Authors: Jen Lancaster
Technically, that’s not true. Our generation defined ourselves
by our perpetual fear of a Soviet invasion, playing Cold War mixtapes on our Walkmen.
we also hope the Russians love their children, too
. If iPods were around back then, we’d have had entire thermonuclear war playlists, filled with songs like “99 Luftballons,” “Wind of Change,” and “Toy Soldier.”
Before John Hughes made them household names, we had Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy in
trying to persuade a Soviet supercomputer via dial-up modem that the only way to win a nuclear war is not to play.
and a pre–
Jennifer Grey carrying not a watermelon, but an AK-47.
We had “Wolverines!”
Then, just like that, the Cold War ended and we lost the one thing that made our generation unique.
Those of us born between 1965 and 1980 had none of the benefits of the generations that came before or after us. We know nothing of the kinder, simpler America from the Camelot days, nor were we born with an innate understanding of how to operate Microsoft Windows.
Today, we’re a beeper generation in a smartphone world.
Complicating matters is that neither the generation that came before us nor the one that’s come after has demonstrated any real desire to act like adults themselves. Financial planning advertisements show Baby Boomers running away from corporate life to pursue dreams that, in this economy, are downright ridiculous. This is
, in fact, the time to quit your job with your 401K and health insurance to go build custom boats. I know Dennis Hopper told everyone it was okay, but he’s dead now. [
And he had the kind of cash and cachet only Hollywood could create.
On top of that, we’ve got folks in their late twenties to early thirties so wrapped up in quasi-political Facebook friend requests and Spotify and Farmville that Soviet troops could
roll down Main Street and they’d never even notice. Or care.
Of course this doesn’t pertain to every member of Generation Y, [
Baby Boomer, for that matter. Or you, no matter what your generation, as you’ve shown remarkably good sense in having picked this book.
] but it’s not that far-fetched either. Um, hey, Counselor, can you stop streaming
on Netflix long enough to present your case to the jury? KTHXBAI.
Watching this generation operate makes me very glad that people my age understand that tools like technology and social media are a means to an end and not the end itself.
My generation didn’t play soccer so we know that when the game is over, not everyone gets a trophy. Yet here we are, trapped in middle management between two massive cases of generational arrested development.
And what we’ve determined from watching everyone else is that deciding to grow up has been our ultimate act of rebellion.
So that’s what those of us in Generation X have done to define ourselves. We’ve become the only adults in a world full of children.
I mean, if I could finally grow up? Anyone can.
Maybe I’ve moved to the dark side, but it’s clean and nice and we never run out of toilet paper. And honestly, getting here wasn’t that hard. All I had to do was make the conscious decision to grow up.
Whether you’re a Boomer, a Millennial, or a still-reluctant Xer who’s not yet read the memo because you don’t understand how to
download attachments on your phone,
is your invitation to join me because it’s never too late.
I know it sounds hard, but fear not: I’ve done the legwork for you! Each chapter in this book illustrates a painful lesson I learned about becoming more of an adult, so I hope you’ll find this guide useful.
Although this book will help you navigate the treacherous waters of many aspects of reluctant adulthood, if I leave you with no piece of wisdom but this, please understand that at a certain age your body can no longer efficiently process all the artificial colors in a dinner-sized serving of Froot Loops, regardless of how delicious they may be. [
Particularly with a dash of half-and-half.
And you won’t realize this until it’s already too late.
Far, far too late.
Unless you have a particular affinity for crying on the toilet, you may just want to trust me on this one.
’ll often yell at homeless people. “Hey, how’s that homelessness working out for you? Try not being homeless for once!”
I’ve never actually said this. Coach Sue Sylvester on
did. But considering the first line in my memoir
Bitter Is the New Black
reads, “Camille said you stole a bag from a homeless guy,” imagining my saying this isn’t such a stretch.
Having come within five days of losing my apartment and moving back with my parents not so long ago, you’d think I’d be a little less glib about other people’s circumstances.
You’d be wrong.
The thing is, my life is good right now… I suspect a little too good.
I fear that I’m starting to forget what it felt like to struggle. My
memories of the bad old days when the bank took our car and ComEd disconnected our electricity are fading and sepia-toned. So when Coach Sylvester offered her suggestion, I found myself nodding in agreement. Why
they try not being homeless for once? You know, get a job and such. How hard could it be, right?[
Plus, there’s probably some cake somewhere. Let them eat that.
Success has paved the way for me to revisit some old, bad habits. I’m concerned that my confidence is quietly morphing back into arrogance and my hard-won humility is turning to hubris. More often than not, snotty has once again become the new black. My tolerance is nil and last week while shouting at the valet I’d deemed incompetent, I realized how dangerously close I was to asking him if he knew who I was.
This is not good.
Instead of asking someone if they know who I am, I
be asking myself who it is I want to be.
The last time I behaved in such a childish, petulant manner, Karma knocked me out of my penthouse and onto my ass. Although I learned to appreciate those lessons in retrospect, at the time, life
. And I’d like to never live through anything like that again.
Thankfully I finally have the ability to take one giant step back from myself and right my terrible attitude before my life tumbles like so many houses of cards again.
I need to give back the good I’ve been so selfishly taking in.
I need to repay the karmic debt I’ve incurred.
I need to actually grow up instead of just saying it.
And now my job is to figure out how.
You know who volunteers?
Also, people sentenced with community service after a DUI.
But mostly grown-ups.
Doing charitable work seems like it would be soup and sandwich to my desire to give back as well as my need to mature, so I’m looking into it. The only volunteer work I’ve done previously was with shelter dogs and I really enjoyed it, but it turns out I’m a “take work home with me” kind of gal. As my husband, Fletch, and I live with a pit bull, a German shepherd, and five cats, we are at capacity in the stray pet department. Until we lose some members to attrition, I should stick to groups of creatures I don’t want to bring home. Like children and the homeless.
I sign up on a couple of Chicago volunteer databases, so I figure finding projects should be a snap. I mean, I’m smart,[
] I have skills to offer,[
] I’m willing and able,[
] so surely there’s some stuff out there at which I’d excel. Or, barring that, at least wouldn’t hate. I log in to the first calendar and begin to peruse volunteer listings. I’m free all week, so let’s see what’s available.
Okay, here’s something for Girls on the Run… well, now
sounds vaguely fun in a frenetic kind of way. Zippy and upbeat and useful. I wonder what they do? Maybe this is a charity that helps women balance their busy schedules? Or it provides gals on the go
with some kind of relaxing downtime? If that’s the case, I bet my friend Angie could benefit. In the summer her minivan turns into a Mobile Command Unit and she stuffs it full of uniforms and pads and equipment before she shuttles four stinky boys to various sporting practices, camps, and workshops, all day, every day.
Angie’s always throwing out her back because she’s perpetually perching on steel risers cheering on her fourth track meet of the week, or hauling coolers full of enough gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, tree nut–free snacks for the whole team.[
Did you know that peanut butter’s now considered a hate crime? Because it totally is.
] On away game and tournament days, she’s on the road from six a.m. until ten p.m., fueled by nothing but a bucket of coffee and a handful of back pills. How cool would it be if Girls on the Run could come out and, like, bring her some sangria or give her a quick shoulder massage? I’d definitely work to support those efforts.
I click over to the charity’s Web site and see that this is
“A nonprofit prevention program that encourages preteen girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through running.”
No sangria, then?
This charity isn’t what I thought, but I like the idea of a nonprofit prevention program that encourages preteen girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles. Empowering young women is never a bad idea.[
It’s not as good an idea as a mobile soccer-mom sangria-delivery service, but still.
] I’m all for Girls on the Run… except for the part that might include
As my proficiency is less “running” and more “chugging along on the treadmill, sweating and swearing, at speeds no faster than 4.0 and for lengths no longer than a quarter of a mile,” I imagine
I’m not the role model these tweens seek. What am
going to teach them? That it’s fine to take a cab for three blocks, particularly if cute shoes are involved? How to pick up the remote control with one’s feet in order to avoid bending? The key to mixing the perfect dirty martini?[
Double the olive juice.
On Saturday I can work at the Tour de Fat, which is “a celebration of bicycles and creative community.” The project entails pouring beer for three hours and then cleaning up after people who’ve been drinking said beer. The last time I had anything to do with serving cocktails was when I worked at a dive bar in college. The money was nice, but the downside of the job was the cleaning-up-after-people-who’d-been-drinking bit. Due to the abundance of biohazards, I had to poke head and arm holes in the contractor garbage bags I wore over my
jean shorts and sorority T-shirt to avoid the backsplash that came from hosing down the bar.[
Fact: every drunk person barfs up pineapple chunks.
I’m going to say Strike One on the potential for being gross.
“The Tour de Fat festival celebrates Chicago’s growing biking community.”
That may be a problem because I
most of Chicago’s growing biking community. I’m infuriated at how bikers interpret traffic laws at will, plowing through stoplights, zipping in and out between cars, and riding on the sidewalk. Last week I almost nailed some mutton-chopped, forage-capped hipster who was completely oblivious to traffic due to his preoccupation not only with chatting on the phone but also smoking, thus leaving him with zero
hands on the handlebars. When I honked he was all, “Bicycle rights, you fascist!” to which I replied, “Hey, Johnny Rebel—this car weighs six thousand pounds. Your ten-speed weighs twenty-five. If we crash I guarantee I’ll win.”
I check out the rest of the event description. The festival helps support environmental charities and having recently seen an incredibly guilt-inducing Discovery Channel special about polar bears, I’m on board. That is, until I stumble across a sentence that stops me dead in my tracks.
“Volunteers are encouraged to come ‘in costume.’”
That’s a problem because I have an irrational fear of adults wearing costumes.
By “fear” I mean “deeply seated hatred.”
I’m of the mind-set that if you’re too old to solicit candy from your neighbors, you’re too old to dress as a Ninja Turtle. I still have flashbacks from when I had a professional job and coworkers would show up for the day done up as superheroes and Raggedy Ann. They’d be all, “Hey, won’t this be fun when we see clients today?”
Um, you’re not coming to
In case you’re wondering, I despised costumes even before I gained enough weight to limit my masquerade options to Saucy Pirate Wench or Viking-Horned Opera Singer. Thank you, no. And by the way? If you’ve ever gone to a Halloween party done up as a Sexy Nurse or Sexy Policewoman, please know that you appear to be one pizza delivery/cable repair away from starring in a porno.