Gender fluidity. Pop-up stores. The gig economy. Heteronormativity. Apps for everything. Feminism 2.0. Bernie Sanders.
Millennials are transforming the way things are done, discussed and thought about – sometimes in very good ways, and sometimes in very confusing ways.
The lesson of the pizza
My 20-something friend Rebekah, who is in my band (McLaughin’s Alley), arrived at my house recently for a songwriting session.
“I came right from work and had no time to eat, so I ordered a pizza,” she said. “Hope you don’t mind,”
“Of course not,” I assured her. “But when you ordered, did you tell them I’m on Ryers Drive? There’s a Ryers Circle about a mile from here. A lot of people confuse the two and go to the wrong address.”
“Oh, don’t worry,” she said. “The delivery guy will use a gps.”
Maybe, although I’ve had delivery people call me, irate, from that other Ryers and tell me that my street address doesn’t exist.
The doorbell rang a short time later, so whatever means he used, the pizza deliverer made it to the right address. But I was surprised by what happened next. He handed Rebekah the pizza. She thanked him and closed the door. No money was exchanged. There was no fumbling for currency. No awkward attempts to calculate the tip. It had all been done when the pizza was ordered.
Sure, I’ve seen the ads for the apps that let you do all that. I’ve just never used one. Or even thought about using one. Part of it is my growing unease with having my personal and financial information in so many online databases. But I also am a step behind when it comes to adapting to new things – the things that millennials take for granted. My excuse: I’m a 50-something woman. I get to be a little slow about things like apps.
Start-ups, politics and gender
Millennials are boldly starting up businesses with no capital; they find ways to leverage the internet instead. They are coping with a challenging economic reality by freelancing for Uber, Lyft and other companies. They are – finally – getting involved in politics, although I fear that their optimism and enthusiasm about Bernie Sanders will lead to extreme disillusionment when they realize that he just doesn’t have the delegate numbers needed, and that their grassroots efforts cannot overcome a deeply entrenched political system. They are also changing the way relationships and sexuality are thought of and even, in many cases, eschewing traditional concepts of gender.
I have a twenty-something friend who describes herself as “poly-queer” (she is in relationships with both men and women, sometimes simultaneously). Another identifies as “asexual.” Believing in “heteronormativity” is a bad thing. I think. The term “gay” has largely given way to LGBT or even LGBTQA. I had to have the latter explained to me, and I’m still a little fuzzy on its meaning. Why is there a “Q” for Queer (which used to be a derogatory term)? Isn’t that covered by the “L” and the “G”? And the “A” is for “Asexual” or “Ally.” I get that. I guess. But how many more letters are going to be attached to this string? It’s hard to keep track as it is. If I leave off the “QA,” will that be interpreted as me being anti-Q and anti-A?
I’m also puzzled by this trend of not showing babies’ faces on social media. Actually, I do see why you wouldn’t want your baby’s image out there on the internet, because bad people might find some way to do bad things with it. I get that. But why would proud parents post a picture on Facebook of the two of them holding their baby up, and then block the baby’s face? Why not just NOT post the picture? Or post a picture taken only of the parents?
No longer a dirty word
One thing I’m profoundly grateful to millennials for: bringing feminism back. (I could be wrong, but I think it was millennials who did this.) For a long time, ‘feminism’ was a dirty word and feminists were portrayed as man-hating shrews. Mainstream women (if I may use that or any label) stopped using the word ‘feminism,’ because they didn’t want to be associated with all the negativity that opponents of women’s rights had managed to load onto it.
Feminism has returned. I’m hearing about it and reading about it in many quarters. I’m happy that millennial men are embracing it as much as millennial women, because it’s going to take a concerted effort to take on issues like the gender pay gap, the campus rape culture and continuing assaults on reproductive rights from religious fundamentalists and conservative lawmakers.
Inheriting a mess
Onward and upward, millennials. It’s your world now – or it will be, going into the future. Like previous generations, you may feel as if you inherited a mess from your elders, but you are resourceful and creative, so I have hope that you’ll actually solve some of the problems that have been handed to you. If history is any guide, though, you’ll probably leave others for the generations that follow you.