Home January 2020 The Eternal Latchkey Kids

The Eternal Latchkey Kids

Writing note showing Gen Z Millennials Gen X Boomers. Business photo showcasing Generational differences Old Young people Marker over notebook crumpled papers pages several tries mistakes.The term “OK, Boomer” eye-rolled into existence this past fall, pop culture writers everywhere declared the start of a raging “generation war.” From TikTok to the New Zealand Parliament, “OK, Boomer” has been bandied about to express a younger generation’s frustration with an older generation’s out-of-touch views on gender politics, the environment and everything else on the planet.

While it’s not unusual for the young to rail against the flaws of the old, something offensively glaring has been missing from this current national conversation: Me.

As a member of Generation X, I’m used to being ignored. It’s kinda my generation’s thing. But the way the younger and older folks have been duking it out—loudly, publicly and practically everywhere—makes the rest of us feel as though we don’t even exist. In a way, I guess, we don’t.

Nearly half of the U.S. population is Millennials or Generation Z (people born after 1981). Baby Boomers and The Silent Generation account for 29%. Meanwhile, a little under 20% of the nation can call themselves Generation X. Not that anyone asked.

Gen X grew up as “latchkey kids,” children who came home to empty houses and learned to microwave hotdogs for dinner while watching MTV and getting our homework done. All. By. Ourselves.

We had some positive reinforcement, but not as much as Millennials. We had some resources, but nothing close to what our parents had. We never got a single participation award or a promise of a pension. We have always just been … there, standing in the background, wearing our stupid Star Wars T-shirts and debating the merits of various indie rock bands.

I liken my generation to the “Start-Up Nation” of Israel: small but mighty. Able to get things done, even if they’re not done perfectly. We remain under the radar, metaphorically, while updating the technology required to operate radar literally.

Israel is demonized by the far left and the far right in equal measures. And guess what? So is Gen X! We’re too centrist to matter to “base” voters of either party—and too small to matter to candidates. (Also, too small to matter as candidates. As of this writing, Gen X presidential hopefuls are dropping from the race like flies.)
Meanwhile, like Israel, Gen X has given the world some of most meaningful innovations of the past century—everything from Google to Amazon to Tesla sprang from Gen X brains. Not that anyone asked.

Millennials, those ever-inclusive younger cousins of ours, have clearly felt bad about leaving us out of the generational war and recently coined a new term for Generation X. They call us “Karen.”

I don’t understand why we’ve been given an actual human name, but as insults go, I like it. “Karen,” in Hebrew, means “Ray of Light,” and while I’m sure the term was meant to offend, I find it lovely to be thought of as the generation that can shine a light on the past and serve as a beacon of light to the future. That’s a pretty Israeli/Jewish role to play in the world, dontcha think?

Anyway, I could go on and on about how interesting it is to be called “Karen,” rather than “Heather,” which would have been a more obvious choice. Or even “Leia,” if you took into account the pop culture obsessions of our generation. But whatever. I’m just happy just to be included in the conversation.
Not that anyone asked.

MAYRAV SAAR is a contributing writer to jlife magazine.

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