What toys were popular when you were a kid?
This was the height of the 80’s, the time of cartoons on TV pushing toys. They were expensive though, so not many kids had ’em. A friend of mine had quite a bit of Star Wars action figures. Lego was popular as well, and when Lego Technic was released, it was a bit of a sensation.
What musicians were popular when you were a teenager?
When I was 12, everyone was into Doe Maar. It was a huge thing when they split up. Later on, Michael Jackson and Madonna ruled the roost, along with basically any act produced by Stock, Aitken & Waterman — including the now infamous “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley!
What unique personality traits do you think you have in common with others born around the same time as you?
If a trait is shared with others, it’s not exactly unique anymore, is it? And to be honest, I don’t really know — GenX is mostly forgotten and invisible in the grand scheme of things because the older ones are indistinguishable from Boomers and the younger ones are indistinguishable from Millenials.
Do you think stereotypes about your generation are accurate?
The stereotype is that GenX have had to fend for themselves all their lives. The idea is that GenX was the last generation of ‘free range kids’, but the fact is that we were just sent off so our parents could do their own thing.
A few weeks ago, someone shared this photo of a mother using a trash can to constrain her baby while she is crocheting in the partk, as a symbol of why GenX’ers are the way they are.
It made me recall something from my own youth. My parents bought their house in ’70, when it had just been built. A house in the suburbs of Eindhoven, headquarters of Philips, and everyone worked there. It was a huge draw, and so houses were being built in Eindhoven and the towns around it. And as usual when new houses are being built, young families buy ’em, and so you get this concentration of parents and kids with roughly the same ages. Maarten was the same age as my sister (who is two years older than me), the oldest of two sons. And he was an asshole — he had a thing for my sister and she was the only one who could rein him in. If he came to our house to ask if she wanted to play with him, she asked my mom to keep me inside so he wouldn’t hurt me.
There was a reason why Maarten was such a pain. His mother was from a larger city, and she hated living in a village. She wanted to be among people, and it was not in her nature to just sit at home to wait until her husband came home. So she regularly went to the Eindhoven city centre — alone, without her kids. She shut those inside their rooms, and she’d take out the door handles so they couldn’t leave their rooms until she came back. Everyone knew this was happening, but it was just one of those things that people shrugged about and never did anything about. Small wonder Maarten was not socialised.
My mom told me the story of how Maarten’s mom shut herself in by accident. She had already taken out the door handle but then had gone inside the room — and the door had closed, so she couldn’t get out. She called for help through the window (neighbours had keys of each others houses, of course), and my mom snickered a bit that they had left her there for a fair bit before they freed her, to make her feel what that was like. But of course nobody really did anything about it, and nothing changed.
Then, after a few years, they moved away, and I don’t know what has become of Maarten. I hope he has found a way to deal with the way his parents treated him.
GenX’ers are, as parents, very different from their own parents. I think that proves that most GenX’ers didn’t really have a happy childhood.
What do you admire about other generations?
I love how Millennials do not accept the status quo and keep looking for ways to make things better. It is clear that things must and can change, and that the values we inherited from older generations just don’t cut it anymore.