…author of X Saves the World. The article is from March but fuck it!
I dig Jeff’s explanation of the Gen X viewpoint:
HO: What is the Gen X viewpoint?
JG: “I think the Gen X viewpoint is indirection. The boomer and millennial viewpoint is “I want to be in the fucking spotlight.” Gen Xers are uninterested in the spotlight. They’re more interested in dodging it and doing good work quietly. I think there’s a sort of comfort in the margins. Our influence on American culture has been in the shadows. It has been from the margins, even if we’re talking about something as macro as Google. Its genesis was microcosmic.”
Jeff gives credit, in part, to punk rock for this the Gen X sensibility:
“And, let’s be honest, punk rock has a lot to do with it. It just does. Not just the music but the sensibility. That attitude is so different than the boomer attitude. The attitude of people like Jello Biafra and Johnny Rotten, so scabrous and questioning and unwilling to be pinned down, unwilling to be lumped in. That seems to be so much a part of the Gen X sensibility.”
And I like his argument against the slacker label:
I’ve been a slacker. I wasted my time. I drank beer, I played chess with old guys, I sat around, I wrote a couple pieces, but, you know, so I slacked. Who hasn’t? It was good times. But for the most part, I was just unemployed, looking for work. I mean, I wasn’t slacking. I wanted a job, you know? We had a hard time finding work. That’s different than not wanting to work at all.
I dig how unapologetic he is about his slacking initially. I agree. So what? I’ve fucking slacked too. Shit, my whole grad school career was one long slack for the most part. I mean, come on. I got an MFA in fucking creative writing. Shit, I didn’t even have to hand in a finished thesis for crying out loud. It was part of a novella. I like grad school so much that I stuck around Kalamazoo, where to WMU, for a couple more years and taught part time as adjunct and worked doing maintenance and cleaning at a Hot Tub spa. It was way cool. The owners of the Hot Tub spa threw rocking Christmas parties!
I was never in a hurry to graduate from college. I took my time at community college — three years. I’d go to class during the day, study until I got booted from the library, then hit my buddy Mick’s house where we started drinking just to get tuned up and then hit the bars and clubs or went to a gig for somebody’s band that we knew. After three years of that I took off for Ypsilanti and EMU for ungergrad. I was in no hurry to get my degree. I was an English/creative writing major. I was having fun. Then I took a year off before grad school and worked in the bookstore in the mall — hey, it was full time — and partying some more.
I guess I just always had this impression that there was nothing all that great about the “real world” as people say, like it was a threat or something. And you know what? I was fucking right. I got my first “real job” in corporate publishing and it sucked ass. Especially my fucking gumpy ass, pear-shaped boss with the square head and bad fucking hair and creepy child hands who practically cracked the concrete floor she was such a hard-walker. Of course, the most annoying thing about her was that she “just loved her job” and “just loved being your guys’ team leader.” Yeah, I learned that your boss isn’t called a boss, she’s a team leader. By age she wasn’t a Boomer — she was younger than me — but by obnoxious corporate cog standards, oh, they just didn’t come any Boomer.
And anyway. Isn’t slacking what everyone aspires to anyway? Isn’t that what retirement is? Slacking around in the sun by the pool? Sleeping in. Going to Denny’s and hanging out for hours just drinking coffee and talking about pointless shit. Wandering around the mall or whatever. Listening to music. Going to movies. No real order to your day. Just doing whatever.
But of course you’re supposed to earn the right to slack. That’s the American way. And I think what pissed off a lot of people — Boomers, I mean. Is that we, Gen Xers, hadn’t “earned” it. We just fucking did it. Why hadn’t they fucking thought of that? Oh, that’s right. They were too busy planning the revolution. Sorry. Maybe in your next life a-hole!
But like Jeff says, we weren’t slacking. We were mostly just unemployed or under-employed. The job market sucked. Nothing else to do. Why not drink beer, smoke cigarette, and hang out in coffee shops?
Slacking is a much maligned, much misunderstood endeavor.