Someone Out There: As Sartre said: No. X-it

Generation X is the new darling of the advertising industry.There's just one eensy little problem, though, with targetting these so-called Xers - you've got the wrong generation.The label Generation X has been snapped up eagerly by popular culture to refer to...

Generation X is the new darling of the advertising industry.

There’s just one eensy little problem, though, with targetting these so-called Xers – you’ve got the wrong generation.

The label Generation X has been snapped up eagerly by popular culture to refer to those in their early 20s just graduating from college and university and wondering where to go (and what to buy) from there.

However, Douglas Coupland’s novel, Generation X (published in 1991 and origin of the term), is about people hitting 30.

Or, at least they were when the novel first came out. Now they’re in their mid-30s, heading inexorably towards the Big Four-Oh.

I am 34 years old – a member of the real X generation – and that’s why it bugs me so much that everyone is getting this wrong.

Coupland (who, by the way, was born in 1961) called us Generation X because we’re such a non-entity generation, lost in the shadow of the boomers.

But, it appears that we’re so invisible that we don’t even get to retain our own label.

Why is that?

My theory is that it’s because this generation is so alienated and nihilistic. Others don’t like to admit that society is in such bad shape that now even adults want to opt out.

Nihilism, like idealism, used to be largely the province of the young. By the time people have reached 30, they’re supposed to have ‘grown up,’ or learned better and started to buy into the notion that the planet actually has a future so that they can justify fulfilling their instinct to reproduce.

Feeling ‘Dead at 30 Buried at 70′ (the title of Chapter 6 of the novel, Generation X) just doesn’t cut it.

It’s much more comfortable for people to skim over these persistent pessimists and turn their attention to the current crop of twentysomethings.

They’re still young enough that people can label any nihilism they may express as the folly of youth.

Coupland does mention these 20ish types in his first novel: they are mainly embodied in the character of the protagonist’s younger brother, and are called ‘Global Teens.’

The lives of Global Teens are explored more thoroughly in Coupland’s second book, Shampoo Planet, the protagonist of which is 20-year-old Tyler ‘an ambitious Reagan youth [who dreams]…of a career with the corporation whose offices his mother once firebombed.’

He and his friends like to think they’re anti-establishment, but they’re actually the ultimate consumers.

Coupland called the book Shampoo Planet because of the comprehensive array of hair products these youths use to make themselves look like unkempt hippies and white rastafarians.

The philosophical differences between Global Teens and Xers stem largely from parentage.

While people my age had parents who thought rock and roll was noise, Global Teens are the offspring of hippies.

While I was (literally) a child of the ’60s (and, therefore, too young to be accepted by the Boomers as one of their own), the Global Teens are the children of these people who are popularly referred to as the children of the ’60s.

Not only are twentysomethings not my generation, they’re not even a generation I can understand. Who would rebel by dressing like their parents? And, yet, this is what they’re doing. All this long hair and psychedelia, bell bottoms and Woodstock Part Two.

My favorite thing is the beards. Who would purposefully grow a beard that makes him look like Mitch Miller? Kids these days….

But, I digress. The point is that these are the people you’re calling Generation X. However, while you’ve got the name wrong, it’s fortunate that advertisers and these ultimate consumers have found each other and left the real Generation X out of the equation.

It seems we all agree that (as Coupland called Chapter 4), ‘I am not a Target Market.’