Final Impressions

Stuck in the middle

Written by James Combs

A look into Generation X.

Poor Jan Brady. 

She was the consummate middle child in the popular sitcom “The Brady Bunch.” She could never match the accomplishments of her high-achieving older sister, Marcia. And she never garnered the same attention as her cute younger sister, Cindy, a blonde with curled pigtails. 

From a generational standpoint, I can relate to Jan’s frustration. Sandwiched between the counterculture-creating baby boomers and the technologically savvy millennials is Generation X. 

A more accurate name would be the Forgotten Generation. When CBS News posted an infographic in January outlining generations by birth year, Generation X was left off the list. If that’s not bad enough, my generation spans a meager 11 years (those born between 1965 and 1976), according to the Center for Generational Kinetics. Meanwhile, baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and millennials (born between 1977 and 1995) both span 18 years. 

It’s not particularly fun being sandwiched between our two much larger and louder cohorts. That said, I’m going to introduce you to Generation X in case you forgot about us or are unaware we even exist. 

As youngsters, we witnessed MTV become a cultural force. Yes, my generation wanted our MTV. We saw Michael Jackson perform spooky dance moves in the video “Thriller” and watched Beavis and Butthead laugh hysterically in sex education class. 

We jammed to music with our state-of-the-art Fisher-Price cassette players. 

Growing up, we listened as Nancy Reagan urged us to “just say no” to drugs. Not everybody heeded that advice. 

Our version of Xbox and PlayStation 2 was called Atari. The graphics sucked, but that didn’t make Pac-Man any less fun to play. We later graduated to Nintendo. 

As we poured milk into our Mr. T. cereal, we looked at the carton and stared into the face of a missing child. Nobody took me, though. I guess they figured they couldn’t afford to feed me. 

My generation spearheaded the rap and hip-hop movements of the early ‘90s. My sincerest apologies. 

Like generations before and after us, Xers experienced defining cultural memories. The space shuttle Challenger explosion and the televised O.J. Simpson Ford Bronco chase immediately come to mind. 

A new phenomenon called the internet became a part of daily life as we reached adulthood. We could finally send mail without paying postage. There even was a computerized voice that told us, “You’ve got mail.” 

At the turn of the century, we partied like it was 1999 and anticipated the dreaded Y2K bug. It never came. 

We eagerly showed up at now-defunct video stores whenever popular movies were released. Be kind. Rewind. 

Hope you enjoyed that insight into the Jan Brady of the generational family. We’re not considered as accomplished and groovy as Marcia (baby boomer) or as precious and adorable as Cindy (millennial). 

Let’s not be jealous, though. Remember that, much like the Bradys, we’re all part of one large, blended, and imperfect family. That means loving and respecting baby boomers and millennials even if we don’t receive as much recognition.

I think Jan’s family would agree. 

That’s the way they became the Brady Bunch. 

About the author

James Combs

Akers Media Group's James Combs has been a staff writer for several local publications since August 2000. He has had the privilege of interviewing some of Lake County’s many fascinating residents—from innovative business owners to heroic war veterans—and bringing their stories to life. A resident of Lake County since 1986, James recently embarked on a journey to lead a healthier lifestyle. He has lost 60 pounds and walks nearly five miles a day. In his spare time, he enjoys target shooting, skeet shooting and watching his beloved Kentucky Wildcats!

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