Before we continue, let’s define what a millennial actually is:
A person who was born between 1981 and 1996, who came of age during the beginning of the new millennium. –Pew Research Center.
Sorry for those of you who are sad about that, but let’s face it, if you were born between those years, you are a millennial. If you graduated high school around the same time I did (2001) you are a millennial. Welcome to the club. Essentially, if you remember the hopeful sounds of the dial-up modem and waiting in anticipation of the AOL announcement “You’ve Got Mail!” as a preteen, you are a millennial. We are defined kindly as the first generation to grow up using technology such as personal computers, the internet, and smart phones. We are defined less kindly as a generation of selfish “snowflakes,” a generation of soft, over-sensitive, overly offended, arrested development non-property owners who would prefer to eat avocados, live with their parents, and put off marriage and family as long as possible.
If you Google “Millennials are…” here is a list of some things people say about us:
Here is a non-exhaustive list of millennials faults and problems:
We spend money on things that aren’t houses or fancy cars. First, that’s a ridiculous thing to say, because no amount of shitty coffee and avocado-less home-made sammies is going to meaningfully contribute to a downpayment on property in most urban areas. Many of us (myself included) graduated from college deep in the throes of the Great Recession – watching a lot of people become “house poor” under the misguided impression that property values always appreciate. Thus, we aren’t in a hurry to sign a lease on a house and let that kind of money go. Why can’t we afford houses? Well, because our generation gets stagnant, low wages combined with sky-rocketing cost of living, healthcare and education. So with what we have leftover after paying Blue Cross Blue Shield Yourself From a Full Paycheck goes to things that soothe our soul. For me, that is novels, avocado toast, yoga and movies. For my partner, that is board games, coffee, cycling and excursions. We rent, our place isn’t perfect, but we’re happy and have eked in a few shoestring excursions that have been really memorable. My son may have lived in five different places over his five years of life, but he’s been to the Louvre and the Coliseum!
We destroy all sorts of things. Y’all, here is where you lose me when you start to whine about not actually being a millennial. Although there are dozens of things we have been blamed for destroying, I am going to list my top five:
- Chain restaurants. Yo, if your national restaurant chain can’t adjust to changing social, cultural and economic trends then it deserves to die, yes I am talking about you Applebee’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, T. J. I. Friday’s and the dozens of other places that served overpriced, boring food to semi-rural grandparents everywhere. It’s not my fault that your business plan was great in the ’90s when Apu was an acceptable comedic device and Republicans pretended to be aghast and appalled at a president’s infidelity, but thankfully time and people’s palettes have moved the fuck on. What about all the people employed by Applebee’s? Well, I guarantee you they were making shit to begin with and there are greener pastures – plus whenever millennials complain about the cost of healthcare, housing, etc. the response is for us to get better jobs and find ourselves some bootstraps. Houlihan’s apparently is attempting to get our attention with a new menu featuring hip fonts and avocado toast, but it’s still twelve dollars and it’s still Houlihan’s.
- Gambling. Um…why is this a problem? When I got my bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts we were required to take basic statistics (for dumb liberal arts students). The class was set up in hopes of fulfilling a math requirement and perhaps inspiring a few of us to think critically about the world when people make claims. ANYWAY, every statistical concept from simple random samples to standard deviation was set up in terms of “So you walk into a casino…” Spoiler alert! The casino always wins! It always takes your money – in fact – that is the only reason casinos actually exist! That is mainly what I learned, so even while I was making loads of bad decisions about my future career aspirations and potential for independent home ownership by eating avocados and reading Michel Foucault, I knew never to set foot inside a goddamn casino. Maybe we are more money savvy than our affinity for single-origin coffee and organic kale salads implies?
- The Housing Market and Starter Homes. So let’s get this equation correct, we (as a generation) were supposed to go out into the world, saddled with our student loan debt, in the wake of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression – and purchase property that we only intended to live in for a few years before upgrading? And it’s our fault that the housing market, in turn, hasn’t returned to its rate of increase in the wake of the Great Recession? To put this in perspective, the big downturn of the Great Recession and housing crisis started roughly in December 2007. In 2007, millennials would have been between the ages of 11 and 26. Sure, I suppose those of us who had marched along a more practical path and gained jobs with the income to purchase a home in our early twenties could have saved the current housing market – but maybe – just maybe millennials are wiser than their Gen X and Boomer predecessors and watched the housing crisis and said “fuck that, I’m going to rent somewhere small and eat my avocados!” I am 35, so I am on the older end of the millennial spectrum. I have lived in five different cities across three different countries what the fuck do I need a house for? I have worked a variety of jobs, none of which garnered an income where I could responsibly put a downpayment on a home (which means 20% of cost, I’m not an economist, but I’m not going in for some sub-prime bullshit), so here I am happily living in an apartment. If I ever do get to own a home, first I would want a permanent job that allows me to support that home and keep it up, all of which requires an income more than I have ever made. Yes, we put away savings, even with my avocado habit, and it’s ridiculous to think that I should give up small pleasures for some ridiculous adulthood benchmark. Maybe all those think tanks should consider that the housing crisis was the inevitable result of falsely assuming that the economy would grow and grow and people would buy property like toilet paper. Perhaps it is simply better for more adults to co-habitate in already built homes instead of paving the planet with houses people can’t afford and don’t really need.
- Napkins. Um…I’m not sure if y’all are aware, but the International Panel on Climate Change said that we have twelve years to make changes to limit (meaning it’s somewhat unavoidable at this point) the worst effects of global climate change. So, although it must be very sad for all of the thousands of workers at the napkin factory to lose out because of millennials not using disposable fancy-paper to wipe our uppity avocado off our faces, perhaps it’s simply an industry that shouldn’t exist anymore in light of the fact that disposable products and the processes that create them are contributing to climate catastrophe? You know, like the coal industry. Dare I say it, the world would be a better place without coal and napkins.
- The Diamond Industry – another industry that just shouldn’t exist! Is a little sparkle on your finger to prove that Bobby Bigbucks really loves you worth the extreme destructive impact mining that rock has on the environment? Or, you know, the cost of thousands of extremely exploited workers sometimes forced to work and/or die in those mines under oppressive governments for what? Human rights violations and habitat destruction? Also, again, if we are supposed to be avoiding avocados in order to finance starter homes, why should we be wasting our stagnant wages on pretty little rocks? Again, perhaps we are more financially inclined than our single-origin fancy coffee, craft beer and avocado habits suggest?
Honestly, if we truly are responsible for destroying all of those things, then I am really proud to be a Millennial. It is 2018, we need, as a society, to be more conscious of our impact on the world, where our products are coming from, who made them, what are their working conditions, and what impact the consumption of those products has on the environment.