I was cruising the internet (read: New York Times homepage) and saw an article that stopped me in my tracks. It mentioned a Millennial Death Wail.
I stopped because, hey, I'm a Millennial. Am I wailing in death? To death? About death? Honestly, I didn't exactly know what the article would be about, but I wanted to know what was being said about my generational cohort by someone likely to know the difference between Millennials and Gen Z.
Basically, the article was attempting to discern what the cause of an apparent uptick in social media content posted by Millennials about the fact that we're aging. Are we actually bothered by the prospect or are we, in keeping with our digital nature, mining our personal lives for content?
Let me confirm one thing: We Millennials are, in fact, aging. Each day, it seems.
I know. Surprised me, too.
For that reason alone, I was happy to read this paragraph in the piece:
While it’s true that the generation born in the years from 1981 to 1996 is getting older — as is the way of all life — we are obviously not actually old, except by the stretch of our own fevered imaginations. Millennials are currently between 28 and 43, which means a significant number of us are still too young to run for president. A 36-year-old is smack dab in the middle of the generational cohort, falling well within the psychologist Erik Erikson’s “early adulthood” stage of psychosocial development.
Luckily, I, at 36, am an early adult. And I needed that kind of affirmation today.
Was that me death-wailing? I suppose it was. Truth be told, I do my fair share in my day-to-day life. Maybe it's because I can see my hair line maturing. Or maybe it's because I notice how my metabolism has slowed down. Maybe because it's because now I've experienced death close up for the first time. Maybe it's because my girlfriend is younger, and my self-consciousness mixes with good-natured jokes about the gap between us. Maybe it's because I'm the oldest of three but the only one not married and not living in a house that I own. Maybe it was meeting classmates' kids at a recent 10-year reunion for my law school class. Maybe it's going to a 10-year law school reunion in the first place.
Point is, these issues aren't unique to Millennials or me. What is unique is that fact mentioned in the article: We're the first group to grow up on the internet who's now facing these minor indignities that come for us all. So of course it ends up on the internet and social media platforms because that's what we've been doing for the past 20-odd years.
What's more interesting to me is another New York Times backlink that was cited in the article. It suggested that last year was the year my generation aged out of the internet.
And it might seem a silly notion, but it tracks with my experience online. I don't so much mind our slide into internet obsolescence, except for the fact that it's that same internet that is the last refuge of media and journalism that I adore.
Beyond that, let the youngs have it. I don't need to keep up.
That was the sentiment shared by Casey Lewis in the death-wail article:
“I don’t even try to keep myself up, and that’s very freeing,” said Ms. Lewis, who added that she had recently encountered a Gen Z neighbor in the hallway of her building, spurring an epiphany. “I saw her wearing basketball shorts and a big button down with a small cami and cowboy boots,” Ms. Lewis said. “I looked down at myself and thought, ‘I don’t have to engage with that anymore.’ I was wearing jeans and a sweater. It’s freeing, in a good way.”
My reaction to reading that description of the Gen Z neighbor was emblematic of my age: I quoted a commercial from TV back when Jake from State Farm was just a frumpy white guy in khakis and not a handsome Black man hanging out with celebrities. When the jealous, suspecting wife catches her husband on the phone at 3 in the morning, she refuses to believe it's Jake from State Farm. "What are you wearing, Jake from State Farm?" she asks.
When he replies dully that he's wearing khakis, she covers the phone and sneers at her husband, "She sounds hideous."