Dear Boomers

Lillian Mongeau makes a selfie in Oregon with two of her Millennial friends. Lindsey Hales, left, is a teacher and a new mom (that's since this picture was taken) and Elyse Engel, right, is an environmental engineer.

Lillian Mongeau makes a selfie in Oregon with two of her Millennial friends. Lindsey Hales, left, is a teacher and a new mom (since this photo was taken) and Elyse Engel is an environmental engineer.

By Lillian Mongeau

Dear Boomers,

It is with very mixed feeling that I sit down to write this letter to you. On the one hand, you are my parents, my mentors, my teachers—the adults who have guided me through childhood, adolescence and that awkward young adult time that comes next. Without you, I would not be who I am today.

Also, y’all have done a lot of good in the world. The sexual revolution was awesome. Thank you. And second wave feminism gave me a career I love, an open door to all the sports I want to play and a husband who actually thinks of me as an equal partner. Wearing pants, taking birth control and running marathons have all been highlights in my life that you have made possible. Oh, and also Lynyrd Skynyrd. And Jon Stewart. And Denzel Washington. And Sonia Sotomayor.

Though, if I’m being honest you’ve messed up some too. I mean, that whole “We live in a post-racial society” line has turned out to be utter crap. You left a lot of us looking like idiots when we hit college spouting that one. And you kind of dropped the ball on fixing health care and the environment. I mean, seriously with global warming? I know you knew about it because you were telling me about it when I was nine, so no pretending you were caught with splooge on your intern’s dress. We know you knew and yet you did…almost nothing.

The Beanie Babies craze of the late 1990s? Yes, that one's on us.

The Beanie Babies craze of the late 1990s? That one’s on us.

And look, we’re not perfect, us Millennials. I will come right out and say it: We and we alone are responsible for the beanie baby glut of 1996. Also Barney. (Sorry about that.) And not all of our accomplishments thus far are obvious winners. Is anyone grateful for Facebook? Twitter? Legalized marijuana? Unclear. We’ll get back to you in ten years. And we are really messing up our herd immunity with all this vaccination resistance nonsense.

But we are trying.

When you told us race shouldn’t matter, we listened, and we elected Barack Obama. Man’s not perfect, but he’s pretty great. We also listened to the whole “free to be you and me” shtick, and we were the engine of change that propelled gay marriage to the Supreme Court. You’re welcome. We know you wanted us to apply that principle to everybody, even if we had to drag some of you there kicking and screaming. And who doesn’t love Jimmy Fallon? Am I right?

The point is, we grew up trying to please you. You told us you weren’t like your parents; that you wanted to be our friends. You told us we were unique little snowflakes and we could make the world a better place if only we tried hard enough. And we believed you. Not only did we listen and nod along while you told us these things, we fought two frickin’ wars for you. We went to Iraq and Afghanistan and we fought and died and came back maimed on your say so.

What I’m saying is, have a little respect. We’re trying. And maybe we’re not perfect. Maybe we’re a tad obsessed with selfies at the moment (not that you wouldn’t be if you were our age again, with skin like this) and busy inventing redic slang words that work best in texts. But give us a little credit. For the effort, at least. For becoming teachers and doctors and non-profit founders. For trying to move forward and fix a few things in the face of a long list of things we probably can’t fix.

The point is, what we don’t need from you right now is another essay kvetching about how selfish Millennials are. How we’re just focused on making enough money to go out to fancy dinners while foolishly not buying homes and cars and all those other trappings of the middle class lives we’re supposed to want. Please, stop and think about the time and place we’re living in. The stagnating wages. The soaring cost of housing. The impact of carbon monoxide on our planet. You want us to buy cars? What!?

Another selfie! The author, left, in Dublin with one of her favorite Boomers, her mom, Janice Ruell. Janice would like to add that she likes Millennials but that we should all stop teasing Boomers about being a bit behind on technology.

Another selfie! The author, left, in Dublin with one of her favorite Boomers, her mom, Janice Ruell. Janice would like to add that she likes Millennials but that we should all stop teasing Boomers about being a bit behind on technology.

We may be dealing imperfectly with the world around us, but it would be nice if you could keep in mind that this is the world you handed us. Finances are shaky, food supplies teeter on the brink of impending environmental disaster, everyone who wants one has an assault rifle and either computer hackers or some sort of plague threaten to crash the whole system at any minute. Thanks for all that, and now you’ve had your turn.

Now, it’s our turn. We are the majority of the workforce as of this spring and we are going to need to take your jobs over the next decade or so no matter how painful that is for everyone. We are going to have to take control, because we are the new grown-up majority. It would go better if you helped us. Because we still need your advice, your love and your guidance. What we do not need is you making smart-ass comments about how insipid we are. Not helpful.

We are your children. It is the future.

This is our time.

Be nice.

With love,
The Millennials

 

Lillian and her Millennial husband live in California, for now, with their collection of outdoor gear. When she isn’t spending time running or skiing or quilting, Lillian works as the West Coast correspondent for The Hechinger Report.

*

Editor’s note: I met Lilly through The Oregonian’s Community Writers program, a forum for a dozen citizens to write about a topic of their choice for 12 weeks. We liked Lilly’s contributions so much that we asked her to continue as a semi-regular columnist writing from a Millennial’s perspective. Since then, I have seen her find her calling as a full-fledged multimedia journalist.

Tomorrow: “Transitions” by Al Rodriguez

 

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18 thoughts on “Dear Boomers

  1. Lili, I realize your article is somewhat tongue-in-cheek and humorous observation. You are correct that the U.S. version of universal health care didn’t happen until a few years ago and the damage to the ennvironment has been ongoing and unimpeded for decades, maybe 10 or 20 decades.
    I am definitely of the boomer generation as are a great many of my friends and acquaintances. Of the friends and acquaintances, many of us graduated colleges with varying levels of degrees. Most enjoyed the societal changes that occurred in our 20’s and 30’s and probably did so to the disdain of our parents. I have no idea how my parent’s generation was defined, maybe as ancient . Some of us were in the military and experienced the Vietnam war up close and very personally and not as volunteers. And my guess is the majority of us have opposed the military participation in more recent conflicts. Either as parents or grandparents or because of chosen occupations, all have probably contributed to the development of “millennials”, although most probably don’t know what a “millennial” means. My guess is that in most communities under 5,000 people, you won’t find any “millennials”, they’ve moved to PDX or Seattle or SFO. I do not recall any of my acquaintances en masse thinking of younger people as selfish or insipid (other than the jerks who throw their trash on our lawns).
    I ask that you do not lump us into a couple of all-encompassing categories and perpetuate an “us versus them”. Most of us love and respect our kids and grandkids and like their friends. And most of us are proud of how younger generations have turned out, after all, someone has to keep funding Social Security.
    I personally prefer Seth Meyer and Jimmy Kimmel, after a while Jimmy Fallon’s schtick comes across as a bit forced.

    • Bob –

      Of course I realize that not everyone who is a Boomer thinks the same or has lived the same way. You guys kind of invented the whole “free to be you and me” concept. And I’m very grateful to the many Boomers who have raised and mentored me over the years, as I tried to make clear at the top. But I do think there’s a lot of negative, “Sheesh, kids these days,” sentiment out there. And very little reflection along the lines of, “Gee, maybe we kind of screwed that up for them.” Rachel listed a few good examples of big media stories to that effect. Time did an article too where they called us the “Me, me, me” generation. It’s just getting annoying is all I’m saying. I also dislike being lumped into one big group, and yet that’s exactly what it feels like is happening! Except the Boomers still run the show for the most part, so they’re so used to picking the conversation that they haven’t noticed almost none of it is self-reflective. Glad you feel differently–hopefully you and others like you can spread that message around 🙂

      ~Lillian

      PS Sorry, but Jimmy Fallon is a comic genius.

  2. I remember a slew of negative stories about millennials, and a quick google search confirms it. From a 2007 60 Minutes story:

    “They [millennials entering the work force] have climbed Mount Everest. They’ve been down to Machu Picchu to help excavate it. But they’ve never punched a time clock. They have no idea what it’s like to actually be in an office at nine o’clock, with people handing them work,” Crane says ….. “You now have a generation coming into the workplace that has grown up with the expectation that they will automatically win, and they’ll always be rewarded, even for just showing up.”

    Of course, this was before the financial crisis, but that was just the beginning. A Time Magazine opinion piece from last August was titled “Millennials Are Selfish and Entitled, and Helicopter Parents Are to Blame.” I can see how those born between 1980 and 2000 (or 1977 and 1994, or 1976-1990, or 1978-1998… no one seems to agree!) might feel attacked.

    I guess I’m a millennial by most definitions, though I always considered myself a late gen-x’er. (Supposedly, we’re all adrift, apathetic and stuff, but no one’s really talking about us anymore;)

    I enjoyed the post and discussion!

  3. Ha! I’ve never heard anyone call a millennial insipid. That’s so funny. I agree. Time to turn over the reigns. I know and work with a lot of great millennials and I have no qualms of stepping out of the way. Have at it. You could probably do better, and do it quicker. Good to see your face!

  4. I love this. Great fun, great tone, with food for thought weaved in and out. Cheers, Lillian. Death to Beanie Babies.
    Onward,
    A Gen Xer

  5. Thanks for all the comments!

    Bob – Of course I realize that not everyone who is a Boomer thinks the same or has lived the same way. You guys kind of invented the whole “free to be you and me” concept. And I’m very grateful to the many Boomers who have raised and mentored me over the years, as I tried to make clear at the top. But I do think there’s a lot of negative, “Sheesh, kids these days,” sentiment out there. And very little reflection along the lines of, “Gee, maybe we kind of screwed that up for them.” Rachel listed a few good examples of big media stories to that effect. Time did an article too where they called us the “Me, me, me” generation. It’s just getting annoying is all I’m saying. I also dislike being lumped into one big group, and yet that’s exactly what it feels like is happening! Except the Boomers still run the show for the most part, so they’re so used to picking the conversation that they haven’t noticed almost none of it is self-reflective. Glad you feel differently–hopefully you and others like you can spread that message around 🙂

    Dina – Personally, I love Gen X. You guys are our cool older cousins. 😀

  6. Lilly, You dislike, as I do also, being lumped into one big group. But isn’t that what you are doing? Labeling and generalizations of groups – Greatest Generation, Boomers, Me Generation, Gen-X, Millenials, Neanderthals, new-borns, etc. – serves no purpose except maybe to assign blame or responsibility unto a body of people whom, individually, have no connection with a purported topic or an indeterminate injustice. Your statement, “Except the Boomers still run the show for the most part, so they’re so used to picking the conversation that they haven’t noticed almost none of it is self-reflective.” seems to me to be impossible to substantiate. You, and others, may feel it is a valid argument. But which Boomers, which show? Is everyone who falls into the Boomer category controlling the whatever subject matter you believe is at risk. What are some specific examples? Who is not self-reflective, in which situations, regarding what?
    And, almost anyone could be guilty of thinking younger or older people screwed up the future for successive generations. Conversely, here are probably plenty of examples of the opposite, younger and older people appreciating what has been accomplished and has made possible a better existence.
    I guess neither one of us like being identified with particular group which is at odds with some other group. If a former Iowan, or building contractor, or fan of Bob Dylan does you wrong, please don’t think ill of me just because I am all of those.

  7. I hope this particular line was written sarcastically: “You told us we were unique little snowflakes and we could make the world a better place if only we tried hard enough. And we believed you.” I hope that we ALL believe that we can make the world a better place, regardless of what generation we come from. If not, there’s really no point in getting out of bed in the morning. 😉

  8. I’m kind of on the same page as Bob here. I think Boomers did amazing things and created so much societal change, much of it very positive. I am not a fan of the us vs. them mentality, either … we are all people and putting anyone in a bucket is wrong. Just like you and your generation want to be treated and considered for your individual qualities (both strengths and weaknesses), so do all people … even Boomers! Now let’s have all generations work together to get this country back on track! 🙂

      • I am reminded of how my parents responded to their children growing up in the 60s a little north of NYC … talk about culture shock for them! “That’s not music, that’s noise!” my mother would shout at me … and today I feel the same way about some of the new music. What goes around comes around! 🙂

        And believe me, I think all generations have heard something akin to “you kids these days!” … I know I did!

  9. I am a boomer and proud of it! I loved your piece. It made me laugh and think about my generation and that of my adult children. Times change but some things remain the same.

  10. Lilly – guess you hit a nerve. I clearly missed this post but now that we’re voting, glad I caught it. Made me think back to my parents (well, mainly my dad) who dumped on us for not being as responsible, hard working, appreciative, etc. as he and his age group were. And, my age group returned the favor – in spades. My point being that each generation wishes the best – and hopes to minimize the worst – for each preceding and successive age group. Comes with our social territory; thanks for sharing…

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