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Out of the Blue

Generation Gaps

You are who they say you are

By Deborah Salomon

Napoleon Bonaparte is credited, perhaps apocryphally, with calling England “a nation of shopkeepers.” One thing is certain: Whoever said it first did not intend it as a compliment. The USA might answer to a nation of classifiers: We lump entire populations/decades under letters of the alphabet (Gen Z) or cryptic headings like “The Lost Generation,” then memorialize them in novels like The Sun Also Rises or The Great Gatsby.

Some categories lump generations together. Does the women’s liberation movement mean suffragettes marching down Main Street or female corporate vice presidents banging their heads on the glass ceiling?

Why do we need these groupings, anyway? The Roaring Twenties and Fabulous Fifties sound good enough. For answers I trolled, what else, the internet.

Ernest Hemingway attributed the term “Lost Generation” to Gertrude Stein in an epigraph to his novel The Sun Also Rises. Tom Brokaw lauded “The Greatest Generation” in his 1998 classic book.

Generational groupings are listed by the Pew Research Center, a non-partisan, self-described “fact” tank that informs the public about “trends shaping the world.”

Golly. Quite the responsibility.

They publish a list which places me, by birth, in the Silent Generation, 1928-1945, then integrates me with the baby boomers, whom I babysat through high school. The boomers, of course, acquired their title after GIs returning from WWII caused the birthrate to explode. Boys will be boys.

Reading on, I learned that Gen X was the first to grow up with widespread cable TV which, I gather, made a difference in their consumption of news, entertainment and prescription drugs.

According to Pew, Gen Z, immersed in social media since toddlerhood, seems nervous when forced to spend time away from their electronic devices. What is lost? Conversation. Books with pages that turn. Department stores. Daydreaming. Doodling. Moving around. Helping out. Folding a map. Playing a board game . . . on a board. 

True, we borderline Silent Generationists are known for glorifying the recent past while bellyaching about electronics. We love residential AC and microwave ovens but won’t buy the idea that just because you can do something, you should. That applies to omnipresent, omnipotent cellphones. Which means I’m wary of hand-held electrocardiogram widgets and self-propelling vehicles. I think all drivers should master a stick shift, just in case. Vinyl records are back, so you never know.

And what is air-fried chicken besides an oxymoron?

Too bad advances in AI aren’t enough for Gen Now astrophysicists who float the idea that readying another planet for colonization makes more sense than fixing what’s happening to this one.

There. This Borderline Boomer has had her say. Beam me up, Scotty.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a contributing writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She can be reached at