Tweeners: The Lost Generation

TWEEN-ER -- n., generational category that applies to Americans born after the 1960 presidential campaign roughly through the "Summer of Love," 1967, who fall be"tween" (thus the name) the well-documented generations, Baby Boomer (born post WWII-1960) and Generation X (born late 60s-early 80s).Talkin' About Our GeneralizationsWe are the infants of the Kennedy assassinations, toddlers of the Summer of Love, the first babies our parents took pills not to have. The 70s are our childhood and adolescence; the 80s a pipe dream we missed out on. Today, we orbit our 30s a lost generation -- our childhood memories reduced to Generation X kitsch, our futures in the hands of Boomers who are still looking out for number one and our daily realities skewed by Madison Avenue marketeers who don't even know we exist.We are Tweeners -- the pre-MTV kids who where taught the new math, learned about civics from the Watergate hearings, graduated from junior high just as the new gym was being built, started having sex about the time AIDS reared its ugly head, went into the workforce just as the check came for the 80s' economic orgy and turned 30something about the time the show of the same name was yanked off the air.BewitchedWe were the first of the latch key kids -- prototypical products of divorce and dual-income households. Our quality family time was numbly spent with the Partridges, Samantha and Darren, the Jeffersons, Gilligan and the gang, the Jacksons and the Bradys -- beanbag afternoons the furniture of our existence. Our parents were either older Boomers -- yearning yuppies, hanger-on hippies, new-age yippies -- or of the conservative, depression-reared, pre-WWII silent generation. And unlike our parents or Xer cousins -- we never had a cause.Tweeners couldn't be drafted, the country was not in strife, most of us couldn't drive when gasoline lines galvanized the country's passion, the course of civil rights and women's rights had already been charted, inflation seemed natural and the hostage crisis in Iran seemed as distant as Bosnia and Cambodia do to most Americans today. Like our defining president, Jimmy Carter, there just wasn't a whole lot to get excited about. We didn't even have the ozone layer or animal rights that young people have today. There was no Ricki Lake to rile us up, and no MTV Malibu beach house to broadcast our amped-up angst and clumsy poetry.Boomers had their martyrs, and so do Xers. But where are the Martin Luther Kings, Kurt Cobains, dead Kennedys and River Phoenixes of our generation? Carla Garrison, a 30-year-old graduate student and eco-tourism coordinator, says she likes the fact that people can't pigeonhole her: "People tell me all the time that I am very mature and going places for my 'age,' meaning Generation X, and I just laugh because I feel so distant from that term."Forrest Brown, 35, a self-proclaimed Tweener scholar and editor at the Greensboro News & Record, says, "I think we grew up ignored by the world and therefore alone. We have had to be more individualistic because of that." In terms of the Tweener take on the world at large, Garrison says, "Despite our distance from it, the futility of the Vietnam War -- as well as the futility of the protest against it, not to mention Watergate -- turned most of us into long-view observers of politics and current events." Brown agrees: "I find it very amusing that there is no definitive sense of camps in my circle. And that most liberals view me as conservative, and most conservatives as a flaming liberal."Staying AliveUnlike our younger Xer counterparts, many of us have what could be termed real jobs. "We're definitely a part of the system. We're just cynical about it," says Brown, who jokes that he gave up the idea of making really good money a long time ago."First of all I work for a newspaper. Self explanatory," he laughs. "Secondly, there are a whole lot more Boomers out there in executive positions who are holding on for dear life.""Boomers and the oldest of Tweeners got to cash in on their careers in the mid to late 80s. The rest of us just got a whiff of it," says Brad Cecil, a 35-year-old, struggling California entrepreneur."The only thing most Tweeners got in the 80s was the moonwalk," says David Marks, 30, a Triangle-based graphic artist. "We still believe in career," says Garrison, who is back in graduate school to increase her options,"but we're realistic about its limitations."That's The Way, Uh-huh, Uh-huh, We Like ItWhile most older Tweeners associate their pubescence with polyester, many of us were adolescent preppies -- but not by our own design. Our limited choices in what to wear -- wide wales or khakis? Polo or Lacoste? Add-a-Beads or pearls? -- were a direct result of Yuppie trickle-down marketing. Even our coming-of-age music was stifling for the most part. Re-hashed classic rock and cheesy 70s pop overplayed in our heads with brief interruptions from early rap, head-banging heavy metal and groups like the Sex Pistols, Flock of Seagulls, Culture Club, ABC, or the Romantics."I remember the first MTV-like local channel. They had three videos they played over and over -- Duran Duran's 'Rio,' The Doors' 'Gloria' and that German song about red balloons," says the visually oriented Marks. "It was that post-adolescent, pre-college time when we had a brief and shining moment that was all our own."Marks says this moment was early to mid-80s and involved trendy clothes, the advent of the video and more and more mediocre music. Brown remembers the clothes. "It was all Duran Duran hats, skinny ties and belts wide enough to build a freeway out of," he says, "It was like, hey, we finally have some choices. Bad choices, but choices."Another choice we had was whether or not to partake in the accessibility of booze and the availability of drugs. The drinking age in North Carolina and in many states was still 18 for Tweeners, Nancy Reagan hadn't told us yet to "Just Say No," and "Dare" was something you did when playing drinking games."Drinking was an acceptable rite of passage in my hometown," says Brown, who grew up in South Carolina. "And the deal was, whoever was the least drunk, drove." Garrison and Marks says they remember the drugs."There was always pot around if you wanted it, and a certain fringe element of MDA, Quaaludes and cocaine," says Garrison. "I remember there being two groups -- the preppy drinkers and the rock & roll druggies," says Marks who claims to have infiltrated both groups.What's Happenin' NowAs many of us hover around 30, we're getting married, having babies, buying homes and hanging on to jobs that do little to define us. We are told to shop at the GAP and the Limited, peruse Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel catalogs while we wonder where our lives will take us next. The homes we're instructed to desire are noveau Levittown-Barbie Townhouse versions -- pre-fab structures built on landfills with fountain and pampas grass entryways. We drive Hondas and Toyotas that we know are economical while we secretly and simultaneously crave the junker freedom-mobiles of Xers and the luxury-security transport of Boomers. Culturally, we're avid readers, movie buffs, computer geeks and tried-and-true trekkies who cringe at the thought of the next generation of anything.Politically, we're still uninvolved. We lost faith in Clinton not because of Paula Jones, health care or Whitewater, but after the embarrassing inaugural rendition of "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow." And while it hardened more Boomer arteries than the Reagan years, Robert McNamara's admission that US involvement in Vietnam should have ceased several thousand dead bodies earlier made us Tweeners shrug our shoulders, roll our eyes and think about what to have for lunch. We even lost interest in the OJ trial long before Marcia Clark's makeover; the Disney and Westinghouse network takeovers seem like par for the course; and Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot's capture in Cambodia only seems a bit overdue. Finally, we're beginning to understand our pasts and ourselves a little better. And like notable filmmaker and sure-fire Tweener Quentin Tarantino, we're also able to laugh at ourselves.Sidebar OneTweener QuizYou know you're a Tweener if you can identify at least five of the following:1."Pork Chops and applesauce" 2.Gnip Gnop 3."You drive us wild; we'll drive you crazy" 4.Sleestack 5."Conjunction junction; what's your function? 6."Oh mighty Isis, Isis, Isis..." 7."One tin soldier rides away..." 8.Donny Osmond's sock color 9.Lindsay Wagner and Lee Majors 10.Barbie's friend Skipper's hair color 11.Number of band members in the Thompson Twins 12.What swimsuit Farrah wore for the first poster 13. "Rubber Biscuit" performers 14.Cult film associated with dance called "The Time Warp" 15. Actor who played Vinny Barbarino[NOTE TO PRODUCTION: PRINT ANSWERS UPSIDE DOWN]Answers:1. Peter Brady quote from The Brady Bunch 2.Game where you try to make your opponent get stuck with three plastic balls 3.Line from Kiss song, "Rock and Roll All Night" 4.Evil creatures on Saturday morning show Land of the Lost 5.Schoolhouse Rock lyric 6.Quote from television show Isis that depicts the transformation of a science teacher into the goddess/superheroine Isis 7.Lyric from theme song of Billy Jack 8. Purple 9.The Bionic Woman and The Six-Million Dollar Man 10.Blonde 11.Three 12.Brown, one-piece suit 13.The Blues Brothers, Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi 14.The Rocky Horror Picture Show 15.John Travolta's "sweathog" character on Welcome Back, KotterSidebar TwoHED:Generational ID TestDefining event for:Boomers -- Vietnam War Tweeners -- Hostages in Iran Xers -- Fall of Berlin WallDefining president for:Boomers -- Richard Nixon Tweeners -- Jimmy Carter Xers -- Ronald Reagan, second termComing of age sound:Boomers -- Motown, British Invasion, classic rock Tweeners -- Disco, Kiss, punk rock, rap Xers -- Early Duran Duran, Nirvana, alternative rapPaul McCartney is remembered for :Boomers -- The Beatles Tweeners -- Wings Xers -- "Ebony and Ivory"Jane Fonda is remembered for:Boomers -- War protest Tweeners -- On Golden Pond Xers -- Ted Turner's exercising wifeWatergate is remembered for:Boomers -- The demise of Nixon Tweeners -- Interrupting afternoon TV shows Xers -- Something to do with real estate and the Clintons?First pair of glasses:Boomers -- Horn rims Tweeners -- Aviator frames Xers -- Granny glassesDefining footwear:Boomers -- Jesus sandals, Dr. Scholls, Frye boots Tweeners -- Candies, Nikes, penny or tassel loafers Xers -- Tevas, Birkenstocks, ChucksDefining literature:Boomers -- Mao's Little Red Book, Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, Jack Kerouac's On the Road,, J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. Tweeners -- Robert Penn Warren's All the Kings Men, anything by Judy Blume, "The Preppy Handbook, Stephen King's "Carrie, Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Xers -- Comics, Jack Kerouac's On the Road, William Gibson's Neuromancer, Katherine Dunn's Geek Love.First homes:Boomers -- Made money Tweeners -- Lost money Xers -- Can't affordDefining films:Boomers -- Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy, Looking For Mr. Goodbar, The Big Chill. Tweeners -- Saturday Night Fever, Fame, Coolie High, Car Wash, Drugstore Cowboy, Pretty In Pink, The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo's Fire. Xers -- Slacker, Reality Bites, Dazed and Confused, Spanking the Monkey.Defining games and toys:Boomers --Hula Hoops, Twister, Raggedy Ann, pinball Tweeners -- Ten speeds, Holly Hobby, Dungeons and Dragons, Space Invaders, Mystery Date, Weebles, Hot Wheels Xers -- Hackey Sacks, Nintendo, roller blades, black Barbie, skateboards, mountain bikesKid food:Boomers -- Campbell's Soup, grilled cheese, Hershey Bar, smores, Rice Krispy treats, floats, hot dogs Tweeners -- Spaghetti-Os, Now & Laters, Pez, Fruit Stripe gum, Tang, Bugles, Chunky, Whatchamacallit, Fun Dip Xers -- Fruit Roll-Ups, Yoo Hoo, Jolt Cola, Gummy Bears, Jelly Belly, Pudding Pops, Cookie Crisp cerealDefining occupations:Boomers -- Lawyer, doctor, professor, banker, broker or other professional Tweeners --Grad student, middle management, hacker, entrepreneur, teacher, IBM clone Xers -- Grad student, McJobber, waiter, mall job, musician, software designerSidebar ThreeHED:Tweener TriviaTop TV Shows:Barney Miller Charlie's Angels Taxi Star Trek Happy Days Good Times Love American Style Sanford and Son The Rockford Files Starsky and Hutch Space 1999 M*A*S*H Chico and The Man The Mary Tyler Moore Show Maude The Waltons The Brady Bunch All In the Family The Partridge Family Gilligan's Island Bewitched The Captain & Tenille Show Rhoda Laverne and Shirley The Electric Company Wild, Wild West Zoom The Six-Million Dollar Man Saturday Night Live In Search Of Police Woman Emergency The Bionic Woman Night Gallery Serpico Baretta Fat Albert Hawaii Five-0 Cannon Barnaby Jones Columbo Ironside Dr. Who TaxiThe Stuff: Unicorns, ID bracelets, trolls, moodrings, lip gloss, CB radios, disco, pet rocks, add-a-bead necklaces, winged hair, skinny gold chains, striped jogging suits, Members Only jackets, tight designer jeans, plush carpet, vans, monograms, headbands, Flashdance torn-tops.Comedians: George Carlin, Second City TV Players, Jim Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Jane Curtin, Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, Gene Wilder, Monty Python cast, Steve Martin, Cheech and Chong, Richard Pryor, Andy Kaufman, Robin Williams.Music: Styx, Olivia Newton-John, The Sugarhill Gang, Peaches & Herb, Kiss, Peter Frampton, Donna Summer, The Village People, ELO, The Commodores, Earth Wind & Fire, ABBA, Chicago, Culture Club, Flock of Seagulls, Prince, The Fat Boys, Bee Gees, The Partridge Family, John Denver, The Who, Duran Duran, Sex Pistols, Black Flag, Michael Jackson, George Clinton, Thompson Twins, Cyndi Lauper.

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