RALL: I Was a Gen-X Curmudgeon
Something ugly is happening to my generation -- we're turning into crotchety young men and women. I first realized this the other day when I was hanging out with some friends at Starbucks.Nina glared out the window as she sipped her double decaf cappuccino, where she noticed a fortysomething woman walking a double stroller outside on the sidewalk."Disgusting," she muttered, crinkling up her face. "Hasn't that yuppie ho ever heard of condoms?""No doubt," added Alan, the lead singer of a band with 16 songs about Spiro Agnew in various phases of life. "Every time I see one of those...those people with their goddamn kids and their stupid Toys R Us crap and their smug Baby Gap attitudes, it makes me wanna puke."Then I heard myself chiming in."Goddamn Baby Boomer bastards," I barked loudly, not caring who might overhear. "Inflicting their spoiled little spawn on the rest of the world is going too damn far! I'm moving to the suburbs so I can vote against the next school levy!"Suddenly the 83rd Street Starbucks erupted in applause. A woman with three nose rings kissed me on the lips. Both $7-an-hour clerks stepped from behind the counter; one had tears in his eyes. "You said it, man! Kids suck! Thanks for saying what I've always been afraid to say! You're the Jean-Marie Le Pen of our generation!" An epiphany was enjoyed by all.The woman with the twins was long gone, but a phalanx of underemployed twenty-five-to-thirty-fivesomethings tarried long after closing time to admit the ugly truth: They'd always resented other people's children."I've always thought babies are ugly," whispered Kym, a publicist for a graphic-novel publisher who moonlights as a telemarketer on weekdays and sells lingerie with prints of 1950s exploitation films at flea markets on weekends. "I hate the way those yuppie women expect you to give up your seat on the bus for them just because they have some snot-nosed little rat! Isn't it bad enough that I have to put up with the overpopulation they're causing? Why should I be inconvenienced because someone else had 20 minutes of unprotected fun? You know those "Baby on Board" signs they used to have in the '80s? I used to fantasize about driving my Impala into those tacky Volvos at ram speed!"While Kym was confessing her obsessive hatred of the diminutive set, a slightly-worn fiftysomething woman wearing a Gucci scarf walked by, holding her 8-year-old son's hand. The son wore a jacket with a private-school logo on the left pocket.One of the newly-emboldened clerks opened the door and yelled after her: "Eat mud, you selfish cow! School vouchers are going down! Little Braddy's going to P.S. 87 with the homies!"Suddenly I sobered up."Listen," I said to my new posse, "Couldn't it be that we're just jealous? After all, we didn't choose not to have kids. Unlike the Boomers, we just can't afford to have them on our atrocious little salaries. As for the few of us who've invented successful video games and can afford them, we're terrified of destroying their theoretical lives by divorce, since that's what happened to us. We don't really think babies are ugly, do we?" I asked.Kym looked down at her two-year-old Docs. "No, not really, I guess not," she said, playing with her eyebrow-ring."Actually, we want to spread our genes as much as the next generation," I continued. "What bums us out is that we're being asked to care about kids when we can't have any ourselves. Isn't that right?"Alan grunted in agreement."Let's face the truth -- we could deal with not having good jobs. We could deal with not being able to afford to buy a house. But not being able to afford kids is just too much to bear."So we resent other people's kids, because, in this society, kids are the ultimate status symbol. The immortality that breeding provides human beings has become the exclusive domain of the very rich and the very poor, none of which are we."The 83rd Street Starbucks became very quiet, except for the cappuccino machine."The question for our generation," I announced grandly, "is this: How are we going to deal with this? Shall we abandon all hope of procreation but accept that only old people can have kids?""No!" the crowd shouted as one."Or shall we start having crazed sex as soon as possible and create a whole new generation to carry our irony and sarcasm, regardless of the fact that we'll be plunged into horrendous poverty as a result?""No!" they shouted even louder."Okay!," I shouted, reinvigorated. "Then let us continue to loathe other people's happy families! Let us grow even crankier and meaner, and become the nastiest, cruelest old people America has ever seen! Contempt is its own reward!""Yes! Yes! We will!" they yelped in joy. In seconds the mob of underemployed young adults streamed out into the street, knocking over baby strollers, pushing toddlers in front of passing cars and shoving dotting dads to the curb.Kym and I were the last to leave the place. As we headed for the door, we noticed an elderly woman come in. She must have been at least 90.Kym went straight up to her and stared for a long time. "If you even think of having a kid," she said, "I'll kill you."