Born in 1982, I sit right on the cusp of Gen X and millennial—an X-ennial, if we’re being precise. Technology didn’t shape my coming of age, but it came close enough that I understand how it could have. And so I sit right on the fault line of a generational debate that has been bubbling with increasing frequency in the age of #MeToo. While millennial women are calling out men louder than ever, scrutinizing even the most minor of mi…
ion is an almost perfect representation of the cultural shift at large: By the turn of the century, we went from sincere sexual liberation, in which people finally talked openly and honestly about sex—which, deep in the AIDS crisis, wasn’t always sexy—to fetishizing women’s ability to display se…-in show offering sex and relationship advice that was certainly racy but also, frankly, fantastic. Carolla’s transition is an almost perfect representation of the cultural shift at large: By the turn of the century, we went from sincere sexual liberation, in which people finally talked openly and honestly about sex—which, deep in the AIDS crisis, wasn’t always sexy—to fetishizing women’s ability to display sexual openness.
I came of age with Gen-X women as my models for admirable adults. I spent hours, years, decades studying the fearlessness of Dana Scully, the humor of Elaine Benes, and the attitude of—you guessed it—Janeane Garofalo. There is something so fundamentally cool about the sincerity of that generation’s toughness; their ability to stare into the ugly eyes of reality with no shield other than the power of their own indifference. Though I regrettably just missed Riot Grrrl, at least I had Alanis Morissette screaming in my ear for a year or so as a teen, before anger in women became the ultimate offense.
…t be a divide at all. Rather, millennials are responding to the unique culture they came of age in. While Gen X was arguably the first group of women to have their equality acknowledged, millennial women were the first to enter a world where their equality wasn’t questioned—which would have been great, were it not premature. Millennial women’s sense of self was so quickly assumed, many never had a chance to really develop it.
While baby boomers’ history is too shrouded in sexism to get nitpicky, and Gen Z is too woke to bother with old-timers, Gen X and millennials are fighting it out like siblings who overlapped in high school. We share just enough history to keep an eye on what the other is up to while being inevitably embarrassed at whatever it is we witness.
The idea of not having a child does, in fact, make me sad. I used to think this sadness was an indication that I must want children. But again, it’s not so simple. Something can be both right and sad. Though it’s a choice (and a privilege to have the choice), there’s still a mourning to knowing you don’t want the thing that seems to make everyone else happy. As my friends become parents—not just far off Facebook friends, but my real around-the-dinner-table…
To let go of a version of yourself, to admit that the things you thought would make you happy—things you’ve worked very hard to get—won’t actually do the trick is not only sad, it’s terrifying. It means confronting the possibility that you might have to start all over again.