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 response to one of my Coronavirus related messages.

She was totally right, to be fair. However, I’ve just been to the adhoc school ‘break up’ park play session with a load of the mothers who keep me on an even keel most of the time. We talked about our plans for the next few weeks and discussed the implications of these times for our kids and our extended 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 children 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 – but 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. It’s all just ‘in theory’.

I worked under a Labour government back then and there was a lot of discussion 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, relatively self-important people. We were chosen because we were thoroughly familiar with how the organisation worked – from the very lowest level – and able to confidently communicate the minutiae to those in senior management. 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 lived through the power shortages and public services strikes of the 70s, 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.

Domestically, many of us are protecting our offspring from contact with the virus while we’re also 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 Nightingale, girls. Now sit down and eat your eggs. If you behave I’ll let you watch the Typhoid Mary episode of Drunk History again.

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 enlightening discussions around our generation’s need for so much expensive therapy, the reasons for our need to be at the head of the bathroom queue (we’re the ones who start getting breakfast ready and we want a bloody shower first) and a ceasefire on the inevitable whining resulting from our expressed desire to eat a sensible, plant based meal once in a bloody while.

While war on virus is a bloody nightmare, it may also 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 do and 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 myself having to throw my own ticker tape parade themed birthday party next year. And I’ll be 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 a participation prize. We’ll do as we always have done and support each other.

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

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