Where Are You, Gen Xers?

My current job, working as the Senior Writer/Editor for a foundation at a land-grant university, involves sharing stories, Tweets, photos, and more on various social media. Most recently, on #GivingTuesday, I was checking out articles on LinkedIn, one of which mentioned “how to get Millennials to donate.” Since two of my children are Millennials in their early 20s, and I volunteer for another local foundation, I clicked on the link.

About 2/3 of the way into the article, I came across a paragraph that compared Millennial philanthropic trends with Baby Boomer trends. I kept reading, waiting to see how Gen Xers felt about philanthropy. Guess what? There was no mention of Gen Xers in the entire article. Zip. Zero. Zilch. So, I became curious. And like a Millennial, I went to Google and typed in Generation X.

Suddenly, a whole new world opened to me. I was born in 1968 and have always considered myself a Gen Xer. With a brother born in ’66 and one in ’75, I’m also the middle child. Coincidentally, Gen Xers are called the Neglected Middle Child, mostly because there are 70 million plus Boomers and 70 million plus Millennials, and there are only 50 million plus Gen Xers. Why the discrepancy? Well, lucky for us, even though the hippies were having a lot of sex, in the early 70s, birth control and legalized abortion helped them have fewer children.

After visiting a few more websites, I found conflicting information regarding the specific dates that designated a person as a Gen Xer. My theory holds at this: Gen Xers were born in between the early 60s and the early 80s. And, similar to astrology, if your birthdate straddles those years, you are said to be on the cusp, or a cusper. So, my uncle John, for instance, who was born in 1965, probably has Boomer and Gen Xer traits.

When I think about my being a Gen Xer, I think about being a child of divorced Boomer parents who needed to “find themselves,” walking everywhere by myself, and being raised on or by television. I often joke that my father (a single parent until I was six) used the TV as a babysitter. Through my research, I discovered I wasn’t alone. Many, if not most, Gen Xers were left home alone with little more than the TV and their siblings to keep them company. It’s probably why we love pop culture!

On a positive note, Gen Xers are independent, resilient, hard-working, and have a sardonic wit. I remember bristling, years ago, when I heard us called the “Slacker Generation.” WTF? When I was 12 I got a paper route. And from that moment on, my father gave me no more spending money. So then I worked as a babysitter. Then as a lifeguard. McDonald’s manager. Nursing home diet aid. Retail sales. Bakery cashier. Then, when I was 20, I joined the navy to get the G.I. Bill because my father wouldn’t help me pay for college.

I’m happy to report we are the generation responsible for creating Hip Hop and paving the way for ethnic diversity. When I think of my childhood, I think of Sesame Street, Captain Kangaroo, and the Electric Company, which we watched in second grade as part of our curriculum. Also, with my father, I watched shows like Good Times, What’s Happening, Laugh In, and the Sonny and Cher Show.

On a negative note, Gen Xers, because we were almost always left alone, referred to as the “latchkey” kids, and were often physically and sexually abused, have become the “most devoted parents in American history.” Some folks call us “helicopter parents.” Guilty as charged. Both of my adult daughters failed out of college, although they grew up watching me bust my butt to earn a BA, an MA, and an MFA, all in writing. I did that without parental support. My daughters have oodles of support. Have I killed their ability to stand on their own?

Anyway: this post is a plea. If you’re a Gen Xer, I want to hear from you! After all, peers are more important to us than parents. I plan to continue my research. If you want to share a story with me, please email me at cindyjoy68@gmail.com.

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One of the Worst Jobs I Ever Had

One of the worst jobs I ever had was right after I graduated with my MFA in creative nonfiction. I’d applied as a Chiropractic Assistant (CA) at an office in Moscow, Idaho. The ad promised I’d be writing marketing material, transcribing Dr. X’s notes and working with clients. When I got an interview, I was stoked.

Red flags hit me in the face right after I walked in. All of us interviewees, ranging in age from 17 to 60 plus, were there at the same time: 3:30 p.m. Dr. X and her staff of five CAs introduced themselves. Dr. X, a pale woman in her 60s, had earned a master’s in literature but never found a professorship, so she went into chiropractic medicine. During the interview, Dr. X gave a presentation on light-touch therapy. She mumbled as though she had olives in her mouth.

The second hour of the interview involved writing and editing tests. The other participants were in the room, too, so the process was intimidating and strange. After our assessments, we each met alone with the five staff members. I answered a long list of questions about what kind of team player I would be. No one had told us the interview would last four hours, and I was starving. Needless to say, when I got the call that I was hired, I was stunned.

The 17-year old and the woman in her 20s were hired too. I felt bad for the older women, who I learned later never had a chance. Dr. X did not hire “heavy”, “ugly,” or “old” people. When I discovered I would be making $8.00 an hour with zero benefits, no lunch and a promise of no more than 20 hours per week, I cried. Ten years of education and I was making less than I did as a writing tutor. But my husband was a full-time student and we had two daughters to feed.

My job consisted of watching Dr. X perform light-tough therapy on clients, taking notes, and answering client questions because Dr. X ignored them. She made her money through ridiculously expensive vitamins and new client appointments, which included x-rays. Many clients did not come back, and some of the ones who did asked, “Why am I still in pain?”

I should say that I do believe in chiropractic medicine. As staff members, we received daily adjustments for free, which was a fabulous perk. And it wasn’t all bad: I got to fly to Chicago for a marketing conference, where I found out many business people, who were not chiropractors, owned chiropractic clinics and were getting rich. OK. That wasn’t good.

Dr. X fired the 17-year old because, “He wasn’t fast enough.” She shot me dirty looks every time I talked about something other than work. She also said I was too loud. I do have a deep voice that carries, and I like to laugh. That coupled with some of the stranger techniques I could not get behind, like putting colored sun glasses on clients and using tuning forks over their troubled areas, took their toll. And after several weeks of writing zero marketing materials and getting scowls from Dr. X, I became disenchanted. I still participated in our mandatory prayer circles every morning.

One evening, during a staff meeting (Dr. X did not attend), one of my coworkers said, “Does anyone else notice that Dr. X treats Cindy like crap?” Everyone nodded. And then George, a budding chiropractor who’d worked for Dr. X thirteen years said, “Oh yeah. She always finds a dog to kick around.” The next morning, I called Dr. X and said, “I quit.”

I had never left a job without notice, not even some of the arduous ones from my past, like McDonald’s, U.S. Bank, Subway, and Shari’s Restaurant. Dr. X insisted I come in and work that day, so I did–no sense in stiffing the staff members, whom I really liked. Dr. X ignored me the entire day. And at 5:30 p.m., the staff and I said our good-byes.

Within a week, I landed a job as an administrative assistant to the catering director at a hotel. I made $10.00 an hour with benefits and free lunches. It wasn’t a dream job, but it got me by and paid the bills. My boss there was a delight.