A current generation, sensing more marginalization, cannot be classed as Gen X or Millennials, and this article — by one of its own, Doree Shafrir — reflects on “Generation Catalano”:
I’m older than Noreen but younger than Mat, and neither characterization rang exactly true to me (most demographers place me and my peers at the tail end of Generation X). I was born during Jimmy Carter’s presidency, a one-term administration remembered mostly for the Iran hostage crisis, the New York City blackout, and stagflation. The Carter babies—anyone born between his inauguration in January 1977 and Reagan’s in January 1981—are now 30 to 34, and, like Carter himself, the weirdly brilliant yet deeply weird born-again Christian peanut farmer, this micro-generation is hard to pin down. We identify with some of Gen X’s cynicism and suspicion of authority—watching Pee-Wee Herman proclaim, “I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel,” will do that to a kid—but we were too young to claim Singles and Reality Bites and Slacker as our own (though that didn’t stop me from buying the soundtracks). And, while the proud alienation of the Gen X worldview doesn’t totally sit right, we certainly don’t yearn for the Organization Man-like conformity that the Millennials seem to crave….
In Generation X, one of the protagonists, Andy, reflects that “we live small lives on the periphery; we are marginalized and there’s a great deal in which we choose not to participate.” It’s no coincidence that Gen X’s greatest artistic legacy is probably grunge, which is all about glorifying marginalization and alienation. Millennials, though, have been forced to live lives on the periphery, when they had always expected that they would be at the center. As Malone points out, the Fleet Foxes, led by 25-year-old Robin Pecknold, sing about thinking that they were “special snowflakes” but finding that they are in fact “cogs in some great machinery.” In contrast, the most famous musician from Generation Catalano is probably 34-year-old Kanye West, who actually is something of a special snowflake—and at the same time that he has released some of the best music of the last few years (and gotten very rich off of it), he’s also been engaged a very public battle with himself. Like West, Generation Catalano is never fully comfortable with its place in the world; we wander away from the periphery and back again.
It’s also somehow apt that I would be writing this essay in the first place: In Hebrew, my name means “my generation.” As I was working on the essay, I called my mom and asked if she and my dad had deliberately chosen my name because of its meaning. (I was also named after my great-grandmother Dora.) “I didn’t want to name you Dora, so we chose Doree. It was just a coincidence that it means ‘my generation,’ ” she told me. The arbitrary nature of this choice, too, seemed fitting. But maybe we’re not the only ones who feel unmoored. After explaining the gist of the piece to a 29-year-old friend over email, she responded: “I feel like I’m especially without generation because I’m not quite a Carter baby but not really a Millennial either. … I feel like Noreen, who is only two years younger than me, is of a slightly different generation, which seems crazy! But it feels true.” Her email was a classic Generation Catalano move: dancing near the spotlight, and then dancing with herself.