High up on the list of ways a woman would rather not be described? Geriatric. But there it was, screaming at me during my evening Twitter doomscroll: ‘Born between 1980-1985? You’re a geriatric millennial.’
Ok, I thought, stay calm. This must be a mistake. Surely there’s another definition for geriatric. Perhaps young, cool people (like me, obvs) have co-opted it in a hilarious, ironic way. I googled it. Noun: ‘an old person who is receiving special care.’ Below that: ‘a person who is old and incapable or outdated.’ Onto thesaurus.com. Words like ‘decrepit’, ‘over the hill,’ and ‘impaired’ swirled in front of me. I put on my reading glasses to make sure. There was more: ‘senile’, ‘ancient’ and ‘infirm.’ Other turns of phrase though did strike a chord: ‘exhausted’ (always), ‘inactive’ (where possible) and ‘gray-haired’ (that’s trendy now, right?).
“But I’m only 35”, I panic-texted a friend of a similar ‘past one’s prime’ age (seriously, f*** you, thesaurus.com). “We’re not that old are we?” She replied the next day: “Sorry for the delay. My niece was showing me how to use Tik Tok.”
There has, quite rightly, been a Twitter swill of outrage. Vice President Kamala Harris’s niece, Meena (36), led the indignation. “I reject and denounce the term geriatric millennial,” she tweeted, adding: “And now we have to deal with "cheugy" too? This is hate speech.” Agree.
And yet. Something about this new (deeply offensive) label resonates. Born between 1980-1985, I am, on paper, a millennial but I’ve always balked at the stereotypes of a work-shy, avocado on toast-eating, commitment phobe. These descriptions are only partly true.
Obviously I’m not over the moon with the term ‘geriatric’ (what was wrong with ‘Xennials’ or ‘Cuspers?’) and I won’t be hurrying to include it in my MySpace bio (jokes, obviously I know it’s all about Facebook these days...). But I have always felt on the fringes of the millennial generational banding. If I must be labelled, sadly ‘geriatric millennial’ fits.
It started with a viral article on Medium called Why the Hybrid Workforce of the Future Depends on the ‘Geriatric Millennial. It’s a positive piece, discussing the ways geriatrics know how to work across generational divides and make the perfect employees. We’re comfortable with both analogue and digital forms of communication. We grew up without the internet and social media but have spent our whole working lives using them. We see both sides. We’re capable of anything. Being geriatric is a superpower, they say. Notable geriatrics include, Beyonce, Kim Kardashian, Lewis Hamilton and the Duchess of Cambridge.
This micro-generation grew up with cassettes and CDs (via a short-lived dalliance with MiniDiscs). We copied the Sunday afternoon Pepsi Chart show on tapes to replay the week’s hits (The Pet Shop Boys’ It’s a Sin the first time round) and made sure we didn’t miss episodes of Baywatch (again, the first time round) by recording them on VHS. We had just four TV channels and when there was nothing on telly? We played outside, had IRL conversations and would never dream of speaking in acronyms.
We called our friends on landlines and didn’t get our claws (misshapen from years of using pens and pencils) on our first mobile phone until our very late teens (probably a Nokia 3310). Please send nudes? Couldn’t if we’d wanted to. We had to wait a week to develop our (innocent) pics at Snappy Snaps. We passed our driving tests and navigated our way around by using an AA road atlas and reading signposts. Teachers used chalkboards and our school work was done using books from the library and then, later using Encarta Encyclopedia CD-ROMs.
The early noughties hit. A social media revolution! We spent evenings hogging the dial-up internet messaging our pals on MSN Messenger, we created cringe-y MySpace profiles and then uploaded drunken university photos on Facebook. We set up horrendous hotmail email addresses (firstname.lastname@example.org - yes, I hate myself.) and applied for our first jobs as a recession hit. We grappled with Twitter and curated our Instagram feeds. We now happily #FliptheSwitch on TikTok, get stuck in with social media activism and chat openly about our mental health. Though, caveat, we still think GIFS are the height of digital comedy and when talk turns to cryptocurrency we lose the will to live.
We straddle generational divides with empathy; easily adopting new tech (though, could you slow down a bit, Tim Cook) yet remembering a simpler time before work emails on phones, selfies and ‘pics or it didn’t happen’. Turns out, I’m proud to be a geriatric millennial, but could we please come up with a sexier name?
Quiz: How Generation Geriatric are you? By Jessica Benjamin
If you thought you could settle comfortably into your prescribed generational box and never have to question your identity again, you were wrong.
Within every generation there are tiny yet crucial subsections to get to grips with, and the latest is the geriatric millennial — a rare breed straddling the generational divide.
But how to know if you are one? Ignore the birth years and data, our bona fide quiz is all you need to get you settled back into that generational box. It’s time to cast your mind back to the good old days of your youth…
You’re back in school, and your friends are singing something you’ve never heard of. You need to find it, stat. Would you…
A. Sort through your back catalogue of recorded Top of the Pops episodes to watch every one from the last year.
B. Ask them to bluetooth it to your Sony Ericsson and promptly set it as your ringtone.
C. Shazam it, obviously.
It’s the weekend. What are you up to?
A. Heading to the pictures, Jaws is showing.
B. Watching the music channel for 14 hours straight, and learning the moves to Jenny from the Block.
C. Waiting in line at Supreme, they’re selling an actual brick.
You’ve just gone long distance with your boyfriend and it’s tough staying in touch. You tell him to…
A. Call your dad’s car phone after 9pm so you can sneak out to the garage.
B. Accept the reverse charge from your Nokia 3210 as you’re fresh out of credit.
C. Instagram/WhatsApp/voice note him. In fact, all of them.
Time for a summer break! What have you got planned?
A. Jetting off to Gibraltar where your cruise ship awaits.
B. A road trip through France. You forget your A-Z and end up in Luxembourg.
C. Nothing. Air travel is the biggest contributor to global warming and you’ve already Tweeted your support to Greta Thunberg.
A stranger commented on your post last night. What’s your reaction?
A. My mail is no one else’s business, you think. You install a new, lockable post box.
B. You set your Facebook and MySpace profile to hidden and worry about stranger danger for the next week.
C. You don’t react. All your TikToks are public, why would you care?
You’re on the hunt for a new job. How’s it going?
A. Swimmingly. You’ve handed in 35 CVs and have 34 interviews lined up.
B. Not so great. Both of your parents have been made redundant, there are no new jobs and you don’t even have enough money for some smart black skinny jeans for any interviews.
C. You don’t need a job, your Instagram business selling vulva candles has taken off and you’re moving on to scrotums next week to be inclusive.
Your friend reveals they’re struggling with their mental health at the moment. Do you…
A. Advise them to go for a walk and have a beer, that always helps you when you feel a bit moody.
B. Sit, listen and empathise. You’re feeling the same. In fact, everyone is.
C. Share your therapist’s number. You’ve been seeing them three times a week since you were 13, and they’re responsible for every decision you’ve ever made.
Mostly As: What are you doing on this quiz, boomer?! Go and sit in your multi-million pound London house and think about what you’ve done to the economy.
Mostly Bs: Sorry, you’re a geriatric millennial. I don’t make the rules.
Mostly Cs: You’re a Gen-Zer through and through. Good luck with that.