER bullet for that bit of MOS coding genius.

        Someone really ought to warn Sarah about what happens once you reach the critical mass of bored combat engineer enlisted types. Especially when they have access to high explosives…

        • Believe me– I have heard the stories– from the hubby of course.

        • “… bored combat engineer enlisted types. Especially when they have access to high explosives …”

          Jeesh. Chuck the explosives, they have access to industrial-grade, reinforced to military-specification, HEAVY EQUIPMENT. Much of the more recent stuff expected to function on multiple types of hydrocarbon fuels. Explosives go BOOM once and only once per package (apologies if I FUBAR the terminology, I’m thinking “HE charge plus detonator plus whatever else to trigger / control the detonation – even if some portion IS reusable”). Equipment keeps rolling, and rolling, and rolling; the fuels have certain, ah, “alternative uses”.

          (My eldest uncle was a warrant officer in Army Corps of Engineers who passed away last fall shortly before my father … Uncle Jack’s postings included the Panama Canal. He and my aunt — my Panamanian-born aunt, to be complete in setting background — supported and continue to support Carter’s decisions WRT the return of control… Why, no, I never spoke with him about the hijinks of his fellows. Not directly. Did get to skim through some rather informative NON-restricted manuals as well as put together information from other sources.)

        • No, the military refused to take me, I just had family and friends were combat engineers, and did some civilian work with explosives, an amazing number of powder monkeys have a 21B/12B designation in their background. This included Buck, the first powderman I ever worked with blasting rock. He was rather well known amongst us for using Factor P, (and to short of delays) whenever he would blast rock clear across a canyon instead of leaving it in a nice pile we would just say, “it’s just another Buckshot.”

        • When pressed for details of “…so, what do you do in the Army…”, our usual response was “Large-scale vandalism, and the wholesale destruction of public property…”.

          Areas that have played host to large numbers of Combat Engineers on the defensive will almost certainly be in the market for considerable engineering talent and equipment, during the aftermath. Which may or may not bear a certain resemblance to certain large-scale natural disasters such as tsunami events, volcanic eruptions, and the like.

          My peers and I would have turned a good chunk of Central Europe into a howling wilderness, and with an alacrity and joy that would have chilled the heart of any city father in Germany. They tasked us on one exercise with a mission of removing a large bridge with the minimal amount of explosives possible. We turned in a worksheet calling for a couple of crates of C4, some detonators, and a whole bunch of det cord. The Major doing the evaluation of the work took one look, snorted, and laughed, telling us that there was no way we’d ever take down a 4-lane highway bridge across the Rhine with so little. Which was when we pointed out that our target was not the bridge, but the adjacent chemical plant, and several of the barges which were nearby filled with LNG and other suchlike combustibles. We used the words “BLEVE”, and “industrial accident” several times.

          The Major’s eyes pretty much bugged out when realized what we were planning on doing. We did manage to get a “GO” on that station of the exercise, but he made a point of pulling the NCOs aside, and making us promise to never, ever do something like that in real life. After we returned from that exercise, he called us up to his office, and worked through the likely effects of what we’d casually come up with, and made sure we understood that we would have likely caused whatever conflict we were engaged in to go nuclear–Primarily because the size of the detonation we intended would have been damn close to that of a nuclear strike, were we to be successful in getting the effects we were trying for.

          He was also curious where we got the idea. I pointed out that industrial safety manuals made good reading, and that if you knew how to prevent large-scale accidents, you were pretty far along the way to understanding how to cause them…

          • For some reason most people flinch when you start figuring amounts of ANFO by the truckload instead of the pound.*

            *The one time I recall seriously questioning the need for that much explosive was when I had to pack 2600 lbs of ANFO in over a half mile, on my back.

            • Layfolk just don’t understand the sheer orgasmic pleasure one derives as the blastwave sweeps through you, and the majority of your target heaves up into the air, raining back down upon you in small pieces.

              It’s addictive, it is.

              It’s probably a good thing they never decided to hold the Northern European Wargames, phase 3. I’d likely still be paying off the karmic debt several lifetimes from now.

              One things for certain, however: There would have been more than a few Soviet commanders left pounding their hatch coamings in frustration, much like Pieper did, and saying the same things he did, only in Russian. I wonder what the Russian is for “Damned Engineers”?

              • Layfolk just don’t understand the sheer orgasmic pleasure one derives as the blastwave sweeps through you, and the majority of your target heaves up into the air, raining back down upon you in small pieces.

                (Sean Connery voice)”What you’re feeling is…the Quickening!(/end SCV)

              • I did pyro effects for the CAF, and if we set off more than 10 car alarms, it was a successful bomb shot. And if someone complained about the heat wall from the Ploesti shot. :D (Note that injuring yourself or another blaster/shooter deducts karma and beer points from one’s existence.)

                • mikeweatherford

                  I never got to actually set the charges — I just managed to pick which targets went “boom”. Our biggest failure in the Afghanistan/Iraq wars was NOT using ARCLIGHT strikes against our enemies. I’m sure even the Taliban would head for Antarctica after the second or third one, especially if we announced that we’d make one every week until they surrendered. Never use minimal force when you have and can use overwhelming force — it messes with mind AND body.

                  • If the blast radius doesn’t encroach on Allied territory, it isn’t overkill.

                    I was tempted to say there is no such thing as overkill, but as TXRed pointed out, when you start damaging your own it is bad karma.

                  • Heh. I’m not a veteran myself, technically, unless you count Avalon Hill, SPI, Yaquinto, and assorted other war simulations — and a rather non-standard ROTC course offered to non-ROTC students one year at Oklahoma State — BUT it has been rather educational to use, extend, and even create those simulations. Overkill isn’t, unless you destroy more of the means of production you are trying to seize / defend than your orders “permit” — and, as noted by others, unintended collateral damage of friends and allies loses karma and beer points.

                    Trying to quantify the psychwar effects of overwhelming force is one place where I’ve yet to see a simulation (a wargame) get things right consistently. Possibly with the exception of a little “casual” game named “Nuclear Escalation” and the others in that series …

    • yep. Now they claim we’re of them.

    • marycatelli

      Oh yes. At the time, John W. Campbell pointed out that the Kent State protesters were the same age as the National Guardsmen whom they attacked with rocks, and who shot back.

  9. As you may recall I spent 24 years with a small independent government agency. For a time in the 90s we actually were able to hire some fresh out college students, primarily engineers, but all STEM, so no real shirkers, but most if not all definitely had that precious flower attitude. From their perspective we had several strikes against us, low starting wage what with us being the government, but the real shocker was that they would not start out in an automatic position of authority with a personal secretary and corner office just like mommy and daddy had. On the salary thing, I took a $10k pay cut from my last industrial job before taking two and a half years off to get my BS-ISE which stung a bit, but with hard work and a bit of luck managed to double that figure within three years.
    I found that those who deigned to accept a job offer had to be supervised very closely as they had a nasty tendency to use their positions as CS to lord it over senior contract engineers with 20 years or more of experience. As a fellow CS I was bulletproof and with 15 years of industrial experience had a bag of tricks that worked quite nicely to whip the little bassards into playing nice. Mostly did such pro bono. They kept wanting to push me into management, but I’d done that once in my earlier career and run screaming after less than a year.

  10. Are you sure you’re not reading a chapter or two of Requiem before bed or something, lately? This is the second post recently that has a lot of echos of Heinlein’s World Science Fiction Convention speeches in it.

  11. My daughter got a job and moved out one month after graduating high school. She didn’t want Mom running her life. My wife was appalled. I was proud. She learned a bunch of life lessons from her choice. She went to UNR because it was close and cheap for a Nevadan. One thing she noticed was that on any group projects (I hate them myself) the only people who contributed were the ones like her who had a job. Parent supported special flowers never seemed to have time to study. She moved back in with us after roommate troubles as a sophomore. Mom was now able to treat her as an adult. Kids gotta live life in order to grow up. I think many boomers are raising hobbits. They’re not considered adult until 31. I think that one of the best things about Harry Potter is that J. K. Rowling showed kids maturing by overcoming adversity.

    You got to point kids in the right direction then let them fly.

  12. Christopher M. Chupik

    “Fifty Shades of Writer”. For the cover, I’m envisioning a laptop, posed provacatively on red silk.

  13. There are some advantages to growing up just slightly better than dirt poor — you can see the potholes on the road that was indifferently paved because the county commissioner didn’t live on it, AND see just how fast it was paved properly when the next-elected commissioner lived just around the corner at the next crossroad…
    As another divorced parent whose children were all born in the ’80s, and who ended up living more than 1500 miles away when they were in high school and college, I’ve gotta say I’m *proud* of my boys and their choices, their successes, AND their mis-steps. Eldest just re-trained and is starting his own HVAC business in Maine, middle child just entered Peace Corps after a series of “interesting opportunities” with his sights set on wilderness guide / park ranger, youngest is testing software and otherwise involved in production for same. ALL three, and their spouses, have succeeded in part from learning-by-doing as their mother and I have made OUR mis-steps in life.
    They are better-off than I am in more ways than I can accurately count. I am the better as a person for having had a part in their lives. No “helicopter” parenting here, no taste for it on my part or (mostly) on their mother’s — she and I had some serious differences of opinion about many things in our shared lives, but few when it came to parenting (other than acceptable punishment types…) That I will always count as one of the blessings of my life.
    I’m blathering, seriously blathering, and I know it — but do have a point: GenX and Millenial labels are ultimately as misleading as Boomer and InBetween because they try to reduce an entire ill-defined population to some expansive three-descriptives-and-a-label mindset. Yeah, there are some benefits to categorization — but as a Sputnik-era baby (June of ’58…), I’m not technically a Boomer yet still get lumped in with them more often than not. (Daddy was a Korean Conflict vet [121st Evac; he was THERE for most of the events portrayed fictionally in the first two years of the M*A*S*H television show...], not a WW2-era veteran.) I don’t think like my older cousins, except when I do. May be a weird-with-a-beard NOW, but was mostly too late for hippie-dom, too early to make a decent yuppie.

    I’m me, my friends are my friends, and special snowflakes will get just as much grief — and respect — as their actions & attitudes earn.

    • A couple of days ago– my landlady and I were making fun of the special snowflakes who had enough money for tattoos and piercings, but didn’t have enough money for rent and food. Some of those tattoos cost thousands of dollars. They seem to be in the majority where I live.

    • I forgot to say that my dad was technically a Korean War Vet, although he was in the Navy and was in the group that never saw combat (very end of the war).

    • Like our lovely hostess I was born in 1962, albeit in sunny California rather that sunny Portugal. My Dad was a Korean War vet who never saw anything other than the wiring of an arctic radar station during the war. I’ve been assigned variously into and out of the boomer generation during my lifetime, and in my age cohort I’ve seen everything from the watchful free-range parenting I got to the full on tilt-rotor parenting on display these days (tilt-rotor parents are just like helicopter parents, they just make faster transits between hovers).

      Judging by empirical results, I’d say the free-range parenting methodology seems to yield better adults, though it seems making use of that methodology without running afoul of The Law would be pretty difficult these days.

      • I’ve been waiting for the chance to describe the parenting style of conspiracy theorists or spies as “Black Helicopter Parenting”.

  14. Christopher M. Chupik

    You may have read this article, Sarah, but for the benefit of those who haven’t:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2014/02/21/american-journalism-brimming-with-once-in-a-generation-talent/

  15. I’m one of those who graduated college and joined the ramen-of-the-month-club. I used my remaining college money to get pilot licenses, and ended up flying for a living with a liberal arts degree. When I went back to college for grad school, I gravitated to the other “visiting from the real world” students, and got my best teacher evaluations from the “older” college students. Exact age didn’t matter so much as experience and background: an 18 y.o. who’d been to Hard Knock High and Vocational School was a joy to teach. Precious Flower of the House and Lineage of Snowflake made me want to pull my hair out.

    • I worked through college. I “got” to live at home — no choice actually, in Portugal my generation you lived at home till you got married, PARTICULARLY if you were a woman. The police would cheerfully pick up women of 30 who were “runaways” from their parents home. (I had my plan of escape, having got my parents buy-in to move in with my two best friends into a small apartment — then I got married.) BUT I worked and paid my way and I cleaned the house top to bottom every week, so, you know… mom would have paid more to a cleaning woman. I used my savings to pay my way out to get married. Eh.

      • Heh, my college required you to live on campus unless you were at least 26, lived with a family member, or were married. At one point they provided unmarried adult-student housing as well, until the [redacted] county sheriff broke the news to them that according to county and state law, a secular building housing more than two unrelated, single women without at least one married couple resident full time was by definition a bordello, and illegal. He was kind of chagrined, and the college opted to close the housing rather than try and get the laws changed.

        • *snort* I’m sure being charged with running a bordello on campus would have done wonders for enrollment.

          • Eh, not for a single-sex church school back then. Now? I’m afraid to speculate.

            • Ok, well I recalled you stating you attended an all-women’s school, so that was intended as sarcasm, but as you pointed out, my statement may very well have been accurate taken at face value for a coed school.

  16. In breaking news a New Jersey precious snowflake just lost a big chunk of her suit against her parents:
    Rachel Canning, 18, of Morris Catholic High School, was denied her requests for child support of $654 a week as well as thousands of dollars in attorney fees and immediate reimbursement of her high school tuition.

    She says her parents kicked her out just before her 18th birthday. They say she left rather than abide by house rules which included a curfew, doing chores, and being respectful towards them.
    The judge did direct her parents to keep her on their health insurance and not change any current college fund accounts. A decision on what their obligation regarding college tuition will be is set for next month. In the mean time she’s staying with a friend’s family. Her high school tuition was already paid up to the end of 2013 and the school has already said they will not kick her out over any 2014 unpaid bills, so other than no longer having any means of support she’s covered for the basics. This would appear to be something cooked up in collusion with a sleazy lawyer to milk her folks for whatever they could get out of them.
    Yet another of the “give me my freedom but keep paying support” millenium kiddos. From my perspective the parents sound moderately strict, and it’s a Catholic high school, so where in heck did she get the idea this would be a winning strategy?

    • Skipping the snark about there being Catholic and “Catholic” schools– possibly from the boyfriend that was apparently the tipping point?

    • Eh…the dad said he was a liberal, liberal parent and that he was more easy going with his daughter than he was with any of his officers (he’s the former police chief). That, to me, sounds like they weren’t that strict.

    • It is stories like this that make me see red. She is 18 a legal adult, why should her parents have to pay a dime of anything? For that matter why on earth should a private school be required to waste their time and resources on her for no remuneration?

      And yes it does look like a winning strategy to me, maybe not such a decisive win as she was hoping for, but she certainly got more than she deserved or should be entitled to.

  17. Also born in 1962. My father turned 18 a couple of months before the war ended. Wasn’t immediately drafted because he was the oldest son of a rancher. However, he got drafted for Korea, but never was deployed there, because he didn’t finish radar school before the cease-fire.

    I suppose every generation wrings their hands that the next generation hasn’t been raised right. I wonder about my kids, and whether my wife is too protective. However, I’ve convinced myself that fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and autism aren’t caused by helicopter parenting. Yep, those are my three kids.

  18. I’m 31 and I’m amazed by some of the immaturity that I see in my peers. I fell out with my college friends and a lot of it had to do with frustration over the fact that we were so far apart in our lives. I owned my own house, paid off my college debt, have a good paying job, and am moving forward with my life. They… did not. One was still living at home, the other couldn’t hold down more than an entry level programming job.

  19. Every generation predicts that after them, comes the deluge. Every generation is wrong.

    I got into it with a gentleman on another board, who was bemoaning the current set of slackers he was seeing join the Army, and how poorly they were at being soldiers. I think I finally shut his stupid ass up when I asked what his date of enlistment was, which was well past 1990. Which then led to me pointing out that it was his generation of slacker POS scumbags that my generation of soldiers had spent endless hours bemoaning, and who we seriously doubted would ever amount to much, at all…

    Most of those kids went on to serve as junior- and mid-grade NCOs during the last ten-plus years of conflict, and also did a damn fine job at it. Today’s crop of parasitical rat bastards will do quite the same, and they’ll be bitching about the kids of tomorrow who get up off their asses and enlist to serve, I have no doubt.

    Sometimes, the deluge does come. For some strange reason, they keep predicting it here, and then it nails some foreign clime a lot harder. I think the US will do just fine, so long as there are people who are willing to fight the good fight. My expectation is that the pendulum’s backswing is about to start, and move back shockingly quickly.

    • marycatelli

      Yeah, I remember the quotes from Ancient Rome about how terrible kids are nowadays.

      OTOH, I remember what happened to Ancient Rome.

      • OTOH, I remember what happened to Ancient Rome.

        Hey, so does Gaius Iulius!

        And i’d note, while the western half had a perfectly respectable run, the eastern half compiled a record of hanging in there that’s really hard to beat.

    • Ah, but there’s selection bias at work here – The outstanding NCOs were E-1s that stayed. The real slackers completed the minimum commitment needed to get those benefits the recruiter promised and got out.

      In any field the ones who stick with it are the ones who will mature and improve. It was the same with the tech fields – I interviewed many snowflake “good school” EE-degree-bearing applicants for support hotline engineer jobs, and the only foolproof predictor of those who would excel was experience other than college. For the raw new grads, they either stuck with it and learned, or bailed at the first opportunity.

      And then there were the candidates who looked great on paper, but who you would not want supporting you by bagging at the local supermarket. Given today’s new-word-of-the-day, I’d say these were pretty obviously “fluffed”.

      • In any field the ones who stick with it are the ones who will mature and improve.
        Actually, I should say the ones who stick with it are the only ones who can mature and improve. I’ve observed plenty of folks who are just following their own personal “in-cube early retirement plan”.

      • Eh, most of my friends and relatives that were military have gotten out, many of them having planned on making a career out of it, and quite few having served multiple enlistments. EVERY ONE of them has cited the ridiculous ROE’s and BS rolling down from on high as the reasons they didn’t reupp when questioned.

        The majority of the military will always consist of those who are only planning on serving one or two enlistments, and many of those do that out of patriotism. Not saying they won’t avail themselves of the benefits the recruiters promised, although I know quite a few who didn’t, but they would have enlisted without that carrot (as would have I) because they believe that their country needs their service. The military needs a core of quality long-service NCO’s (and officers) however, and those are currently fleeing in droves.

  20. marycatelli

    ” They did their kids homework for them, sometimes engaging the resources of an entire office which they managed to research it for the precious snowflake. (You only wish I were joking.) This meant even when number two son, who is always a perfectionist, would devote a month to his geography project, including art and all, he would have a B, because you can’t compete with professionally-generated booklets.”

    I once heard of an English teacher who gave class a gimlet stare and announced that they now had to summarize their term papers in half a page. The person telling this story had a paper that looked pathetic in the pile, and still got an A.

    I told it once, and my chemistry teacher sister said that she was going to go tell the English teachers at her school that.

  21. Okay, so I got a minute and went and read that linked article. Boggled. That’s me.

    There are some shockingly mundane revelations in there. Shocking not because they’re particularly lurid or intimate, but because they’re so pedestrian and childish and they’re being presented as hard earned pearls of wisdom.

    It’s not that I’m feeling particularly superior or whatnot. I’m fully aware folks (most definitely myself) have some real doozy irrational concepts flicker across the brain. Some inherently contradictory or merely unsustainable fantasies bumble their way on the stage. It’s just — when they happen, I quietly throttle the silliness out of them (maybe after indulging in the silliness for a moment for grins) and then hide the bodies. Not out of shame, or embarrassment but because I have enough self-awareness to say “who cares?” Really.

    You know, when I was a boy, I sometimes dreamed of being a superhero. You’re rocked back, I know, who’s that ever happened to? ‘Course, even as a wee me, I knew they were daydreams. Stories to explore and enjoy and then set aside.

    She wallows in this lengthy series of self-absorbed decision failures without any apparent shred of connection to reality (other than the genuflecting to ‘proper thought’) and hands it out as worthwhile. She rehashes movie of the week tropes as real marker moments in her life, without any depth to connect them to, I don’t know, an actual life. More of a “see, I went through all those 20-something life revelations, I’m a real person.” Except, they don’t seem to have rippled the pond in the slightest.

    It’s also entirely possible I have mild indigestion from lunch and I’m a grumpy bassoon. Whichever fits. (But the money she was handed! I’m not jealous {Really. Probably.}, I’m irritated at the silliness.)

    • Thanks for putting into words what I couldn’t. I just ended up sputtering in bafflement, reading through that. The most I could come up with was ‘wah, I’m not getting the everything I was promised I could get as a woman!’

      • I sputtered a bit myself. I kept running face first into these assumptions underlying her actions and thinking “Gah!” And the remarkable focus on self…

        This little gem sums the concepts for me nicely:

        What, I thought, as I waited for the uptown 6, was that? I began to worry about being normal for my friend who’d landed us the highly coveted tickets…I didn’t want to alienate her by crying or acting strange or giving money to homeless people.

        Gah!

    • The mindset is just foreign to me, not just the feminist socialist one, but the urban Easterner one. I am reading along and thinking, okay feminist-socialist, one each, yep she’s a wacko, but we already know that. Then I get hit right between the eyes by the foreign mindset when she offhandedly mentions that at thirty years old (and regardless of her beliefs or spending habits, with a fairly comfortable income and privileged upbringing) she neither has access to a car, nor the knowledge to drive one. Gah! And you consider yourself a liberated woman? You’re dependent on someone else for things as simple as running to the store.

      • Yeah, no access to a car, no ability regardless, she has a bike but it won’t take her 10 miles to town. Um. 10 miles? I could walk the 10 miles. There was a time I could run half of it (and I hate running). You have a bike? Pshaw. Issues of travel solved.

        But then I’m from Texas, my grandmother lived on a farm, I was a small town kid, biking 10 miles was how you warmed up for breakfast.

        As you said, urban Easterner — alien mindset.

        • My head must have been whirling still from the previous sentence, I missed the part about the bike and not being able to take it 10 miles. Now I haven’t been on a bike in at least 15 years, but I used to bike ride, oftentimes up to 100 miles in a day. I’m not saying someone out of shape and unused to riding would be able to ride 100 miles in a day, but 10 miles? My ninety year old grandmother could do that without any trouble.

          Now if she had said she couldn’t carry back groceries for the month on the bike, that I would have understood, but buying groceries for more than a couple of days at most is alien to their mindset.

          • I can’t ride a bike. it’s a long story, but it has to do with balance and coordination. BUT there are tricycles for under 200 on ebay (and probably cheaper used) and ten miles is easy — plus you could get groceries for a week.

            • I have the same problems with bicycles– even when walking. The only time I didn’t trip was on a boat in swells. Yep — I was made for the ocean (except can’t swim). lol

            • I’d be perfectly fine with you saying you couldn’t ride, given context. Because the next sentence would likely be a recount of plotting or arguing with your characters as you walked. I would expect this and find it reasonable for now Sarah, leave aside 20 some-odd Sarah. I wouldn’t be shocked to hear you walked 5 miles inside your house while cleaning one day. Because stuff’s gotta get done.

              This is one of those things that kept tripping me up. She kept throwing these bits in with no context. Because — obvious and universal. The homeless man bit I referenced above, the ‘isolation’ of being out of the city, George R.R. Martin as trash reading (and a handy name drop to reading the story before it was a ‘cool’ show), all proferred without any apparent awareness of how other folks view the world, and therefore how this all comes across. Sheesh.

              I’ve probably given her more critical reviews here than she’s had to date…

          • She’d stockpiled supplies and she was to be alone for less than a week at a time. She was couching “didn’t wanna” as “couldn’t” (again). And blithely laying it out as obvious. But she did that sort of assuming all through the article.

            I hear you about the shockwave from the prior sentence washing the follow-on out. I wish it had happened to me more.

    • I’m a grumpy bassoon.

      I am totally stealing that line.

  22. Almost hesitate to ask, but … we’re all kind of odd here. Anyone else still feel like a teenager inside even though he or she is well into middle age?

    • I feel like I did as a teen, sort of– my mom has commented that I’ve finally caught up to my mental age.

    • Apparently still have a teenager’s attention to detail. Please see my reply below and pretend it’s actually nested here. Pretend really hard, yes? Else I’ll be kicking myself for the remainder of the day.

    • Isn’t that standard? My mom still complains about feeling like a teenager. I certainly don’t understand the world (ok, women) any better than I did at age 14:-(.

    • As an adult in my late thirties…I’d agree with that statement. Of course, as a child I was older than I am now.

    • Yes, Kent, I *do* feel that way. Perhaps moreso now than in my 30s. (Hey, all you born in ’62? That’s my younger brothers birth-year, I’m from the rarefied wilderness of 1958 myself.)

    • *I* don’t feel like I’ve gotten beyond my teens (in my head, anyway – my body decided to disagree this year), but at my class reunion in ’12, one of classmates told me that in high school, I was like an adult! Lies! Insults! Gah!
      :-P

    • Not really- 1958 as Sarah said below, I was a junior in high school and doing my best to screw up the prom. Didn’t go so I don’t know if it worked, they didn’t ask me to help with the senior prom the next year though. I don’t think of myself as a teenager- but that thing about second childhood, really turns me on.

    • Dang, I must be the odd one out for once. I feel like I’m in my nineties when I first wake up (hey- great grandad was still working his fields in his nineties, so it’s possible!). On the other grimy paw, I feel like I’m about five years old when I get out of work and get to go home (and do work I like more than what makes money).

      On the balance, the five-year-old me is generally dominant. This may not speak well of my long term planning, but new books and such things fill me with such insufferable glee, well.

    • Well sort of, I like to think my decision-making is superior to what it was then. I still look at stuff and think, dang that would be fun, but now I look at the concequences* of said actions and decide not to do them.

      *Unlike many teens I looked at consequences as a teen also, it is just that my cost-benefit analysis has changed over the years.

      • Yep, pretty much. Risk analysis is a little difference, but I have to stop and do the math when I need to know how old I am. (Which, if someone who doesn’t actually need to know, asks me, is always “Old enough to know better and young enough to do it anyway.”) But I think the risk analysis change has more to do with responsibility for others than anything else.
        I just wish I still had the body of the 15-18 year old, instead of the body of the mother of five!

    • *raises hand*

      Though, lately, the body is starting to do the ‘tired at earlier hours’ thing. Not handling the staying up 72 hour stretches that I remember doing that well…

      Time really does fly!

    • You mean the isolation, angst and depression?
      By the way, did you know that there is Echo and the Bunnymen AND Bauhaus on youtube? Where have I been?

      • Ah, Bela Lugosi’s Dead. 8 minutes long, which is perfect for pressing play and slipping out the back to smoke a clove before having to come back in and DJ…

        Good times, good times.

        I still think I’m 20. It was a great year, and a horrible year, and for some reason, it’s, ah, “more than a decade” ago now. How much more, I ain’t saying.

        • there’s always Alice’s Restaurant and Inagoda Davida for those bathroom breaks.

          • We had a DJ on WKDU who got two copies of Innagaddadavida and mixed them together for the entire hour. Stoners were calling in asking where he got the extended recording.

            I personally had my own bit of programming, the “Long Song at One”. Easy to do though in an Electronic/Experimental/(Pre-yuppie)New Age show.

            • I used to listen to a mostly classic rock station out of Larose Louisiana (Now playing Cajun music, morning french language rosary, and local talk) and the DJ/PD/Owner/Manager(it was pretty much a one man show) was doing a Pick 3 for lunch (on tuesdays iirc) and for what ever reason he wouldn’t consider my first three choices of Alice’s, Inna, and the live version of Low Spark Of High Heel Boys. He would play the tunes though from time to time. It was a great little station and played a lot of deep cuts, and whole sides of Pink Floyd, but the listening area was small, and then New Orleans had three rock stations that had far larger broadcast areas that completely covered theirs so they went Cajun (N.O. didn’t have one) and simulcast with their AM station, then they are now out of another AM in New Iberia … plus they have more than one guy working all day every day.

              Now one can go the other way, and pick 3 White Stripes tunes and they are barely longer than the average 3:52 pop standard.

        • I remember those things from high school. I had some pumpkin muffins with too much clove in them the other day, and that reminded me of them. Not sure whose bright idea it was that, “these things taste to nasty to eat unless highly diluted, we should put them in a cigarette and smoke them.”

    • Well sure …. but every couple of hours something happens that reminds me that I’m not …

    • Can I get back to you after I finish watching my Anime?

    • Eh, that’s common. I noticed in high school that I was no longer adapting quickly to the knowledge that I was in a new grade.

      It’s brain chemistry. As a child, you have a brain chock full of the same chemical that makes things seem to slow down in an emergency. Time really did last longer then.

    • Yep. One of the best things about hanging out here is how I often I have “Yay! I’m not the only one” moments.

  23. Um — Of course no… I couldn’t possibly… That’s the silliest…

    Yes.

  24. The two work-related problems I’ve encountered with the Gen-Xers and millennials are the beliefs that they are entitled to more than they deserve and that employers should put their self-esteem above all else. I had a lab tech who completely screwed up. If the doctors had paid attention to that lab report, the patient would have died of bacterial meningitis. After I discussed this rather serious error with him, he whined to his co-workers that I made him feel bad.

    On the flip side, I feel sorry for the Gen-Xers and especially the millennials because they will get royally screwed when the federal debt load falls on them. They’ll be taxed to the breaking point, but the Ponzi scheme will be over: Social Security and Medicare programs will be dead.

    • Self-esteem is the sole responsibility of self, the only time employers should think of the self-esteem of their employees is when it affects their output. Of course by that metric your lab tech’s self-esteem was detrimental to his output and needed to be taken down a few notches.

    • My guess is that the Gen-Xers will get the full Social Security payments promised them, and they will be only moderately taxed from a percentage point of view.

      But the payments will have no actual value, due to hyperinflation. President Chelsea Clinton will simply order the Fed to print the money.

  25. OT but, over 3000 words today. Bad news is it is the first that I have wrote in probably six months, so nothing is progressing very rapidly.

  26. ‘shaved monkeys’. That was great-I daresay that will stay with me all day,heh.

  27. Sorry to be late to the party, just got home from the Hospital. I am a War Baby, and we were the first to serve in Vietnam. I was in the Air Force during the war, but I was fighting another war. Anyhow I think it’s a simplification to bundle generations and bundle characteristcs