Is there something typically Gen X about hating to be arbitrarily lumped together with millions of other people? Because I’m supposedly a Gen Xer, and I hate it.

It might be that the whole Generation X phenomenon got off on the wrong foot with me because, while I actually fall pretty much in the middle of the range by some definitions, when the term became very popular it seemed to refer only to people who were a solid ten years younger than I was and, frankly, were widely seen as such a bunch of slackers that “Gen X” and “slacker” were used interchangeably. As inward-focused as the Boomers (who were supposedly their parents–again, a misstep–my parents were born in 1938 and 1941), but out of cynicism instead of entitlement, we were supposed to be a bunch of 17-year-olds with garage bands and a growing obsession with online life. However, I was married, politically active, idealistic, and a chronic overachiever, and I didn’t have an internet connection yet. So I was predisposed to think the armchair sociologists were full of it.

Also, the name was insulting. It still is. Or maybe it reflects that even the generation-labelers can’t always find a catchall term. So if we are X, the Unknown, the Uncategorizable, maybe we shouldn’t be categorized.

Every time I read something about the characteristics of the generations, I feel like I’m reading astrology. You know how if you read your horoscope, you’ll pick up on the parts of the description that fit and ignore the ones that don’t? Unless you have at least a mildly scientific turn of mind, in which case you’ll notice how wrong, wrong, wrong it is? Guess which kind of reader I am. Here’s what popular culture says about my generation. “We”:

-are pragmatic and perceptive

-are savvy but amoral

-are more focused on money than on art (these three from Wikipedia)

-were transformed by, or at least aware of, the music of Kurt Cobain specifically and grunge generally

-liked hanging out in “the espresso bar, the record shop, the thrift store” (Time article, “Gen-X: The Ignored Generation?”)

-were latchkey children and are therefore self-reliant and neglected and feel alienated from our elders

-find the media obsession with Boomers really irritating

I’d say it’s got me about 40% right. Not impressive; my daily horoscope usually does better than that. For the record–I’m griping at the Time guy here–I’ve never heard the album that supposedly shaped my generation, Nevermind, and I love Boomer icon, Bob Dylan, who, please note, has released a hell of a lot of albums in the late 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s for someone who’s supposedly the sole property of people who were teenagers in the 60s. (Also, he isn’t a Boomer. He’s going to be 70 next May.)

Horoscopes are fun only until you take them seriously. It’s absurd to think that everyone born between May 21 and June 21 has something significant in common, and it’s absurd to think that everyone born between 1961 and 1981 has something significant in common. Which I suppose points up the real problem. Just as astrology stops being amusing and starts being scary when people actually take advice from Jeane Dixon, generation-wisdom becomes foolishness, as do all generalizations, when you stop saying “Taken as a whole, people born during these years are more A, B, and C and less Q, R, and S than the people born during the previous twenty years” (a valid sociological analysis) and start saying “Gen Xers are like this.” Implying: all or most of them are like this. Right, and women are bad drivers and black people are lazy and white men are pigs. Can we stop with the generalizations?