Millennial doesn't have to mean miserable

Posted: July 21, 2012

‘Are Millennials the Screwed Generation?”

Newsweek wants to know.

It thinks we are. It has statistics. It has pictures of doleful-looking members of the millennial generation.

Frankly, I am sick of being told by people twice my age that they are screwing me over. I already knew that.

The boomers keep leaving me with large bills — the kind I am expected to pay when they die, after receiving decades of the Most Expensive Care Available, because the boomers have been coddled and told over and over that they are the All-Singing, All-Dancing, Most World-Defining Generation Ever, for whom the check will never come.

"Time to pay us back for all those years of crippling helicopter parenting," they say, before darting off somewhere to rave about Meryl Streep. "You're welcome."

But we are fine.

Sure, we're missing some of the things our parents had — faith; the hope of winding up better off than our parents; jobs, children, or homes before 30.

But we have things they never did, like no recollection whatsoever of Betamax, and a firm grip on how to end a text message. (You do not have to sign them, Mom.) And we barely remember dial-up. That has to count for something.

Look, we may not have jobs. But who needs jobs when you have student debt? We may not have families. But who needs families when you have Twitter followers?

We may not have all the political hope we had in 2008. And we may be paying for generations that remain more politically active than we are. But on the bright side, keeping politically active required them to pay attention when Newt Gingrich said something.

Sure, we are stuck with lots of bills. But for us, bills are still an abstract concept. The only time we paid to listen to music online was in the eighth grade. Why own when you can stream?

We are used to having whatever we want, whenever we want it, so long as what we want is a shiny entertainment product available on the Internet, or the kind of connection to people that is felt through a glowing screen. Within those limits, you can have it all, and you barely have to pay for it.

In a few decades, of course, the bill comes due. We'll have to pay the piper, even though we don't remember ordering a piper. (Probably the boomers again.) But that fabled bill will be the first time many of us have actually paid for anything.

And decades — that's a long time! In the meantime, we can complain. They say complaining makes burdens easier to bear. And we have whole websites dedicated to that.

What we lack in money, we make up for in lack of money. What we lack in confidence in the future, we make up for in misplaced nostalgia. (What other generation goes around dressed in clothing from the 1950s? Suspenders? Even the survivors of the era wanted to get those things off as quickly as possible.)

We have things under control. We are, as Nielsen repeatedly reminds us, the only demographic that matters.

Newsweek is just pandering to sell magazines. And the joke's on them: We can't afford to buy any.

Alexandra Petri writes the Washington Post's ComPost blog, at

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