My statement was met with disbelief. So, I repeated myself, very slowly. “When I was a kid, no one used olive oil. We used Crisco or Wesson oil.” Both sons just shook their heads sadly. Finally, one son said, “But mom, how did people make dipping sauce for artisan bread? How did they make Aglio e Olio? How did they cook?” I sighed. You’ve just got to love the Millennials.
The Millennials, also known as Gen Y are folks born anywhere between about 1980 and about 1996. It’s a big group, much like their parents, the Baby Boomers. When the Millennials started entering the workforce, there was a lot of negative chatter about this younger group. Words like selfish, naive and indulgent were tossed around. But, I think this was the typical reaction that older generations often have with younger generations. The common response to change. I remember the first time I had a boss that was younger than me. That poor woman! I mean, she was a baby. Not yet 30, I was deeply offended that someone that young would be in charge of ME! I mean really? How could anyone understand the world without living in it for at least 50 years? Of course, that was part of my learning. Yes, she had to work through things for the first time that I had dealt with years before, but, I too, had yet another journey to follow. And folks, that was a hard one. Not only did I need to allow this generation to learn and strive, perhaps I had a few lessons to learn from them.
Introducing the Foodie
During the 60’s, women were overjoyed to have their workloads reduced in any way possible. This was a generation of women that typically stayed at home with their kids, did all the housework and cooked all the meals. Lots of household improvements came about during that time. Excellent vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, dryers and even electric curlers! But best of all, pre-packaged and pre-cooked meals. Take Campbells Soup. Not only could you warm it up and eat it right out of the can, you could add it to a number of things and make whole meals. Tuna casserole? Check. Green bean casserole? Check. Cream sauce? Check. Add that to a little Velveeta cheese and you had a 1960’s meal made in heaven. This was my model and I embraced it!
Maybe an obvious outcome, but Millennials take food very seriously. I’ve been trying desperately to keep up with my children on this but am clearly in way over my head. Thanksgiving, for example. My son “spachcocked” a fresh, organic turkey. That is, he removed the backbone, crunched it down like you’re giving it CPR and cooked it – only after brining for 48 hours. His partner made a gorgeous cheese souffle and my other son’s girlfriend brought a Charcuterie board. (We used to call this a meat and cheese tray – but this did NOT have any bologna or Velveeta cheese slices.) I have been practicing just saying SharcootaREE for the past week because I really want to impress my friends.
“Shoulds” are a thing of the past
Like many people my age, I grew up believing I had a lot of things I “should” do. Based on guilt-fueled parenting/education and cultural expectations, the “shoulds” of life often coincided with our typical American rites of passage. Birth, graduation, work, marriage, children, empty nesting (cruises mandatory), retirement and death. In that order. Step out of this and that guilt thingy we acquired was there to get us right back in line with the norm. But for the most part, the Millennials have seen right through that. Instead, terms that were previously saved for psychotherapy are now embedded in our everyday language. “Create boundaries with toxic people. Find your authentic self.” “Provide space to center your mind in order to make informed and thoughtful decisions.” This has led many Milleninals to create a life path that is much more thoughtful, creative and independent than typical of previous generations. Taking a break from work isn’t uncommon among this group. Saying “no” is interpreted as healthy. Asking for what is needed isn’t considered rude. Delaying or side-stepping altogether, marriage and child-bearing is a choice among many. Taking time to get to know yourself, first. Honestly facing the tough stuff – death, divorce, addictions, trauma – with some tools. It’s pretty impressive.
Sexuality and Gender
No one was gay in the 1960’s. Wait, I got that wrong. No one was “out” in the 1960’s. This is probably one of the best things the Millennials have walked us Boomers through. If you want a real “blast from the past” about how Americans viewed sexuality and gender back in the day, watch a 1960’s movie. Heterosexual all the way. Everything was based on the “should” path discussed earlier. Next, watch a few old Saturday Night Live episodes from the 1970’s. Homophobic storylines and jokes abound. The 80’s? Not much better. The 90’s took a turn and people like Jerry Seinfeld said, things like, “Oh no. I’m not gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” Thirty years after that transitional decade, American culture has finally taken a healthy and honest look at sexuality and gender. For me, I needed a tutorial from my sons about updated language to describe our spectrum of being in this particular realm. At first, I didn’t understand the use of preferred pronouns, especially the use of a plural (they/them) to replace a singular! As a word loving person, this totally rocked my boat. I could imagine Webster et al. slamming down important books about language usage with twisted scowls on their faces. But like everything new, it slowly began to make sense. Even language changes. I mean, when was the last time you used Thou or Thee in a sentence? More importantly, the Millennials have helped the older and the younger generations navigate a way to honor and uphold each individual, as they are. Nothing but authentic self here. It’s totally refreshing.
About 15 years ago, I was at a parade with the boys and one of their friends. I saw a woman in the crowd wearing a bright lime green pants suit. I am ashamed to admit that I laughed and turned to the friend and said something like, “Wow, check out the outfit.” The young friend smoothly replied, “I’ll bet she feels great in it.” Boom. Schooled by a teenager. And she was right. Why did I think my judgment meant anything? How petty. The practice of body shaming was rampant when I was growing up and I was a part of this really hurtful behavior. As I reflect on this, it seems that it was an attempt to get everyone into the same mold. But leave it to the Millennials to blow that mold to bits. I mean, look at the gorgeous body art. I remember my step-mom telling me that a single ear piercing could raise the suspicion that I was a “lady of the night.” Really. These words were said. Now, of course, the art of tattoos and piercing is nothing short of breathtaking. I’ve grown to love the artistry of both.
I could go on and on. Interesting sport upgrades like BMX, Snowboard Cross and Slackline. (Look’em up Oldsters. Pretty fun to watch!) Technology that connects us across the World, improves lives and solves problems. Candidly reflecting on, and then acting on, the uncomfortable and serious problems of Global Warming, Racism and Sexism.
The Millennials. Unafraid to look into the metaphorical mirror at our naked bodies. Seeing what is raw and real. Addressing and dealing with the truth. And, that is remarkable.
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