What Coronavirus means for Gen-Xers and our younger siblings – the much preferred (by our parents, anyway) Xennials…

Yesterday a lovely colleague texted ‘hahahahaha oh my god that’s so dramatic’ in reply to one of my Coronavirus related messages.

She was totally right, to be fair. However, I’ve just been to the post-school ‘break up’ adhoc park play session with a load of the mothers who keep me sane a lot of the time. We talked plans for the next few weeks and discussed the implications of these times for our kids and our families.

A group of school children wearing uniforms pose for a photograph on a climbing frame in a sunny city park

We took a last photo of the kids together on the climbing frame and walked away in our different – and possibly difficult – directions. Nobody knows how this will play out. I worked on emergency and contingency planning for a government agency about 15 years ago. Plans were comprehensive – and designed to be adaptable too. The trouble with plans is that you don’t have any specifics. You do your best but you can’t possibly conceive of the actuality.

I worked under a Labour government back then and there were lots of jokes about ‘the nanny state’. I think we resented being seen as emissaries for ‘the man’. Especially by a load of people who were cool in the 60s and 70s when ‘the man’ actually meant something.

We were a team comprised of young, hopeful people. We were chosen because we were low level and knew how the minutiae functioned: always ask an administrator if you need to plan for flooding, for instance – the high ups won’t even know where filing cabinets are. However, we had also never lived through hard times at responsible ages.

I went through the 70s power shortages and public services strikes, the impact of the troubles as they affected the mainland, the miners’ strikes and the Falkland War in the 80s…but as a child.

Black and white photo of woman walking past piles of rubbish during the winter of discontent

Our reality had been cushioned by our parents – the parents who now mock young people they, so unfairly, call ‘snowflakes’.

Finally Gen X and the Xennials have our war. Except the enemy is two pronged – one part invisible, one part generational. This is so freaking ‘us’ it is almost humorous.

We’re protecting others (sometimes including our offspring) from contact with the virus in our personal and professional lives and we’re having to explain the danger of Coronavirus and how to interpret the health advice to our parents. Just like we’ve had to explain Facebook and Skype in the past… And they’re still, often, ignoring us. Quelle surprise. It’s a good job we’re used to this crap.

Oh, did I mention that we’re getting it from both ends of the age scale? Because my kids are as arrogant as their grandparents’ generation. One lesson in how surgeons wash their hands and the importance of good hygiene doesn’t make you Florence effing Nightingales. Now sit down and eat your eggs.

The next two weeks are going to be a baptism of fire. How do I cope with the constant drip drip drip of complaints, elbow tugging, ‘mummy, mummy, mummy’ or ‘Sophie Sophie Sophie’ and micro aggressions without throwing someone in the sea? Which generation will go first? Should I pick the one that thought Jimmy Saville was OK or the one that gave me a child that I worry may kill me in my sleep?

One thing is for sure, this could finally be the time when Gen X and our younger siblings, the more glamorous Xennials (of course they’re more glamorous – when will we ever be the favourite child?), end up telling our families to “just shut the f*ck up, sit down and read your book in silence”.

It’s finally here, – the time when we can show them the image below and say “we don’t look like this any more [see left], mum and dad. We’re this person now [see right]”. Yes, I realise that most of us don’t wear much beige but let’s ram the message home for once, eh?

Collage of two pictures - the left shows young people clubbing in the 90s and the right is a flat lay of sensible smart casual separates (white blouse, beige sweater, jeans, flat shoes)

That could then lead to a quick diversion around the necessity for so many expensive appointments with therapists, getting to the head of the bath time queue and a ceasefire on the inevitable whining resulting from your expressed desire to eat a sensible, plant based meal once in a bloody while.

While war on virus is a bloody nightmare, it is also likely to lead to lasting changes on many different levels. On a completely selfish note, I really hope that Gen X and the Xennials get some credit when we pull our weight – like we always end up doing everytime, without any recognition. Not that we’re doing it for the glory – we’re used to not feeling that love. We’re martyrs without a cause. Or any strongly held beliefs to be honest.

But I can totally see a ticker tape parade themed birthday party for me next year. And I’m inviting all my similarly aged friends. We too can experience the emotions you might feel when your parents give enough of a shit to buy you a participation prize.

In the meantime I’ll just be listening to them all shoot the messenger. That’s me – the messenger.

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