Babies born from 1979-1982 are Xennials. We’re Generation X, Generation Z, Generation Y, Geriatric Millennials, The Oregon Trail Generation. We’re a microgeneration. They’ve ginned up a million names for us, and none of them have stuck. We’ve all seen the meme by now:
In A Movable Feast, Gertrude Stein says dismissively to Ernest Hemingway, “You are all a lost generation.” And that’s how we’ve been treated, we babies born from 1979-1982. No one knows how to classify us. No one knows how to explain us. We’re too young for TikTok and too old for beepers. We don’t make sense. We don’t fit.
We are all a lost generation.
The Lost Generation Remembers The Before Time
In 1992, when I was eleven, a family friend pulled over to the side of the road. “I need to make a phone call,” he said, and miracle of miracles, he pulled out a phone in a bag. He had a car phone, an actual phone that worked in the goddamn car. We watched, rapt, as he dialed a number and yelled into the thing. He may have stuck an antenna on the roof beforehand. This is the Lost Generation: a slow-moving miracle of evolving tech. We watched it happen.
We carried quarter; my high school had a pay phone. I can still recite my high school best friends’ phone numbers. There were long-distance charges; one of my high school besties was just far enough from another high school bestie to wrack them up. Their dads constantly harassed them about it.
Once, on the way to a friend’s house for the first time, we got lost. My mom cursed a blue streak because it meant driving all the way home, calling that friend, and sussing out where we’d gone wrong. I had maps in my car: a map of my town, a map of my county, a map of my state. They were creased and torn.
In elementary and middle school, our school computers had no internet. We spent “computer class” from kindergarten to eighth grade playing… yes, Oregon fucking Trail. We had to ford the river and our goddamn oxen died. There were weird math games with balloons and typing classes.
Oh, and we had collections of tapes. They played music. Our children do not know what they are.
We Saw The Transition
THEN THERE WAS AN INTERNET. I had a hotmail account I could only access at school: email@example.com. We emailed each other text erotica. Lost generation home internet meant your mom screaming because your dial-up was clogging the family’s phone line, so get the hell off it. Load times for AOL chat took forever, and you’d ask everyone: a/s/l? (age/sex/location?).
The Lost Generation thought Alta Vista was the shit.
There were like, three internet sites, and they took an assload of time to load. So the Lost Generation didn’t really use the internet for high school research: we used a goddamn card catalog. Remember that fucker? All those teensy little letters organized by author, title, and subject, which led you to a book, which may or may not be helpful, and there was no help on organizing a bibliography.
Oh, and we printed everything in Word, which had a blue screen.
We may have gotten the ultimate miracle around then: a cellular phone. I sometimes borrowed my parents’ and it was the shiznit. You, like me and Dana fucking Scully, probably had a StarTAC. Maybe you had preset numbers. They came out with these doohickies that hooked into our tape decks and then to our Discmans so we could play our CDs in our cars. Everclear. Bush. Nine Inch Nails. The Smashing Pumpkins. You know every word to “Santa Monica” and don’t you even pretend. You also know that “Emptiness is loneliness and loneliness is cleanliness and cleanliness is godliness and God is empty.”
Just like me.
The Lost Generation Saw The Future
Then we moved to college and suddenly had an Ethernet cable and Napster, and the world was our oyster. We could have PCs or Macs or laptops. We could download all the music in the world for free, even though the members of Metallica were little bitches about it.
Our MP3 players held ten songs. Then our cars had MP3 players. Then technology grew exponentially, and now we have Spotify and Amazon Prime and TikTok and Twitter and I am writing this on a Chromebook that is practically disposable. The Lost Generation went from bag phones to Google Docs. My phone has more computing power than Apollo 13. And not by a little bit. It takes pictures. It has internet.
Technology has reached the point of actual magic. I can talk to those high school friends via video whenever I want, through my phone, wherever I am, with a fire-breathing dragon on my head.
The Difference Between Us, Gen X, and Millennials
Gen X came into technology post-college. When they needed a ride home from the bar, they used a payphone. They had no internet. Instead, they looked up Star Wars times in the newspaper and watched like, thirty channels. One of them showed Degrassi High.
My friend Patrick printed up realistic fake IDs in his dorm room. Bag phones to realistic fakes. That’s how far the Lost Generation came. We could be called the Whiplash Generation.
Millennials always had technology. They never used bag phones. They always had cell phones, and they don’t remember those endless free AOL discs. Their fucking oxen never died. They did their research on the internet. They found their porn on the internet. They don’t recall a time before Mark Zuckerberg owned the world, or when Amazon only sold books.
The Lost Generation watched the tech revolution happen in real time. We remember both analogue and digital. We grew up with it. It came as a natural evolution, without a learning curve; many of us use TikTok as easily as we adapted to dial-up. We tweet but we recall our best friends’ phone numbers. I used a Polaroid camera. Now I use my phone, with filters.
We’re special because we have our feet fully in both worlds. The internet is really really great for porn, but so’s Playboy.
We love the original Star Wars trilogy, but we like the new stuff, too.
We taped stuff off the radio and listen to Lady Gaga on Spotify.
Our parents killed people for Cabbage Patch dolls.
We’re not “geriatric millennials.” We’re not millennials at all. We’re not Gen Xers. We’re lost in the shuffle, a strange mix of analog and digital. We grew up with technology.
We’re a lost generation.
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