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Been there, done that.
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Millennials keep trying to explain music festivals to me, and other Gen X gripes

Alex Nicholson
By Alex Nicholson

Born in 1977, I land at the later end of the much-maligned Generation X (Gen X). We have never exactly been a popular group. In 1990, a Time magazine cover story called us lost, without heroes, overshadowed by Boomers, and endlessly questioning. Now that we have come of (middle) age, we have become overshadowed by another generation. Welcome to the party, millennials.

Adding insult to injury, in 2014, Pew Research called Gen X, “America’s neglected middle child.” We were described  as a demographic and attitudinal bridge between the Boomers and millennials—creating shifts in diversity, use of technology, and how society looks at different issues.

But sifting through my own personal mid-life inventory, I keep getting stuck on the idea of generational appropriation by “those young Gen Y kids.”

Across the board, millennials get credit and attention for changing culture, commerce and trends. And yes, there are many things happening that I’m totally behind; innovations in the workplace, the adoption of arguably more equal parenting techniques, the disruption of media and advertising and technology. Thumbs up to all that.

But a lot of the stuff they get credit for—or assume they get credit for—is just annoying at this point. And I’m getting really sick of the unfettered glee of discovery that some millennials have toward things that has existed for a long time.

And, mostly, I hate having familiar things explained to me.

1. You did not discover or invent having things mailed to your house.

There have been “wine of the month” and “bacon of the month,” and “snack of the month” delivery services for decades. The depth and breadth of these services today is impressive. I think they are fueled more by the fact that people today are overwhelmed by choices and would prefer to have someone else make them.

2. You did not inspire the most recent iteration of eating local, or eating nose-to-tail.

Alice Waters spearheaded the locavore movement with Chez Panisse in 1971. Nora Pouillon did the same for organics with Restaurant Nora in 1979. And more recently, Michael Pollan created a seismic shift in how we all look at food with the 2006 publication of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. So while Millennials are considered the “Foodie Generation,” let’s remember that they spent their lives being fed by some tremendous Boomer and Gen X chefs and makers who were building a food movement together.

3. You did not discover whatever form of ethnic food you are currently waiting in line for.

Not ramen. Not bao. Not arepas. Not pupusas. Not horchata. Not temaki. Not bone broth. Not coconuts.

4. You did not discover, or rediscover, cocktails.

You just pay more and have fancier ice. The newest wave of speakeasies and craft cocktails bars started opening in the early 2000’s with places like Milk and Honey in New York— which means that you, young Millennial, were too young to drink. Now, give that credit to Boomers and Gen X.

5. You did not get tattoos—even DIY tattoos—first.

Millennials and Gen X seem be equally inked, at about 40% each. Also, Stick- and-Poke tattoos… not a new thing. Just ask all bad boys and girls from the 1980s and ’90’s with lumpy, prison-style tattoos.

6. You weren’t the first to go to music festivals.

Woodstock, the granddaddy of them all, began in 1969 (a little before my time, admittedly, but still relevant from a historical perspective). The first Lollapallooza, in contrast, was in 1991. Coachella started in 1999. The first Bonnaroo was 2002. And the amazing Tibetan Freedom Concerts hit San Francisco, New York and DC in the late 90’s only.

7. You did not discover EDM.

The German band Kraftwerk pioneered the sound in the 1970s. And Detroit created a movement in the 1980s, take a listen.

I realize there’s irony and superficiality in this. These conversations are generational, and a pretty good sign that I’m getting old. Everyone is guilty of co-opting from those who came before. But it’s also important that generations receive a good strong dose of humility from time to time. And so I raise a fist, stand on my front lawn and shout “Kids these days!”