Generation X: A Chronicle Of Our Time
Generation of Anonymity?
During the early nineties, we were often referred to as the MTV Generation. However, during that same time while about a third of our generation was in college, there's a good chance many of you remember hearing your sociology professor refer to us as "Generation X". The first time I heard it was in 1996, and even then, and still today, I have to ask myself why. Why would they brand us with a nickname of such faceless anonymity that seems to imply ambiguity?
Based on research, they say our generation is adrift, apathetic, cynical, and highly individualistic. They've often categorized our personality as being synonymous with that of a loner. Supposedly we also tend to take on the role of the hero, while many of us also happen to be quite artistic. Although some of us fit comfortably into the loner/hero/artist depiction, or at least part of it in some way or another, such a generalization doesn't really seem to describe the majority of us that I know or remember, and it certainly misses the mark in its assumption of who we are as individuals.
By adding the letter "X" to our generation it almost seems to imply we are all incredibly private people or that we grew up in search of some illusive identity that we could never find. "X" is a nickname I question because it suggests ambiguity and that somehow our generation's presence has been forgotten. Is our legacy so insignificant because we somehow failed to make an impact on society? From all the memories, experiences, observations and decorous assumptions I have concerning our generation, I assure you that the answer to that question is quite the opposite.
Defining our generation with a nameless title shouldn't leave any of us second guessing whether or not we ever made a difference or that our presence in society over the years has been at all indistinct. Our actions were not lackluster in the least bit. As teenagers and young adults, our contribution to society has mounted to much more than what sociologist's and marketers would suggest. They simply assume we are a generation of apathetic loners doing nothing but killing time until the day we can all retire so we can continue living that same life of isolation and obscurity.
While I may be reading too far into this since it's still just a letter, the case against our nickname is a strong one. Whoever decided upon the name Generation X, my guess is more than likely they weren't one of us, and if they were, then obviously they failed to pay attention to who we really were and what they were a part of. Besides, I personally prefer being associated with something as iconic and cool as "MTV", or at least, as cool as it once was.
My better judgment tells me we were then, and we are now, much more than what our aforementioned nickname suggests. This I can prove by all that I know about our generation having lived it myself. Through observation and a great memory, I can verify that our identity was something that was built on common sense. Our identity is one that we all helped build by being resourceful, creative and having the natural ability to be good communicators. Our identity was shaped by decent morals, values and hard lessons, while being self-aware enough to know when it was time to relax and have a good time. Our parents raised us right as we came of age when MTV ruled during arguably the greatest time in modern day America.
Growing Up During The Peak Of America's Greatness
If you question the assumption that our generation grew up during the pinnacle of American greatness, you could point out the fact that back in the 70' and 80's we had more freedoms, no Big Brother, and less technology. Or you could site that there was less government and fewer law's, while our streets were still much safer compared to today. You could also say that back in the 80's we had a president who cared about the middle class and didn't lie about believing in God despite coming from Hollywood. You could also point out that kids were still respectful toward their parents, neighbors actually knew one another and our front doors would stay unlocked while we slept.
However, as kids growing up, what we liked most about it was the fact we had MTV telling us what was cool and what wasn't. Music videos introduced us to a whole new world, influencing us into the music we would love, the clothes we would wear, even the types of movies we went to the theater to see.
To understand our generation, at least in some way, first you would need to understand what MTV meant to us and how it helped shape our lifestyle.
The Explosion of Pop Culture
If you were born sometime between 1963 and 1982, that means you were one of the 88 million adolescents who experienced the incredible explosion of American pop-culture during the seventies and 1980's. With its first broadcast in 1981, MTV hallmarked the era by bringing music videos directly into our living rooms, giving us front row seats to an emergence of unforgettable songs, stars, movies, fads and clothing trends which helped shape the times.
At first, the network struggled to find its audience, soon shifting its daily rotation of music videos in an effort to attract more viewers. In doing so, my guess is that they had some serious flaws in their marketing strategy. I say this simply because the balance that MTV ended up deciding upon was to add an influx of New Wave artists to its line-up of video airplay.
As if being subjected twice a day to Air Supply wasn't bad enough, by adding Kajagoogoo into the mix, it sure made it unbearable to watch at times. Despite the first couple of years being a challenge to watch, one thing is certain. It allowed us to see just how ridiculous and goofy some of those early 80's bands really were. The hair style of the singer from "Flock of Seagulls" or the little red, flower pot looking hats that "Devo" wore in the video for "Whip it", at least gave us a good laugh, right before we changed the channel. Fortunately, the big wigs over at MTV were smart. They knew it sucked too, and so for the most part, they bailed on New Wave just before the summer of 1983.
MTV's next move would prove to be one of its best as it unfolded a diverse soliloquy of musical styles and personas, taking us on a decades journey, introducing us to a wide variety recording artists that would eventually become household names.
Influential from its earliest beginnings, VJ's Martha Quinn and Mark Goodman gave us our first dose of artist's such as The Go Go's and Tom Petty and The Heart Breaker's. As the network continued to grow in popularity, they unleashed an entire genre of synth-pop groups whose music and fashion-sense took MTV to whole new level as it went mainstream in the fall of 1983. While plenty of one-hit wonders gave us something to sing about, it was the music videos from artists such as Duran Duran, Prince, Madonna, The Eurythmics, David Bowie and Michael Jackson that catapulted the network to widespread exposure.
The popularity of music videos was beginning to make an impact on Americas youth culture by changing fashion trends and influencing record sales. Even telling us what movies were cool and which ones were not. The success of MTV's marketing strategy helped artists like Kenny Loggins grab three number one hits in the 1980's. Through a successful formula of combining scenes from a movie with a hit song from radio, the music video, slash, hit movie soundtrack was created. If there was a popular song on the radio that was part of a movie, it didn't matter if the movie was horrible or not, kids still paid the 4 bucks to go see it.
From 1986 until its peak in 1993, MTV geared its daily rotation of videos toward an audience who had been demanding a heavier sound. MTV responded by playing videos that pandered to the bad boys of the era who smoked and got suspended from school. I'm of course referring to videos from groups like Motley Crue, Poison and Ratt. During that time, MTV aired almost anything considered hard rock, heavy metal or glam metal. By mid 1987, the three genres had combined into one, and became rightfully known as "hair metal".
Groups like Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Guns and Roses were extremely popular, with sold out concerts and a combined 20 million albums sold worldwide, MTV finally had the justification to give metal fans more of what they wanted. By the summer of 1988, Headbangers Ball would premier, giving us a weekly three hour dose of everything that was fast, heavy, glam or mainstream metal to bang our heads to.
Every Saturday night, host Riki Raccaman spun out videos from bands such as Megadeth, Cinderella, Tesla and Whitesnake. Despite airing at midnight and ending at 3 am, there was always that one house on every street that still had the lights on at a quarter to three. More than likely, that meant there was some 16 year old kid planted in front of the television in his parents living room watching Headbangers Ball.
Not all of us just sat there and watched though. Some of us took it one step further by having a blank VHS tape waiting on stand-by to record Headbangers Ball. While some of us chose to just record the entire show, many became master editors by filtering out groups like Brittney Fox and Danger Danger to cherry pick the videos that to them, were more metal sophisticated.
When it was all said and done, some of us had an entire video library, a complete heavy metal chronicle which we proudly displayed on a book shelf near the VCR to watch anytime we wanted, complements of MTV. The really great part was back then, we had mom's and dad's who may not have liked heavy metal, but they understood and respected the fact that we did. Therefore, letting us stay up late and take over the living room, if not for just the one night a week was alright with them. Thank's mom and dad!
In MTV's later years, Seattle's Grunge Rock introduced us to bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam who came on the scene and completely rearranged how fans felt about music.The good times that Hair Metal had sung about and inspired us to live up to, were erased by lyrics based on depression, suicide and teen angst.
Seattle rock was really more of a partycrasher than anything else, killing everything that was good about Hair Metal. By 1992, "suicide rock" had officially put Cherry Pie and Janie Lane in a sleeper hold, until a year later when hair metal finally went to the grave. Ever since, MTV has transformed itself into the exact opposite of what it once was during the glory years. Although still on the air, not surprisingly it's been on life support ever since pulling the plug on arguably the greatest music ever written. Long live Hair Metal! Rest in Peace, Janie Lane.
Shaping Our Sense of Fashion
As technology began to evolve during the 80's, an expansion in cable television made Movie and Rock star celebrities a lot more accessible to fans. The fashions they wore became extremely popular to our generation, creating a nationwide obsession with what celebrities wore, making fashion a significant part of the rise in pop culture. The clothing styles during the decade in large part catered to Generation X and who the most popular celebrity was and what they were wearing at the time.
The most stereotypical fashion trends were easy to get caught up in. During the early 80's there were those guys who wore that red Michael Jackson jacket and tried their hardest to do the moonwalk. For the girls, they usually went for the Pat Benatar or Madonna look. During the late 80's, there were the guys who tried so hard to be Don Johnson from Miami Vice. There was always that one dude you knew that wore the white suit with a pink shirt and had his jacket sleeves rolled up to the elbow. To me, the Miami Vice look made those guys look nuts.
That said, I'm willing to concede that a large majority of the first wave of our generation (or the oldest of us now) did wear a Member's Only jacket, and for those who did, more than likely that meant they also had about a half dozen Izod shirts hanging in their closet.
Those same guys also felt compelled to wear those hideous brown leather deck shoes which they typically chose to wear without socks. Finally, to complete the ensemble and make that ultimate 80's fashion statement, for whatever reason, millions of guys thought it was really cool to turn their collar up like they were trying to hide a hickey or something. Was it that your neck was cold or what?
For the younger brothers of these guys, (the middle wave of our generation) about the only cool thing we thought they ever wore were those checkerboard colored Vans shoes. However, our older brothers actually stole that shoe idea from a long haired surfer named Jeff Spicolli who smoked too much pot, evident when he fell out of that orange, VW fan filled with pot smoke in the 1984 classic, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High". A movie both timeless and great, just like those Vans shoes he wore in the movie.
In contrast to our older siblings, (who make up the first wave of Generation X) when we entered high school and started really caring about how we dressed, we chose a wardrobe a bit less "conspicuous". I believe I speak for all of us when I say that none of us ever wore Izod or Members Only, and I know for certain that none of us ever pointed our collars up in the air either.
When we woke up for school to that horrible sounding alarm on our clock radio, we'd crawl out of our waterbed and reach for a pair of Levis. Definitely never a pair of Jordache's. For us, we liked the acid washed look, not the look that had the handle of a really long yellow comb sticking out of our back pocket. Our shoes were similar, except instead of Chuck Taylors, we wore white high-top Adidas, Reebok's or Air Jordan' while a lot of the girls really seemed to prefer LA Gear.
Our crowd was a lot more relaxed than our older brothers and sisters before us. We weren't so high strung, making us cool with wearing jean jackets and Wayfarer sunglasses. We really didn't care for the collared polo look either, so we stuck to what was easy. In the end, it was all about Guess blue jeans, cotton t-shirts and brand named button down shirts made by Liz Claiborne, Old Navy, and Ralph Lauren.
As some of us were coming of age, we did it with a dedication to an ambitious dream that we would become famous rock stars someday. We loved heavy metal so much that many of us became aspiring musicians, while dreaming of a life where we'd be in a band that would sell millions of records and tour all over the world.
Therefore, while our older brothers and sisters were listening to REO Speedwagon and Quarterflash, we were sitting in our bedrooms perfecting our chops, guitar licks and double-bass kicks to bands like Iron Maiden, Van Halen, and Motley Crue.
Learning to sing like a heavy metal singer or play the guitar like Eddie Van Halen is... for lack of a better word; a bitch. It required more practice and dedication than you can imagine. Contrary to the very stereotypical assumption that heavy metal was a bunch of noise, in reality, not only was it the hardest music to try and learn how to play, but when compared to other styles of music such as jazz, blues or pop, it required years of practice that would eventually pay off with an abundant talent to show for it. You may not think it's true, but the heavy metal music that was recorded in the 1980's truly required more talent than any other music ever recorded.
Determined and spirited with high hopes of making it big someday, we perfected our talent through many hours of practice. We shaped our craft around the music that we loved, while we grew our hair longer than most girls. It was the girls we dated that taught us how to tease our hair to the moon through the use of a blow dryer and dumping a gallon of hairspray on our heads to make it stick. When we went out, our hair could've easily been declared a safety hazard by the fire marshal.
Then we'd put on our black spandex pants that showed off our junk, and then we'd head out to an all night keg party. Usually we'd all gather around a gigantic bonfire out in the woods near the airport or something, or sometimes we'd just hang out in some guys backyard that almost none of us actually even knew.
Rest assured, just about all of us had this experience at least once, but for many, it was an every weekend ritual. Typically, the numbers were about thirty or forty of us, but were known to reach into the hundreds on occasion. We'd all spend the entire night dedicating ourselves to different groups where we'd talk about this or that while chugging down 3 kegs of Budweiser and smoking about 6 joints. Of course, this was something we did while having a complete lack of respect and total disregard for public responsibility.
It was just the way we liked it. What made it even better was that the world was still tolerant of that sort of behavior. The dozen or so warnings we received over the years from police officers would most certainly be much more severe today. I'm sure some of us would probably still be in jail if the cops were as unforgiving back then compared to how they are today. Just goes to show you how times have changed. We were probably the last generation to be able to enjoy such freedom without a concern for the police arresting us for it.
While we may have enjoyed the decade of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll just like everyone else, some took it to the extreme. If you could flip the order of it around, and see it as rock and roll, sex and then drugs, then music became the priority on the list. For those fortunate few, combined with their talent, work ethic, a bit of luck and enough dedication to gut out those hard years on the road, all of their hard work and talent paid off.
On the other hand, it was probably around 1992 or 93 when the ones who put drugs first and and the music last finally realized that the dream of rock star fame wasn't going to happen. That was the day when the painstaking decision was made to take down all the Tesla and Queensryche posters from the walls and ceiling. This was followed by a long arduous trip to the hair salon to chop off what was probably some very long hair. If memory serves me correct, the sound of Taps could be heard in the distance as the hair piled up on the floor.
The life of a rock star was not to be, but for a few short years it sure was fun to think maybe there was a chance. Looking back, the greatest memories of my life are of a time when I lived a dream that didn't come true. Some may think that's strange, but I see it not as a failure, but just another indication of how resilient our generation was then, and how we still are to this day.
We Were A Part Of Something Big
Although we didn't know it at the time, in retrospect, the music, the movies, the fads and fashion statements made us part of something big. Furthermore, when you consider the fact that we helped usher in the rise of technology and that we were part of the generation that called for an end to political corruption, witnessing the Berlin Wall come down along with many of the worlds authoritarian regimes, I'd say we were part of some pretty significant events.
Everything that we were a part of defined the time, and all that we witnessed helped create how the world functions today. It wasn't simply about MTV, or how it influenced our desire for music or movies. It was about how the times helped us develop our own individual thoughts and personal feelings about society itself. The same can be said about our perceptions of American politics and our ideas concerning freedom, war, and the overall effectiveness of government. The shift between our traditional past and the new progressive social landscape was bridged by our generation.
Our identity has been distinct and resides with clarity and purpose. When you consider we make up the largest percentage of Americans currently in the workforce, plus the fact that we're the largest demographic of voters, making us the primary factor in deciding the last four presidents, I'd say our presence means has made an impact. Not to mention, if not for us dropping all of our money in video games as kids, would the Internet be where it is today? Furthermore, we are the largest group of Americans that still care to ensure the survival of American patriotism, while we also represent the majority who have taken the responsibility to make sure that our American heritage and traditions are preserved, right along with the strength of our national religion.
Little Kids Out All Night
A person is defined by their character and behavior, which is why I question defining our generation by the letter "X". It places such uncertainty on us as if to question the validity of our actions, thoughts and attitudes. With everything we were a part of, even those last few years of the 1970's had much to do with the attitudes we developed and the character we would build for life. This can even be said for those of us who were still playing kickball on the playground and doing the best we could to make the age of ten.
Being a little kid in the late 70's, you were especially fortunate if you had a big brother or sister because that meant you got to tag along with them wherever they went. Maybe not every where, but if it was a weekend, then more than likely us little kids were annoying the hell out of our older siblings as they were forced to take us with them to the skating rink.
For moms and dads, it was a place where they could drop us off for about 4 or 5 hours and have the house to themselves. It may have been a cheap babysitter for them, however for us kids, it was a place with all the excitement a kid at that age could've ever asked for. It was place where a lot of kids were introduced to rock and roll, cigarettes or where you had your first crush. It was also the place where we first saw what would later become the X-Box and Play Station games of today.
At first, we only had Space Invaders and Asteroids, but those two games were enough to keep us mesmerized for hours, or at least until we ran out of quarters. Many of us were still so little, we had to stand on a chair just to see the screen and operate the controls. It didn't matter though, we were having more fun than we could handle. A lot of kids found their first love at the skating rink. If you were a little kid, that first love was likely an arcade game.
Encumbered as we were with Donkey Kong and Missile Command, the skating rink wasn't just about the arcade. Standing in line waiting to get in, every time the door would open you'd get a blast of rock and roll which only served to build the anticipation of getting inside and putting on a pair of those brown rental skates with the orange wheels.
Learning to skate while being initiated into the club of rock and roll was a great combination for a little kid. When you're just learning to skate it's much easier to fall down and bust your ass when you have bands like Styx, The Who, or the Electric Light Orchestra backing you up. That way, when you wipe out, the music is more like an energizer, motivating you to get back up and try again.
Eventually, over time, we got pretty good at it until we finally became speed skaters blazing around the rink under the colored light beams of a dozen rotating disco balls. By the time the roller skating rink had outlived its popularity, we were able to flip around backwards at top speed and use the toe stoppers on our skates to come to a quick, sliding stop.
By 1983 the roller rink had served its purpose. Many us had become teenagers as well as masters of about a dozen video games and pinball machines, not to mention it was the place where a lot of us got our first crush on someone, or even had our first kiss. At the very least, it was probably where we got our first phone number and while all three represent distinct possibilities, when you factor in that skating rinks used to have "All Night Skates", the chances start closing in on 100%.
It was worth the $3 price of admission if it meant you could flirt with that someone, most likely around 3 am as the the song "Endless Love" set the mood for what was always a very dark and sensual "couples only" skate. I'm sure many first kisses took place during the aforementioned time, place and song, but there will always be that one, I will never forget.
A Great Tribute to the Days of Our Youth
The Life We Learned to Live
The time seemed to zoom by as we made the big jump from elementary school to Junior High. We traded in our Kung Fu lunchboxes so we could carry a Trapper Keeper to school. It held our pencils, paper and gave us something to scribble on when we were bored in 5th period language class. If you were a guy, you likely had a picture of all the various NFL helmets on your Trapper Keeper. If you were a girl, more than likely, it was little furry kittens. .
Whatever picture was slipped underneath the see through plastic cover, it wasn't something we paid much attention to, especially on the weekend when we found ourselves laughing hysterically in an R Rated movie like Caddyshack. Watching Chevy Chase and Bill Murray chop it up in a conversation about a golf course made of a cross-hybrid of Kentucky Bluegrass and Green Sensemia was something we laughed our asses off at. It wasn't long before many of us were wearing black parachute pants and Ferrari sunglasses. Not to mention, my hair was feathered and shoulder length, while for whatever the reason, I also felt deeply compelled to wear a red bandanna tied around my neck.
Without a doubt, American pop culture and MTV played a big a part of influencing how our generation dressed. Movies also had a way of giving us ideas for some of our extra-curricular mischievous activities. Movies like Porky's, Spring Break and The Breakfast Club in a way gave us a pass to experience adolescent sex, drink beer when mom and dad weren't looking and it made school detention less on punishment and more about opportunity.
The impact that rock stars and movie stars had on us was profound, especially for those who decided to fashion their wardrobe after stars like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Pat Benatar or Don Johnson. Our generation took being a fan to whole new level. We didn't just buy the records or go see the movie like our parents before us. We also thought it was best to dress, dance, even talk or look like them if we could.
Despite that 80's fad and fashion phase many of us went through, as we made it into the late 80's, things began to change. We started to find our identity, putting away the friendship bracelets and green neon shoelaces as we adjusted to life in high school. It was during those 4 great years that MTV gave us what we needed to know about Hollywood. Even though the music and the rock stars themselves were a huge influence on us, as we got our drivers license and learned more about freedom, its influence was still there but you could tell that its impression was starting to ware off.
MTV really didn't make us who we were as we grew into young adults. If anything, it gave some of us ideas and ambitious dreams of being rock stars, and for a few of us who had the right stuff, they would eventually see that dream come to fruition. However it wasn't MTV that got them there. More so, it was about their ability to be resourceful and creative which were two things you needed to have if you grew up during the 70's and 80's. If you ever expected to have any fun or make something out of yourself, you had to be able make something out of nothing. That's just the way it was.
This is obvious when you look at Heavy Metal musicians. From the perspective of an open-minded and objective point of view, whether you want to admit or not, they were the most talented musicians ever to record music. Rock stars just don't don't play or sing like that anymore mainly because such a craft requires years of dedication, practice, and more talent than most bands can honestly claim to have today.
To have such an ability required the individual to be among other things, creative in approach to their instrument, and also having the resourcefulness to grind through years of bar gigs and beach clubs, sometimes playing in front of eleven highly inebriated people all in effort to make a couple hundred bucks a week so they could keep themselves stocked up on Top Ramen soups for the next 6 days. Those guys starved out there, but in the end, at least for some, all the hunger paid off when they signed their record contract. For the guys from our generation who didn't have the Internet or Youtube to help generate an audience, they will forever have my respect. Why? Because they actually worked their asses off to get where they are today. If not for being creative and resourceful, Roy, Sully, Bevin, Clint and Troy would never have become the famous rock stars that I once knew and hung out with as a teenager.
We didn’t have the convenience of technology that kids have today. Sure we had Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, however, as far as technology goes, other than those few primitive Atari games, the only electronic gadgets we had were either a Sony Walkman or a giant ghetto blaster that let the whole neighborhood know what kind of music we were into. Usually that meant Iron Maiden or Motley Crue cranked up on full blast. Kids these days have it made and they don't even recognize it, and the ones that do, don't seem to appreciate it.
Progress and No Child Left Behind
Personally, I believe the Internet to be the most incredible invention ever conceived. 30 years ago we could never have imagined the extraordinary convenience of Google and Youtube. Nevertheless, having such a dependence on technology has created negative consequences especially when you consider the impact it's had on young people. This is quite obvious when you speak to them and they demonstrate a deficiency in basic interpersonal and communications skills.
Unlike today where it seems almost normal to do so, none of us lived reclusive, anti-social lifestyles. Our existence wasn't dedicated to an X-Box or a cell phone. For Generation X, our fun wasn't found sitting on a computer all day or ignoring everyone around us because we were too busy texting. We would've found a life like that pointless and mind-numbing. Besides, there was far too much happening outside to be interested in such a way of life. For us, good times were found and made by what we did outside and what we did with our friends. It's where we found our way and learned how to live.
For Generation X, our fun wasn't found sitting on a computer all day or ignoring everyone around us because we were too busy texting. For us, good times were found and made by what we did outside, and the friends who we had that would meet us there. It's where we hung out and it's how we learned to live.
Ironically, the name generation X actually seems to better describe today's youth much more than ours. With so many kids preferring a life that's socially disengaged due to technology, shouldn't they be the generation branded with anonymity rather the ones who never would've thought such a life was anything other than abnormal? For us, we had the basic social skills that allowed us to participate in conversations and make new friends. The last thing we were was a bunch of introverts.
I suppose we could blame technology, at least in some part for what's happened to kids these days. The pure genius of the Internet brilliantly invented to seemingly make all of our lives easier, has unfortunately come with a severe price.
The implications from its widespread usage have been obvious and severe when you observe the adverse effects it's had on much of today’s younger generation. In more ways than one, the Internet has quite simply made the American youth culture incredibly dumb.
Being part of Generation X, we nurtured early computer technology. As adults, we look at the Internet, and many of us know it’s a double-edged sword. On one side, it provides unlimited access to information while offering the potential to educate with higher efficiency and effectiveness. However, on the other hand, we also know the Internet provides teenagers easy access to pornography and violence, not to mention all the websites that teach kids ways to make drugs or bombs, or the means to participate in online sexual acts. When I see kids these days, many of them seem so depressed. If you try to have a face-to face conversation with a teenager, it’s an experience nothing less than uncomfortable.
I'll be the first to admit guilt for spending far too much time on the Internet. Fortunately, my youth wasn't corrupted by technology. At worst, as a teenager I spent a lot of time in the arcade playing Centipede, Asteroids, Defender or Pinball. Back then we spent an hour or so in the arcade, joy-sticking our way through a couple of dollars just so we could overtake the high score and have our initials immortalized at the top of the leader board for all our friends to see. We didn't dedicate our lives to a bedroom and an X-Box.
The best part about playing arcade games was that it cost money to play. This meant that if you were a kid who did chores but didn't get paid an allowance, and if you wanted to go to the arcade, then you really only had two options. You could either ask your mom for a dollar or you could earn the money by going out and working for it.
Kids back then actually used to do this! I know for some of you this may seem stranger than fiction, but kids really did go door to door, asking their neighbors if they had any yard work that could be done in exchange for about 10 or 20 bucks depending upon how big the job was.
As kids, we got up early on Saturday mornings, ate our cereal, watched cartoons and then pushed our lawn mowers down the street, knocking on every door that had a yard we determined had grass long enough that needed to be cut. At the end of the day, we had a nice little sunburn and about 50 or 60 bucks in our pocket. It was always better to have your own money than to ask your parents for it.
We took our lawn cutting proceeds and we spent it on soda and candy bars, or maybe a cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate shake. Whatever was left over, we broke down into quarters and turned those quarters into credits to play video games. If you wanted to play Karate Champ and Moon Patrol without asking your dad for his pocket change, you had to put in the effort and go sweat out some real work to earn the money.
These days, kids have no idea what a hard work ethic is. You never see them mowing their neighbors grass anymore. Most likely because they simply don’t care if they have to ask their parents for money. If mom and dad are going to just hand it over, of course kids will take the simple and easy way rather than getting their hands dirty.
The Ideology of America's Youth Culture
Today kids are coddled, not only by their parent's, but also by the schools and even by our own government. The consequences have been obvious as we see young people completely incompetent when it comes to doing simple things that you would think they would have the common sense to know how to do. You’d be surprised how many kids need a calculator in order to figure out how much change they're supposed to get if they spend $16.43 on something, and they hand the cashier a twenty-dollar bill.
Even more astonishing, at least to me, is if you ask a 15-year old to start a campfire or change a tire, they simply have no idea what to do.
Then there are the young adults; those in their first year of college who more than anything detest our US Constitution, our American heritage, and our national traditions. After all the hard work and sacrifice that so many Americans put forth to ensure that future generations would live in a country of freedom and civil rights, they show their appreciation by telling us they don't care about these things. They demonstrate this by their attack on freedom of speech and their hatred for our national religion. They consider both reprehensible, believing both have outlived their purpose. If that's not enough, they demand we willfully follow them into some new age progressive lifestyle where we all live with absolute selfishness, never stopping to consider what others think, feel, or believe. Here we gave so much in trying to make sure they would have freedom and they simply reject it as if it never meant anything.
The ideology of a socialist society is nothing new, but coming from our kids is something we certainly never saw coming. These are the same kids who know nothing about the real world other than what they have read or seen on TV. These are the same kids that were raised to be scared of things that they shouldn’t have necessarily been taught to be scared of. They’ve been frightened into submission their entire lives by bad parenting and liberal school systems. Forced to live apathetically while remaining content with a life that exists within a deliberate culture of fear.
Sadly, but most definitely true, this has produced an entire generation of unadventurous, know-it-all wimps who have never known risk or reward, and have no clue what it’s like to face danger, failure, or how to overcome their fears.
What Generation X Was About
The things we did as kids back in the 70's and 80's would today be at the very least frowned upon, if not punishable by a court of law. Nevertheless, that was one of the greatest things about growing up during that time. We weren’t subjected to a ton of petty laws and civil ordinances that kept us restricted by fear. We had freedoms that allowed us to explore, take chances, and test the limits of danger that allowed us to overcome our fears.
The only risks kid’s takes today is maybe getting their eyes strained or maybe a sore ass from playing their X-Box all day long. How are tomorrows leaders ever going to make it in the real world if they are so willfully ignorant to the very real threats that exist within it? How will they ever be prepared to face all the possibilities of failure, pain, and rejection if they were never given the opportunity to experience it growing up.When we were young, we had no choice but to learn the value of being told “No”. We'd just suck it up and accept whatever it was we had been denied.
Being young meant going to summer camp for a couple of weeks. It gave us a chance to get away from mom and dad and learn about self-sufficient survival. We learned how to build a campfire, what plants were edible and which ones would make you sick. We took canoe trips down a river, roasted hot dogs and marsh-mellows on a stick and we told ghost stories that made us miss home.
As kids we knew how to climb trees, we went to the river and tied up a Tarzan swing, swaying back and forth until plunging down into the dark murky unknown, and we did it without fear because it was fun. We prepared ourselves for life by proving we could daredevil our bicycles off a cliff and fall 50 feet into the river. We didn't wear helmets or knee pads, because chicks use to dig scars. We bunny-hopped curbs, rode our friends on the handle bars, we steered our bikes without using our hands and we would pop wheelies to see how far we could ride on one wheel. When we crashed, we usually did it at top blazing speed followed by a burn into the ground or the street that was nothing less than unforgiving.
We were determined and ambitious in spite of the risks. Our generation knew how to confront what was scary, because once we did it the first time, we knew we wouldn’t be afraid of it anymore.
We were tough kids who sometimes got broken bones, but when we did, we did it because we fell out of a tree house that we had built ourselves, and while we were building it, we did so without the need of adult supervision. The really cool thing was despite not having a Chaperone during tree fort construction, nobody ever got hurt. Yet if one of us had suffered some injury, we wouldn’t have been questioned by school officials, nor would CPS have shown up at our door demanding to know how it happened. Mom and Dad would've been safe from being arrested for neglect or child endangerment. These days, in the same situation, our parents would certainly need the best legal representation their money could afford, seemingly to buy the justice that would clear their name of an act that should've never been called into question in the first place.
It Was About We Could Do Rather Than What We Couldn't
Our generation knew nothing of childproof locks. There wasn't any need for them since we had parents who actually taught us what was off limits and what wasn’t. We hitchhiked when we didn’t have a ride. The times we were lucky enough to catch a ride, we rode in cars that didn’t have seat belts or air-bags and we were also allowed to ride in the back of a pick-up truck. Back then it was considered a treat rather than a police traffic stop.
We drank water from the garden hose without fear. We often shared a bottle of soda with a friend and didn’t worry about catching some disease, mainly because nobody ever did. Maybe you’d catch a cold if you were unlucky, but back then, if your friend was sick, they would warn you before you took a drink from the same container. These days, that type of common consideration seems to slip the minds of the majority of young people.
We ate Twinkies, Ho-Ho’s and spread Skippy peanut butter over white bread. We snacked on sweet sugary candies with politically incorrect names like “Nerds” and “Candied Cigarettes”. We drank Pepsi that actually had real sugar in it and for a while we enjoyed a caffeine blast from a 69 cent bottle of Jolt Cola. You know what? None of us ever got fat, because our lifestyles wouldn't allow it. We always spent our free time outside running around, playing sports or cruising our bicycles through the neighborhood with our friends.
It was great growing up in a simpler time because we could leave the house in the morning and be gone all day without our parents worrying about us. As long we were back for dinner around 5:30, everything would be alright.
However, if we decided to do something stupid like miss dinner, not only would we go to bed hungry that night, but we would likely get spanked in the process. For us, making our parents worry like that meant strict discipline. These days, either one of those punishments are considered abusive, archaic and even illegal. It’s no wonder why kids have become so unruly and verbally slanderous towards their own parents.
We spent hours riding down a steep hill on our big wheels or doing donuts in the street on a green machine. We played games like tag, hide-and-go-seek, cops and robbers or spin the bottle. We threw rolls of toilet paper into trees on Halloween and we had snowball fights that always left that one kid running home to his mommy. It’s those types of kids that we have to blame for becoming parents and then raising the current bunch of overly-sensitive wimps that represent today’s youth culture.
We didn’t have Playstations or X-boxes, and we didn't have a thousand channels of cable television at our disposal. We had no blue ray player, or surround sound, no I-Phones, no laptops, no Internet and we didn’t have texting technology or instant messaging either.
What we had were friends that we spent time with, getting to know them and their families so well that we shared a respect and trust that truly meant something important. When we were young, being friends meant something more than having a mutual acquaintance on a Facebook account.
Back then, friends went exploring together, we climbed water towers and spray painted our names on them, along with whatever girls name we were dating at the time. Of course the preferred hallmark that joined the two names together was typically that of a heart while the proclamation of love usually ended with the word forever.
You could always tell when a couple had broken up because there were literally dozens of spray-painted couples names that had a painted circle around them with a diagonal line crossing through it which represented the fact that one of the two people wanted everyone to know that the relationship had ended. These days, kids don't even think about climbing water towers anymore and you really don't see affirmations of love graffitied on them anymore either.
What ever happened to kids taking chances like that and why don't they ditch school anymore? During our generation, we actually had what was called "senior skip day". It was the one day that the schools condoned, if not advocated truancy. When we were growing up we not only played hooky but we also got cuts, scrapes, and broken bones, and we didn’t try to file a lawsuit against the person whose property it was that we had gotten hurt on. Back then, we realized that accidents happen and that it wasn't right to try and blame someone else and steal their hard earned money for something we knew was our own fault.
These days, our moral conscience lacks the direction and sensibility to do the right thing. Instead, getting paid is the number one priority regardless of how frivolous a lawsuit may be or the personal integrity that is lost in the process.
We caught earthworms to go fishing, we got BB guns on our birthday, we played dodge ball at recess and we played tackle football on muddy fields. Sometimes we even pulled little juvenile pranks, finding it hilarious when we knocked on some stranger’s door and then ran and hid behind a bush just to see their reaction when they opened the door and nobody was there. It’s a silly childish joke I know, but it was always good for a quick laugh, especially when we’d include a flaming bag of dog poop in the goof… those sure were good times.
Failure Builds Character and Teaches Us How to Win
As kids we had our generation defined by pop culture and familiar catchy little phrases like “No Pain, No Gain”. Motto's like that were popular during that time because they defined who we were. We always gave things our greatest effort, striving to do our best at whatever we did. When we tried out for Little League, we put our heart into it. If we made the team, we’d then spend hours practicing so we could help our team win. If we missed the cut, we didn’t simply give up. Instead, we always came back next year to try out again.
Today it seems kids simply accept failure without any need or ambition to persevere. Why? Because kids are not being taught the meaning of disappointment. Instead, they are taught that everyone’s a winner. With that kind of ideology, it’s no wonder they know nothing about responsibility, failure, or success. Generation X was fortunate, as we likely represent the last group of Americans who actually value these things, right along with the freedoms that we don’t take for granted. We’re tough and diligent because we were taught by our parents how to deal with adversity. The really cool thing is that we dealt with life’s challenges by facing them head on. It’s that “no guts no glory attitude” that made us turn out much better than most expected. We dealt with it alright… and we are much better for doing so.