Emer McLysaght: Apparently I’m a ‘Geriatric Millennial’. I have found my people

I fell between two generational marketing terms – a textbook First World Millennial gripe

Geriatric Millennials might remember when it was acceptable to smoke in supermarkets but at least we’re largely left alone with our Ian Dempsey-on-The-Den memories.

Geriatric Millennials might remember when it was acceptable to smoke in supermarkets but at least we’re largely left alone with our Ian Dempsey-on-The-Den memories.

 

Do you ever feel like you don’t belong? I do, all the time. I’ve reached the age of 40 without ticking many of the boxes laid out for a person – a woman – of my age.

I don’t own a house or have any children. I was the youngest in my family and the only girl and I pay a therapist to help me analyse how those early experiences might feed into my feelings of alienation.

I often worry that I’m not doing life “right” and Google this possibility in the wee small hours of the morning. Google reassures me that I’m not alone in this fear. I started buying avocados circa 2014 in what I now suspect was an attempt to fit in with my younger and unfairly maligned Millennial peers. There they were, upending the economy with their lattes and their exotic “nature’s butter” and I didn’t feel like I belonged with them either.

Imagine my glee then when I was recently presented with a cohort in which I truly belonged: the Geriatric Millennials

I was born in 1980. A year too early to be considered a true Millennial and a little too late to be lumped in with Generation X’s negative equity and Commodore 64s gathering dust in the attic. I fell between two stools of generational marketing jargon and felt the isolation keenly – ironically a textbook First World Millennial gripe if ever I heard one.

Imagine my glee then when I was recently presented with a cohort in which I truly belonged: the Geriatric Millennials. The term Geriatric Millennial started circling online a couple of months ago after an article by workplace expert Erica Dhawan went viral. Dhawan said these elder Millennials, born in the early 1980s, were great leaders because they perfectly bridged the digital/analogue divide. I had found a place to belong if only on the battlefield of the generational culture wars.

Okay, so the term Geriatric Millennial has a bit of a branding problem in much the same way as women over 35 being told they’re having “geriatric pregnancies” is only slightly more palatable than being told they’re of “advanced maternal age”.

I’m thrilled with the label, though. I had felt left out of the true Millennial gang because I’m old enough to remember when all this was fields and while it may be patronising to insist that one can only remember the proverbial fields if they were born pre-1985, I’m afraid those simply are the rules.

Millennials have been sold to us as tech savvy 1990s kids who barely remember a time before being online. They were on social media in their teens and were the first completely internet literate generation. I remember learning about the internet when I was about 16 and thinking no thank you, that sounds terrifyingly vast, I will stick with my Encarta 95 CD-Rom on the family Hewlett Packard in the corner of the sitting room. I started college with no clue how email worked.

Millennials deal heavily in childhood 1990s nostalgia, but I often felt out of step with it. I was slightly too old by the time Pokemon and Harry Potter came along and to this day I’ve never seen an episode of Spongebob Squarepants. Reclassifying as a Geriatric Millennial means I have found my people; those of us just old enough to remember Italia 90, Riverdance and Bishop Eamon Casey Halloween costumes with maximum adolescent innocence.

Of course, every generation blames the one before

Being a Geriatric Millennial feels safe. It’s somewhat free of the hugely unfair bashing true Millennials endured for years in the media, blamed for everything from the failure of the cereal industry to the downturn in diamond sales and so, so many lazy avocado jibes. I feel excused too from the slagging Millennials have received more recently from their successors Gen Z, aka the Tik Tok generation. Gen Z lets the Millennials away with nothing. Skinny jeans, side partings and the cry laughing emoji are all objects of ridicule to Gen Z while their 2021 clothing racks are filled with copies of the outfits I craved from 1996 issues of Just Seventeen magazine.

Of course, every generation blames the one before – depending on which generational pigeon-hole you slot into, you may recognise that line from Mike and the Mechanics’ late 1980s chart topper The Living Years – and Millennials in turn have ripped their predecessors to shreds for hoarding wealth and maintaining a more conservative status quo. Geriatric Millennials might remember when it was acceptable to smoke in supermarkets but at least we’re largely left alone with our Ian Dempsey-on-The-Den memories.

When my writing partner Sarah Breen and I dreamed up the Complete Aisling character nearly 15 years ago, we didn’t know we were creating a fictional Irish millennial who would find a place in the hearts of people spanning the generations. We’re both Geriatrics but Aisling is a true Millennial, 10 years our junior. We throw problems at her and then worry is this true to life for a 31-year-old woman? We find Aisling’s problems are often universal though, even if presented through the lens of a very white culchie with a mother who can’t use Facetime. You can worry about the same things if you’re 20 or 70.

Generational labels are largely useless and we should focus on uniting against Big Pharma and Japanese Knotweed. I suspect there are many 20 and 70-year-olds who’ve Googled if they’re doing life “right”. They are all my people.