The Greatest Generation: Born before 1928
2.11 million in the US, all stats are from 2017
The Silent Generation: 1928-1945
24.44 million in the US
72.56 million in the US
Gen X: 1961-1979
65.45 million in the US
Millineals: 1980-1996 72.06 million in the US
Gen Z/i-gen: 1995-2012 90.55 million in the US
I recently heard of the new phrase “okboomer.” My first exposure was a meme and I laughed out loud. Glee filled my body at the sight of such blatant and explicit sass. As my job would have it, I quickly started hearing it from the mouths of youth in conversation. I love working with millineals and gen z, also known as i gen. They are a smart and saucy bunch and teach me a lot. Each generation has their themes. Okboomer is a phrase to acknowledge an old school, outdated, non progressive way of thinking and being. It can apply to anyone at any age, but stems from the generation on its last legs in the work force and politics which is led mostly by affluent white men.
I am going to start this blog with the positives of generational movements before I talk about challenges. I am deeply grateful to the people who came before me who have fought for a better world. Each one has built upon the other for the freedoms and opportunities that I have now. At no time in history has a single, middle aged, bi-sexual woman been able to be so educated, free, vocal, accepted and self sufficient. We have gay marriage and child protection services, mental health is talked about more, we are talking about race and sexism explicitly. The list goes on. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I do not personally take any of this for granted. The issue here is: there is still A LOT of work to be done before we have true social justice. Now I’m gonna let the critique fly in support of the generations to come. It’s going to be their world after all. It might also be good to keep in mind that each generation as they aged had at least some issue with the norms of the next. There are pros and cons to every age and era. Ultimately, the future belongs to them.
As a gen x-er myself, we are the middle child between boomers and millennials. Nirvana led our way with the teen angst of sarcasm and apathy that hallmarks our coming of age. Our “okboomer” was an eye roll with, “whatever.” Then we smoked a joint in our flannels and baggy jeans. We knew we were inheriting a bunch of bullshit to deal with. I knew and still know I will never get my full social security checks because the boomers will suck it mostly dry. We also knew because our numbers are smaller, we would never have the voting power we needed to really tell our parents and grandparents generational ideas and policies to fuck off. Many of us went ahead and helped raise a generation that can. Millenials and gen z are huge and many are just about to start voting. I can’t wait! Get me some popcorn because a wave of change is going to happen folks, and if you are old school you are not gonna like it. The message: wake the fuck up and share the wealth.
People like to tout that millennials and gen z are a bunch of entitled and delicate flowers. While their generations have challenges like the rest of us, when people label them like this they are missing the whole context and point. They are coming of age in an era unlike any other, faced with worldwide crippling issues. Yes, they have more freedom than ever in many ways. They have more material wealth and opportunities in many ways. We get to pat ourselves on the back for the progress made, and they should thank us for that. They are also having to face a future of imminent climate change catastrophe. Gun violence, war and terrorism have been a norm their whole lives. Overstimulation and a constant barrage of information streams come at them with too many choices. Decision fatigue and over scheduling impact their growing young brains. Bullying is more accessible than ever, the education system is broken and fucked, the economy is rigged and costs of living are unrealistic, health care is for the privileged only. I could go on. People, the generations that preceded them set this all up. It’s our fault. We owe these kids a big fucking apology. I don’t begrudge them a sassy term to call it out at all. I also don’t blame them for crying and yelling about it. We fought for their ability to be sensitive and say they hurt, to have the emotional connection and boundaries we did not as kids. Vulnerability is not their weakness, it is their strength. We fail them, and ultimately ourselves, when we do not adequately give empathy and understanding for the reasons why.
Many boomers love to think they are so progressive. Many were when they were young and I love them for it. I especially appreciate the people who participated in the civil rights movement and women who burned bras and went into board rooms. They were the generation who said, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” Perhaps they thought they would never age? Sadly, many got older and totally sold out. They think because they fought a good fight and protested that they know everything and what’s right. They want to apply their tactics for social change on the youth. The problem is, the world has completely changed with technology and those tactics don’t work anymore. Don’t we fight for justice so the next generation can have better and do better? The fights not over folks. In fact, the stakes are higher. Like: our planet. These kids are taking what you earned and upping the ante. They want justice extended to EVERYONE and EVERYTHING. They know the difference between equality and equity and want, no demand, justice. This is a diverse and multi-cultural fluid generation who value difference. This includes being sensitive to pronouns, blatantly calling out sexism, racism and homophobia, and not accommodating old white men, or just heterosexual white people in general. I’m totally on board.
Gen x, we’ve got our shit too. I heard the term, “Karen,” the other day for us. I also laughed. It’s in reference to white gen x people who quit caring about social justice and are more concerned for their latte order and if their Lexus gets bumped in the Whole Foods parking lot. It’s the best, I see this all the time. I can even see it in myself in moments. Many of us never sold out because we never really tried in the first place. We figured it was fucked anyway and we might as well get ours while we can. I have been pissed at the Basics my whole life, even though I work for compassion and try to direct the rage onto the system that creates such ignorance.
Look it, teen angst has always been here. Adolescents have helped change the world forever, thank god. For those of us over 40 who did try, who are still trying for change, have a sense of humor and listen. Maybe some of the cultural influences of youth are problematic, I see that, but there is wisdom too. Most of all there is passion. Passion creates change. I would rather embrace and learn from the change than fight it. If you are doing it right, aging should be telling you that you really don’t know shit. Maybe instead of judging everyone on our own rubric we can learn from one another, we can collaborate.
It’s tempting to want to lecture youth. It doesn’t work. When I work with kids I validate the angst, listen to concerns and ideas, ask A LOT of questions, and then maybe…maybe, and only if I ask permission first, offer some of my ideas. I find this is the best way to collaborate and mix the wisdom of experience from age with the fresh eyes of youth. For example, a conversation I have often with gen z is about call out culture. It is complex. As someone who came of age in a time where I had to defer a lot to get ahead I understand that if calling out is done in a polarizing way, it’s a problem. It shuts down the dialogue and gives little room to connect and grow. I had to placate a lot of white male egos to get ahead. However, calling out needs to be done and we live in a moment where more issues are on the table to freely and explicitly call out. The #metoo movement is a good example of this. So fuck deference, I like it that these kids don’t play that game. We are all in a creative process to find the middle way. In fact, my whole fucking blog is an experiment on finding the balance of calling out assholery with compassion for greater dialogue. Of course, some people get so defensive up front they make a judgement call on me and walk away. These are the okboomers and Karen’s. There is rigidity there and a fear to engage. Some folks get curious and self reflect, they participate. Even if they disagree they are open to other’s views. These are the collaborators and change makers. You people are my tribe. The youth today need us. They need us to listen, model and guide. Like my little cartoon above, each generation has their assets, and if we band together we are stronger. For me, I want to help the youth tear down the walls and burn the patriarchy. Even if that means I have to eat some humble pie for my part in it. Even if that means I am clumsy and slow to adopt pronouns and inclusive language, or I hit edges of discomfort in my own identity or racist choices….which I do frequently. Go for it kids, I’ve totally got your back!
You may wonder how this applies to sailing on a sailing blog. Look around your marina. How many young folks are there? You want more? You want the ones that are there to join your clubs and eventually buy your boats? Get on board then. Sailing is traditionally “pale, male and stale.” Organizations better work on a huge branding shift, better diversity trainings and more representative staff if they want the youth to participate. May we all sail in peace.
9 thoughts on “#Okboomer: My New Favorite Term and Why It Is Important to Listen to Youth”
Oh my god – YESS! I agree whole heartedly. I’ll stand with you to prop up those little soldiers taking over the front lines of the fights they are willing to move and shift and walls they can absolutely tear down.
I live in a wold of Karens. I refuse to shift my identity to their mold.
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Love you too Tash! Good job raising a little feminist boy over there sister! ❤️ Thats the best social action there is!
“I find this is the best way to collaborate and mix the wisdom of experience from age with the fresh eyes of youth.”
This right here is the key. Collaborate on the collective wisdom—the wisdom that comes with fresh ideas AND exposure to difference that older generations didn’t and don’t have, and the wisdom of age and time and hindsight. We need it all!
Also, an aside, I finally found a term for my generation: Xennials (1979 – 1989), the micro-generation right between Millennials and Gen-x.
The awkward ten years or so of folks who were coming of age DURING the birth of the Internet, who remember a world with DOS and floppy discs, index cards and microfiche, who still made mix-tapes and saw the birth of CDs and DVDs, but were there in the transition to the Information age, who got email in our teens and Social Media in our twenties. Also called the ‘Oregon Trail’ generation, the ‘Lost’ generation, and, when I was actually a kid, we were called Gen-Y. Like, I remember when I was ten, asking my brother, if our aunt was Gen X and our parents are baby boomers, what are we? And my brother said we were Gen Y and he’d heard it from a friend because search engines didn’t exist for the public yet.
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I’ve heard about the Gen Y as well. Most of the folks, like you that were born in that range say they have a hard time relating to either Gen x or Millineals so it makes sense.
I agree and hope I articulated the collaboration piece well. This was a hard one to write, so complex!! Generational stuff is definitely more of a both-and situation, interdependent. I work with Millenials and Gen z daily so have a lot of love for them.
Thank you! I enjoyed reading that.
Cheers to calling out assholery!
– A millennial
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Thanks May! I love your blog name! You may like my post https://skipperjenn.com/2019/10/05/i-am-an-asshole/
Thanks, added to my read list
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As a boomer that fought so hard for equality that I was assaulted and told to shut the fuck up during my time in the military after joining at the ripe age of 18, I was disappointed by the beginning of this dialog. I was unwittingly a social justice warrior long before it was a thing. I fought so hard that I didn’t get around to having a family until I became the parent of millennials. I stood by them and listened and fought for them just as hard as I did for myself. I waited until they actually asked me for advice before offering it. I have an openly gay daughter whose spouse prefers the pronoun them. And I’m damn proud of all of them, my son included. I see their pain and disillusionment. I openly fight sexism, bigotry, and everything else. Am I perfect, no, but I’m better than most people my age with their stupid stories of how they think the world should be. I’m also confused as to how we are going to take away the money that people have worked their butts off to achieve a better life and give it to people that appear to me to not be willing to put in the time and effort to achieve. It’s confusing. For people that can’t work or can’t climb out of the cycle of poverty, we need to do more…. MUCH more. We are failing miserably. And I don’t give a damn what color/orientation/age they are.
And as a boomer… in the 1970’s I was calling out politicians in open, public forums about the social security system with all it’s failures. Maybe we are going to suck it dry but where do you think the money came from in the first place? I’ll tell you, it was our paychecks. It was the precursor to the 401k. It was *politicians* who used the money elsewhere and boomers are mad as hell about that.
But then you found me… “the collaborators and change makers. You people are my tribe” Thank you. Thank you for recognizing that some of us boomers are NOT okboomers. We are mad as hell that the changes we wanted are taking so damn long. Thank you for calling me out. I need to do more. I need to understand better. I need to keep fighting. I raised my millennials to work hard, to be frugal, to care about their fellow man, their planet, their futures. My millennials were recycling and refusing single use plastics their entire lives.
I remember standing at a gas station pump, crying, because I had gotten out to tell a young man he almost hit me. As I listened to him, my heart went out to that young man who was dealing with so much. That young man said no one else had listened. I cried and went in and paid for his gas. Young people bear such awful burdens.
I think we need to add “ageism” to all the other …isms that we are fighting. Stop lumping all old white people automatically into the monsters that some of them are. Are we perfect? Hell no. Do most do what you described? Fuck, yeah. But some of us are still fighting for change, fighting for everyone to have better lives. Take a moment to find out who we are and we will help if we can. I may not understand exactly *what* you are fighting but I will damn sure fight with you if you only let me. If there’s one thing I know how to do it’s fight “the man”.
My heart is with you always, cyndy
Cyndy, so well said on all levels and thank you for reading past the beginning. The point here definitely was to say: there are pros and cons to all people and generations. The key is to look for the strengths and collaborate for change. For me, it is super hard being in a generation that could have done so much more. I also have tried hard, maybe not hard enough. I’m not a “Karen” but can see some “Karen” tendencies. As always, it’s about awareness. Maybe I should have emphasized that the real culprit of doom here as usual is white supremacy as misogyny. But we all have to do a lot of soul searching to see how that lives in us, and it does for everyone. Btw: I love many boomers profoundly, and I hope the appreciation came through. I wouldn’t even have this blog if not for those who came before. Lineage is important. Take care out there Cyndy! Fair winds!!