Latchkeys and Helicopters

+ enlarge

Now that we’ve all ascribed to the lavish labeling that began when the baby boomers were born, let’s take a look at where the pigeonholing has gotten all of us.

I am an X’er with older siblings who are boomers. I was fortunate to avoid the latchkey life as an adolescent, but suffered from the saturation of jobs by the boomers when I was old enough to start working. Still I was labeled further by being told me and my peers, having grown up largely alone, were spearheading “greed” by flocking to college in larger numbers than the boomers by percentage, and was mocked for liking pop music and MTV, which was being fed to us without our being able to do anything about it.
Reminder here that Madonna, no surprise, is a boomer, albeit a young one with a better sense of humor than her older peers.

Finally, in a breathtaking, refreshing moment of clarification, my generation’s musical prodigies came into being. In the 1990s, I “angsted” with Eddie and Kurt and we’ll let that old boomer Neil Young in the X’er club too. Along with hip-hop, X’ers began letting in the sunshine with the new urban catharsis that had been kept bottled up.

If the boomers clumsily ushered in social consciousness, the X’ers were the ones who lived it, letting into the party people of all colors and beliefs. Still, we are labeled sullen, uncooperative, overly pragmatic translated into greed, and we don’t even make the pay or wages that the boomers did! (Never have and seemingly never will.)

I am now told I am a helicopter parent, with anxiety issues, unwarranted paranoia and a misplaced sense of family. These words come from boomers, who are the patent holders of the original paranoia, which I guess was more important, being paranoid of the government, than being paranoid of being abandoned on a personal level by our older brethren, something we would never do to our children.

Perhaps X’ers have earned the helicopter label, so named for our need to hover over our own children, the talented millennials. Since we are the original latchkey generation, we know nothing else than the simmering worry that festered inside when each and every day most of my peers went home from school to an empty house. 

My own mother bucked her feminist urge to join the workforce, fighting instead at raising five children herself. I was lucky as an X’er to come home from school every day in junior high to a mother who grilled me and my siblings about our homework, test grades, and the needed completion of responsibilities that included things like actually writing thank-you notes for gifts, or cleaning up after our pets.

But, then again, my parents aren’t boomers either. They were both born in 1941 and had graduated from high school in 1959, college in 1963, and did not appreciate either the dominance of the air in a room by visiting boomers, whether in person or shouting at us from Walter Cronkite’s news on the TV.

These labels can be disheartening. They can also breed unnecessary anger in their narrowness and judgment. Frankly, continually fighting these stereotypes is nothing new for any generation, granted, but the X’ers have seemed to be the least likely of all to express their sadness and actually have that huge generation looming over us listen.

It came out in the grunge music and the flannel, the hip hop, the mighty wrestling with AIDS that X’ers had to contend with duing their long-awaited-for clubbing and carefree years. It came out during Desert Storm, when our peers answered George H.W.’s call for duty, quietly and respectfully. No arguments from the X’ers. We’re there. 

It came out too, unfortunately, in the rise of heroin, the drug of choice of grungers, and the most depressing drug on the planet.

Choose any from the gorgeous songs by Alice in Chains on youtube, particularly the song “Nutshell,” and feel the heroin-saturated sadness expressed in the late Layne Staley’s voice. He sings, “My gift of self is raped. If I can’t be my own, I’d be better dead.” Our sadness was palpable. 

It was there for all to see and hear.

Two recessions, twelve years of two presidents that took from the poor and fed the rich, and fighting in the job market against the dominating baby boomers, literally affected our spirits collectively.

Call us the latchkeys and the helicopters. We’ve earned the labels. Just please don’t tell us that we fostered greed. Hollywood did. The star of Wall Street, Micheal Douglas, is a boomer. And if I were to collect a dime for every sanctimonious speech delivered by Mr. and Mrs. Keaton, proud and loud boomers, to their son Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox) in the age-defining eighties sitcom “Family Ties,” I’d be pretty wealthy. No, world, all X’ers aren’t conservative like Alex, but he always took the lectures and “learned” how right his parents always were. We’re nothing if not good listeners. The same label might not apply to our older brethren.

Editor: Thank you so much for publishing my rants so far. I don’t think they are near as excellent as 99 percent of your other writers but I am working at it! This one seems rambling, so I will keep working at expressing myself a little more succinctly. Thank you for your wonderful site—I’m on to more reading.


Loading comments...