Xennials? Oregon Trail? Geriatric Millennials? A Microgeneration’s Obsession With Being Identified
The writer who coined ‘Xennial’ on the attempts to describe this unique cohort
It’s strange, having a public but evidently forgettable claim to fame. Like being the Guinness Book of World Records holder for longest pinkie nail or voicing a one-hit wonder limited to local radio. Yet over the last month, my social media pinged repeatedly with people insisting I get credit for describing the cusp of us at the inflection point between Gen X and millennial, Xennials.
Four years ago, that’s all I’d wanted.
Truth be told, this batch of tweeters seemed mostly angry that someone had the temerity to describe our cohort of Xennials as “geriatric.” A story on Medium rocketed across social media, largely — from my estimation of the comments — due to the enraging term “geriatric millennial” applied to early-middle-aged people and less because of the content itself, which centered more on the flexible communication style of our cohort.
Reflexively, I found myself wondering if the Xennial coopt thing was happening again.
It’s very weird to mother a word. Weirder still (sweet, but weird) to have strangers insist you get acknowledgment after having been at such a loss for how to do so myself.
In 2014, I reached out to an editor I worked with regularly at GOOD Magazine to pitch an idea, what I called Generation Xennial: “I was born in 1980,” I wrote. “According to some sources, that makes me a Gen Xer. According to others, I’m a Millennial. I share traits with each (I hate authority and yet really want those in a position of authority to shower me with accolades. I never understood MTV — too young to be part of the television revolution, too over it to care about the reality shows — except the first Real World. Pedro and Puck formed my primordial notions of justice versus ass-hattery).” On I went, noticing a trend to make sense of these generational tweeners. BuzzFeed had published a long-form story on Empire Records, part cult-movie love, part introspection into what makes our generational segment tick. There was Slate’s article that borrowed the term “Generation Catalano” in an attempt to create a…