What to Expect When You’re Expecting to Be a Gen X Girl

Congratulations! You’re going to be born in 1968, which Smithsonian magazine will call “the year that shattered America.” That’s good, right? Until 1991, when Douglas Coupland’s book “Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture” is published, your generation will be known as the baby-bust generation. Just no.

I suppose that your generation could’ve also been named after Billy Idol’s band Generation X, or Category X, a group characterized as gravitating to big cities and creative work and being anti-advertising, anti-authority, and anti-brand in Paul Fussell’s 1983 book, “Class: A Guide Through the American Status System.” Coupland mentioned both as inspirations for the title of his landmark work, but, man, which one was it? What if I told you that Billy Idol named his band after another book, “Generation X,” by Jane Deverson and Charles Hamblett, which was published in 1964? This is the kind of tautological argument full of deep-cut cultural references that you can expect to have for the rest of your miserable life.

Anyway, when your time finally comes, at least your generation will be named after something musical and triply literary, and don’t think you won’t shove that down other generations’ throats every chance you get. What are they named after? Just some letter that comes after “X” in the alphabet.

Years Zero to Two

Safety standards for child car seats weren’t established until the nineteen-seventies, so good luck to you! You will be left to roll about in a tiny death chair accessorized with a dodgy buckle and flaccid strap. Or someone—a parent, a neighbor, a stranger, or, honestly, who knows—will just hold you in their lap, which will seem overprotective compared with what’s going on with your older siblings. They’ll be bouncing around loose in the bed of a pickup truck or sitting in the wayback of the family station wagon while giving the finger to passing motorists.

Years Three to Five

In 1967, nearly half of all mothers stayed home—that proportion will steadily decline over the next two decades. This means that you, small preschool child, will be parented by the first big wave of “Ha ha, fuck this!” moms heading off to work, thereby bestowing upon you immediate independence, Olympian ability to self-soothe, and a cursory knowledge of first aid. You will spend these early years in nursery school not being set on a path to higher education. What’s Harvard? You’re four! You’ll just chill, be social, and have books read to you, starting you on a lifelong quest for maximum culture with minimal effort.

Years Six to Eleven

You are in elementary school now! You are practically an adult!

Your existence will be a largely feral one with occasional check-ins for Little Debbie snack cakes, dinner made from soup mix, and a bath once a fortnight. Your parents will be busy attempting to self-actualize and/or divorce, and you’ll be busy learning about the alphabet and Watergate from TV. They will never, not once, wonder if you’re hydrated.

You will travel to and from school on your own and will develop the fine-tuned instincts of a jungle cat. You’ll probably get beaten up a lot or will beat up others a lot, and you know who you’re not going to tell? Adults. You will go missing for hours on end, and it won’t even register with your parents that you’re gone. They might have had you but that doesn’t mean they want to see you.

Frankly, it wouldn’t matter if all the adults disappeared from the face of the earth tomorrow. As long as you’ve got your friends from the neighborhood and a loose dog, you could survive with just a pocketknife, a can of Tab stolen from your mom, a lighter, a baseball bat, and a box of Bugles salty snacks.

You will probably see “Grease” when it comes out because, well, you have to. That’s your one chance. You will be rewarded mightily by “Grease,” which will feature filthy lyrics, such as “The chicks’ll cream,” that won’t actually register. It will also deliver the most powerful lesson of your Gen X-girl life—if you want to get a guy, you’ll need to change absolutely everything about yourself, start smoking, and dress like a sex worker.

Years Twelve to Fourteen

You are twelve now! For Generation X, that is child retirement age. Are you smoking yet? What are you waiting for? An engraved invitation, which is still a thing that exists? Also, MTV is a thing now, and this is back when the “M” actually stood for something. It’s exactly this sort of snotty attitude about “the ‘M’ actually standing for something” that’s both your curse and your comfort.

Your family’s phone is affixed to the wall and can only be used by one person at a time, so please enjoy both screaming and hearing “Get off the phone!” every day of your pubescent life. You should also brace yourself for the social and emotional espionage of calling your best friend, finding her line busy, then calling your second-best friend and finding her line busy, and knowing in your soul that they’re talking to each other. You will be faced with one of your first seemingly insurmountable social, moral, and ethical quandaries—do you attempt an emergency breakthrough? And, if you do, what’s your lie? And, if you do, what will you shout at the same time that the operator says “Emergency breakthrough” before you hang up?

Anyway, make no mistake, everyone is talking on the phone without you, probably about you.

Years Fifteen to Eighteen

Here is what you’ll believe:

  • The U.S. is boring.
  • Wars are in the past.
  • VCRs, CDs, cable TV, and Atari Asteroids are cutting-edge technology.
  • Politics is something that practically dead (read: thirtysomething) people care about.
  • “Blue balls” is a medical condition.
  • John Lennon’s murder and the Challenger disaster were both pointless tragedies, so there probably won’t be any more of those.

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