Back to work

It’s been a busy month and a half.

Since the beginning of September I have taken two road trips. The first to Indiana to visit my brother and his family — daughter Addy came along on that one. The second was over Labor Day weekend to visit my relatives in West Virginia, a solo trip. Then I moved out of my apartment and back in with my folks. And, I collected my final unemployment check, not because my stipend had run out but because I started a new job. I was on unemployment for only 8 weeks. Don’t think I don’t know how lucky I am, especially when you consider all the people who have been out of work for months and and years, especially here in Michigan. I got lucky, I know it.

Speaking of my job, it is pretty cool. I’m not going to name the place, though. It’s an office job with all the Dilbert-esque accouterments that that entails, like cubes and copy machines and daily meetings, but the people are really cool. I like it there. Hey, we get free slushies (made from Faygo) and popcorn daily. Coffee too. This week’s slushy flavors are Lemonade and Rock n Rye. Last week it was Grape and Red Pop.

Recently JenX67 posted on her blog an entry that is, in part, about Generation X in the work place. My office is full of GenXers. I’d say mostly GenXers, from what I can gather. But there are plenty of Gen Yers/Millennials as well. In fact, my immediate supervisor is one. He’s maybe 24 or 25 years old. I heard someone ask him where he went to high school and he said Fitzgerald, graduated in 2006. I stood up at my cube and, speaking over the half-wall, said, “Hey. I went there.”

“What?” he said. “You taught there?”

I said, “No. I graduated from Fitz…twenty years before you did.” I graduated in 1986. He laughed.

My supervisor is very cool, very hip. And very good at his job. I like him a lot. I was asked by someone if it bothered me to be “taking orders” from someone so much younger than myself. But you know, it doesn’t. I could really care less. I’m there to work and to learn and he has plenty to teach, so my ears are wide open. You know, I think I’d rather have this young guy than some aging Babyboomer. At least with my boss I don’t have to listen to droning nostalgia about the 60s or The Beatles or anything like that. My boss digs JZ.

In my immediate area there a few other  GenXers. And few a Gen Yers as well.

The other day 0ur supervisor, in response to something someone else said, replied, “Awesome blossom.” He said he didn’t know why he said it.

I asked him if he was referring to the 80s TV show “Blossom.” The other GenXer’s near me just laughed and said that could not possibly be the case, he, our boss, was way too young. I’m pretty sure he didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. Although strangely enough he was singing that Sade “Smooth Operator” today. So….

Maybe this is an opportunity to blog about GenX in the workplace. Gen Y too for that matter. We’ll see. I’ll be working long hours soon, 10 to 12 hours a day some day. This new schedule means I don’t see my daughter as much. She stays with her mom more, not an ideal situation or one that I want but one has to do what one has to do. Addy and I will just have to make the time we do have together count.

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“thirtysomething”

I know, I know. I’m not thirtysomething. I’m fortysomething. I barely remember my thirtysomethings. But I do remember the show “thirtysomething”, which I have been watching  again recently. Well, not so much watching as listening to, on Hulu where all 4 seasons (85 one-hour episodes in all) are currently available while I’m  at work, because my job is so mundane and routine I need something to get me through the day. Of course, that won’t be a problem for long, will it now.

I’m actually watching/listening to an episode right now, although I’m not at work. Episode 19 of season 3. It’s the one where Hope, oh so  perfect Hope, is beginning to be attracted to this guy John that she’ s working with to kill a community trash incinerator. Of course, Michael is so into  his career at DAA, the advertising agency, he does not really notice what is going on.

Anyhoo… I remember really digging this show when it first aired in the 80s, even though it was about a bunch of whiny yuppy Boomers. But I don’t think I really understood it then. How could? I was in my early twenties. What did I know? Not like I do now, now that I’ve become a parent,have  been married, and am now divorced. It really hits home, sometimes a bit too sharply. But I can’t stop watching it.

In contrast, Generation X has it’s own mid-life TV show in Parenthood, which in some ways is a better show, but I’m probably biased.

GenX Museum Board Results Oriented

Just ran across this article about a children’s museum board run by a bunch of GenXers, touting their results-oriented focus.

An exceprt:

Sherri Petro, president of the consulting firm VPI Strategies in Kearny Mesa and an expert on multi-generational communication and business, says the success of the board doesn’t surprise her. “Gen X (in their late 30s and 40s) is very results-oriented,” she says. “They were the first generation of latch-key kids, mom and dad said, ‘get this done’ and then left. So they had a lot of creative latitude to get results.”

Petro said older boards, where Boomers dominate, tend to be process-oriented. “They want to make sure the processes are followed. Whatever the process is doesn’t matter as much as following it to get the results you want. Whereas Gen X-ers tend to be very creative and go to a bunch of different sources to make something happened.”

Just one answer is not the solution to every problem.

Here is an interesting article by Tamara Erickson about the greatest gift her father gave here, which was encouraging her to always consider others’ POV.

One of my most vivid memories of time spent with my father as a little girl was watching the evening news together. Each time, after Walter Cronkite confidently closed his broadcast with “And that’s the way it is,” my father would ask me one question: What do you think the “other guy’s” point of view would be? Night after night, he painstakingly pointed out the possibility of another perspective, in doing so giving me perhaps his greatest gift.

She makes an interest point regarding how Boomers may tend to view solutions in terms of one problem one answer whereas Generation X is open to the possibility of multiple solutions to a given problem. No single answer  is the correct one. What works, works.

The Financial Lives of The Poets…

…is a title that I wished I’d thought of.

It’s a novel by Jess Walter, which I picked up based solely on the title. Not always the best way to select a book, but it worked out this time.

Story is about Matt Prior, a business reporter who ditches his job to start a web site devoted to poetry about finances — money-lit, as he calls it. Of course, the idea bombs. Matt runs back to his old job only to get laid off soon after with very little in way of severance. In addition, he’s got a massive balloon payment due very soon on his house and he suspects that his wife is cheating on him with an old boyfriend.

So what does Matt do?  He tries to become a drug dealer — just until he can back on track —  using his last 9 grand to buy pot. Yeah, sounds like a fool-proof plan, doesn’t it.

This book is at turns funny and gut-wrenching. I always cringe when I’m reading about a character who is fucking up but can’t seem to stop himself. I want to stop reading, look away, but I just can’t.

I like how Walter captures a sense of financial panic as Matt digs himself deeper and deeper into a whole.The crazy things people will do when it comes to money, eh.

I’m not often immediately intrigued by books about people’s money problems. I mean, who the hell wants to read about that. But something about this book was different. I wanted to read it. Maybe I’m just getting older and my concerns are different. Or maybe Walter is the kind of writer that writes in such a way that I’d follow him just about anywhere.

I plan to follow him into his other books, like The Zero, a National Book Award finalist, which I hope to read some time soon.

Because the main character, Matt, is age 46, I thought of this as GenX Lit, but there’s a cop who refers to Matt as a Boomer. I suppose the point is arguable, and ultimately beside the point.

GenX’s midlife crisis in books and movies

JenX67 linked to this NY Times article titled — GenX Has a Midlife Crisis.

It’s actually a review of the new novel by Sam Lypsite, The Ask.  But it also references the Ben Stiller movie, Greenberg, and the John Cusack movie Hot Tub Time Machine.

I’ve read The Ask (well, most of  it; for some reason I couldn’t seem to finish it, not sure why,  I love Lypsite’s stuff) and seen Greenberg. I’ve yet to see Hot Tub but from what I’ve read/heard, like The Ask and Greenberg, there will be much for me to relate to.  How could I not? I’m 42 ,in the midst of divorce, and living with the rents…again. I got mid-life crisis coming out my ass, man!

As does Milo, the protagonist of The Ask:

Milo is in his early 40s, or so one surmises from his pop-cultural references and from the fact that the author, Sam Lipsyte, was born in 1968. He’s not a kid anymore: he’s a man of a certain age. And “The Ask” is, at least so far, the definitive literary treatment of a hugely important social phenomenon. Mr. Lipsyte, through the shambling, highly articulate and pathetic persona of Milo Burke, has announced the onset of the Generation X midlife crisis.

I feel as if I could insert my name for Milo’s and it would make complete sense. I was born in 67.

The articles references to Greenberg and Hot Tub are in comparison to The  Big Chill, the Boomers mid-life crisis movie, one which I can never decide if I like really because it can be so fucking irritating. The author states that Hot Tub is — not a better movie necessarily, but rather preferable.

The raunchy riffs and lowbrow gags of “Hot Tub” are vastly preferable to the navel-gazing sanctimony of “The Big Chill,” at least for my taste. But my taste may be suspect in this matter, since, give or take a few details, “Hot Tub Time Machine” is the story of my life.

No doubt that author’s going to hear about it for that one. Note the apologetic tone in which he presents his case, qualifying his preference, obviously anticipating the Boomer outrage at such a ludicrous notion.

The article makes a good point when it states: “How can a generation whose cultural trademark is a refusal to grow up have a midlife crisis?”

I can’t help feeling that I’ve plagued myself with this….GenX (male mainly I think) syndrome of refusing in many respects to grow up. Although I don’t believe it is an epidemic. I know too many people my age that are mature and responsible. I’m just not really one of them. I’ve always gone kicking and screaming into adulthood, I admit it. Why? Because from where I was sitting it just didn’t look all that great to me.

Th article goes on to point out that of course this midlife crisis thing is nothing new, it’s just that different generations went about it in different ways.

Members of the Greatest Generation and the one that came right after — the “Mad Men” guys, their wives and secretaries — settled down young into a world where the parameters of career and domesticity seemed fixed, and then proceeded, by the force of their own restlessness, to blow it all up.

This pattern repeated itself in the next decades, yielding variations on a story everyone seems to know. At a certain point, Dad buys a sports car, or starts a rock band, or has an affair or walks out on Mom or quits the law firm to make goat cheese. When this kind of thing happens to Mom, it’s not a crisis but an awakening. In any case, the driving impulse is to shake off the straitjacket of adulthood and find some way to feel young again.

And then goes on to ask the ironic (that’s right I used the word) question: “But what if you never gave up adolescence in the first place?”

How does a midlife crisis work exactly then? Well, that’s precisely what the characters in The Ask, Greenberg, and Hot Tub are portraying.

They all seem stuck in an earlier phase of life, which wasn’t so great to begin with: Milo’s dorm room bull sessions and sexual escapades; Roger’s rock ’n’ roll dreams; that crazy time at the ski lodge with snow, cocaine, sex and spandex as far as the eye could see.

And the resulting revelation is fairly brutal, as illustrated in The Ask:

“If I were the protagonist of a book or a movie,” Milo says to his onetime boss, “it would be hard to like me, to identify with me, to like me, right?” The response is devastating: “I would never read a book like that, Milo, and I can’t think of anyone who would. There’s no reason for it.”

It’s an assessment that is difficult to argue with when you consider the following:

A lot of people seem to feel that way about “Greenberg,” which has done modest business and inspired a great deal of ambivalence among audiences. “Funny People” was a big flop, and “Hot Tub Time Machine” has not done nearly as well as “The Hangover,” which offers up coarse humor and male immaturity without the slightest attempt at historical perspective. Since its publication in March, “The Ask” has sold around 7,000 copies. Disappointing? Of course. Our generation wouldn’t have it any other way.

Which I guess means I should got ahead and scrap my idea of my own GenX midlife crisis novel. Because who wants to read the crap, anyway. But  you know, just because most people don’t like something doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile. That’s like saying if you’re not popular in high school, you’re nobody…

Think about it….

….no you won’t.

Beware of Boomer saboteurs

Great post from JenX67 this morning regarding an article that discusses the ways in which Boomers may sabotage GenXers as there is a succession of power.

From the article itself:

To successfully transfer power, leaders must gradually share more and more of it over time. Collaborative leadership freely partners, shares and cooperates. That’s what older leaders need to be doing now to prevent major hiccups when they retire.

Are Bomers doing this now? If not, they should be. And if they aren’t it’s because they’re still operating under the delusion that they’ll never retire, never give up their hold on the power reigns.

Personally, I’m not all that interested in resting power from a Boomer, not in my current situation anyway. I want to do my thing — write. But I do know of a few GenXers who seem to be constantly bumping their heads against the fat, unmoving asses of Boomers.

What do you think — could this get ugly in some situations?



Generation X and divorce

I spent some time today searching for statistics on the divorce rates among Generation X. I didn’t find much. Google Generation X and divorce and what you get is the oft stated assertion that many GenXer grew up with divorced parents, and some rather snotty comments about how selfish and spoiled GenX is and therefore must have a lousy divorce rate, comments clearly made by Boomers. Perhaps it is still to soon for such data to be compiled. Or maybe I just suck at internet research.

Anyhoo… my purpose was to educate myself on the numbers since when I start blogging for JenX67 I’ll be mainly writing about being a divorced GenXer and a single dad. I figured I should know a little bit beyond my on experience. So much for that.

If anyone happens to know of any studies or even just news articles about Generation X and divorce, theirs not their parents’, I’d appreciated being  directed to them.

I did come across a collection of short stories and novella, though, that made me think of my most recent post about Omega Males. It’s titled Greetings from Cutler County, by Travis Mulhauser. And initially I was drawn to it because the stories are set in Northern Michigan. Reading the dust jacket flap only increased my interest, since it was clear these were “guy stories.”  But a specific kind of guy stories:

Most of the characters are young men who think of themselves as losers and outsiders. Short on cash, popularity, and the ambition needed for success, they nevertheless are able to examine their failings with the self-knowing humor and resignation of the perpetually thwarted ne’re-do-well.

That’s definitely a description of GenX Omega Male fiction. Hmm. Did I just invent a new sub genre? Quick! To the copyright office.

Maybe, because of the pending divorce and likelihood of losing my job, I’m just  feeling like I’m at a low point in my life but I get the sense that I’m really going to identify with these characters. Some of them anyway.

GenX parents v. teachers

Courtesy JenX67, here are a couple of really great advice/informational article for teachers re: GenX parents.

The first one is by a GenX mom who fully admits to stealth-parenting, which is so much cooler a label (I mean if you have to have one) than helicopter parenting, which was/is a Boomer thing.

Here’s a taste (i.e. quote from the article):

“They’ll go over your head if they don’t get the results they want from you,” says Anita Thomas, who taught science in a public school in Beaufort, South Carolina. That makes sense, says Lisa Chamberlain, author of Slackonomics: Generation X in the Age of Creative Destruction. “Anything that smacks of bureaucratic red tape or protocol is an irritant,” she explains. “We had to fend for ourselves, which is great if you’re an entrepreneur, but not when you’re a parent.”


The second is by generational guru Neil Howe:

Many Gen-X parents acquire a surprising degree of (self-taught) expertise about teaching methods and will bring stacks of Web printouts into meetings with teachers. A quip often used by former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings (herself a late-wave Boomer, born in 1957) speaks to many Gen-X parents: “In God we trust. All others bring data.”

This local, pragmatic, bottom-line perspective certainly contrasts with the more global, idealistic and aspirational perspective of Boomers. It has driven the rapid growth of parent-teacher organizations that opt out of any affiliation to the National Parent Teacher Association. According to many younger parents, the PTA is simply too large, too inflexible, too politically correct and too deferential to the educational establishment.

GenX in midlife crisis mode

Ever wonder if you’re going through a mid-life crisis?

Think about it. GenXers are reaching that age.

Anyway, I do. And other times I just think that I’m not getting enough fiber in my diet.

I just turned 42 (which btw is NOT twice as cool as turning 21) and that definitely put me in that mid-life freak out range. Still, I have to say that I’ve no desire to buy a sports car. I like my Civic — it’s plucky. Maybe because I’m not really losing my hair I’m not as prone to a mid-life crisis. Still.

I’ve developed a nostalgic fixation on things from my childhood and adolescence. Most recently it’s been BMX. I got super geeked when the library where I worked decided to start carrying BMX Plus, one of my favorite magazine when I was kid. I’d read each issue until literally fell apart. Also, this past summer I rescued the BMX bike that I gave to my nephew years ago. He’s 17 now, a senior, and predictably more interested in cars than bikes. The bike is an SE Quadangle and it needs some work to say that least — new wheels, brake cable, refurbishing of crank barrings and chain etc. But that’s going to be a project this summer.

But from what I’ve read this is a healthy way to channel mid-life crisis energy. At least, according to this WSJ article it is. And the WSJ wouldn’t lie. They’re a newspaper after all. And GenXer’s are more likely to take a healthy approach to mid-life than, oh, say Boomers — the kings of freak out!

Leave it to GenXers to take it in the opposite direction of  Baby Bo0mers. And it isn’t just oh so ironic that that direction would be a positive one. Because, you know, Generation X is cynical and pessimistic and being positive just isn’t cool, right.