5 Gen X bad habits our children should not adopt

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 4-year-old daughter Viva, whose “Generation Alpha” hasn’t chosen their character flaws yet.

Generational labels are a tricky thing with fuzzy edges that only become clear with time and cultural spin, but “Gen X” is generally touted as being the generation born from 1961 to 1981 (or 65 to 85, but you get the drift). The oldest of us are responsible for creating these horrible “Millennial” creatures, and the youngest of us are still getting IVF treatments–so expect more mollycoddled moppets with debilitating allergies to come.

We tend to be a pretty self-satisfied bunch, positioned as we are between those narcissist sell-outs, the Boomers, who will be the last generation who can ever retire at a reasonable age and die on a planet that still has ice caps, coral and rain forests after attending one last $1,000/seat Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young reunion concert, and the Millennials, who are too busy Snapchatting their Tinders and demanding Trigger Warnings on their Safe Spaces to even notice we were ever here.

Still, we have our foibles, and now that we’re parents with mewling digital touch-pad natives to look after, we need to do some self-examination and see which of our generational traits we shouldn’t be passing on to our children, most of whom are named Madison, Brooklyn, Cayden or Jackson.

Here are five of the least flattering traits of the adults with first-hand knowledge of just who killed the radio star.

Nostalgia

I believe it was the occasionally intolerable mustachioed sage Frank Zappa who said, “It isn’t necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice. There are two other possibilities: one is paperwork, and the other is nostalgia.” And, sure enough, switch out “email” for paperwork and the world is ending in all four. Gen X can’t say it isn’t to blame. We were the first to jump on eBay and buy back every Autobot, Care Bear and Mad Ball we ever sold at a garage sale. We made cosplaying as anything from Robotech to Inspector Gadget a thing. There’s even a “Saved by the Bell” pop-up cafe in Chicago right now so we can reenact scenes from a show that sucked the first time around.

And when we aren’t propping up kitschy properties from our youth, writing endless blog posts or recording podcasts giving critical exegesis of “Arise, Serpentor, Arise!” and taking courses studying the ethnoarchaeology of the burnt remains of Edna’s Edibles from “The Facts of Life,” we’re consuming new iterations of pop junk. And it doesn’t matter if you’re IRONICALLY watching “The Bachelor” or even “hate-watching” the Bachelor–you’re still chowing down on Orwellian Prolefeed like a pig at a trough.

Pac-Man Fever (and subsequent strains of digital diseases)

We’re the digital natives, and we were weaned on Atari and Nintendo, attached to the internet in early adulthood, and now tweeting with the stars. Like most indigenous people, we, the digital natives, had no immunity to the toxins and pathology that invaded our world, and even things as primitive as early “Oregon Trail” or social media experiments like “Friendster” made us go wild. We’re obsessive gamers and internet addicts. Have we posted warning signs for the generations that came after us? No, we let them get sucked in, too, rolling their online wagons right past the headstones saying a member of our party has died of typhus.

Closet gastronomic crudity

Although we pretend to be foodies, gave rise to multiple food networks and have spent most of our nights over the past couple of decades marathoning “Chopped” and “Unwrapped,” we were born before shelf-stable salad dressing and raised when Pace Picante Sauce and canned “La Choy” Chow Mein was authentic ethnic cuisine. Secretly, in our dark, clogged hearts, we want to settle in with a “Steak-Umm” and a Tab, then chase them both down with a Chocodile. We took previous generation’s obsession with coffee and added to it “Xtreme” sport drinks and soft drinks in neon colors, and we gave rise to the power drink (i.e., mixing Red Bull with Vodka and calling it a late night snack). We might not smoke, and we might give lip service to molecular gastronomy and farm-to-table cuisine, but if you left us alone in a room full of Lunchables and Captain Crunch, we’d eat ourselves to death.

Middle child bitterness

We’re sandwiched between 77 million Boomers and 83 million Millennials, and there are only 65 million of us. We’re bitter about it. Why wouldn’t we be? Birth control in the ‘60s and abortion in the ‘70s means our parents generation did more to get rid of us than any generation has tried to do since the Edwardians sent the Jazzers off to the trenches in WWI. Our parents get to retire and our kids got iPads in the crib. What did we get? “USA for Africa” on vinyl? Okay, that was fun, but is that all there is?

Staggering hypocrisy

One bad habit we share with every previous generation is that we are full of $%@&. Just as members of the Greatest Generation learned first-hand about the horrors of war but still decided Vietnam was a good investment, and how the Boomers wiped the mud off of themselves at Woodstock and went right to driving Lotuses to the stock exchange for some cocaine and insider trading, we talk out of both sides of our mouth all day. We bemoan our time as “latch-key” kids in the era of divorce and alleged child abduction, but then complain that the Millennials need more unstructured time and independence. We don’t even look up from our phones to say that the younger generations are too plugged in, and we’re bound to burn through the Social Security pool without refilling it, just as our parents intend, too.

If there’s one thing every wave of people have in common, it’s that they’re better than everyone that came before them and everyone who comes after them. Let’s see if we teach our children any better.

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