You know that whole thing about the middle child, the one who gets the shaft because the older one is some kind of high-achieving badass and the younger one is a freewheeling combo of needy and cute? Of course you know! (Unless you’re an only child, in which case it’s all about you, as well it should be.)
Sometimes I feel like my whole generation is a middle child. Demographically speaking, we’re sandwiched between two flashier generations, Gen X and Gen Y. I’m too young for the one, too old for the other. I identify more with Gen X but I observe Gen Y with much interest.
To wit: Hipster Runoff. What is it about Carles? Here he is, predicting the demise of his own relevance yet again, but he really is selling himself short. As an ancient mindie, it’s hard not to come off as condescending here, but he’s sharp as hell. When I first stumbled onto HRO, I was baffled by the house style. WTF, I thought. Is this prose poetry? I mean, look at this recent entry. Or this. I read these entries as sincere, but they are infected with a po-mo hyperawareness that at once preempts and ironically invites peer mockery by stylistically acknowledging the layers of artifice in “consumer” “culture” via scare quotes, etc. Look at this! It has become so difficult to be sincere. Sincerity is suspect.
Carles does display a curious reticence about his RL identity that many in his peer group are unconcerned about. For instance, a guy who “fake” stalked an acquaintance on his Tumblr and the non-fallout that occurred when she discovered it. The fact that nothing about this situation was weird to these people is weird to me. And fascinating.
Meantime, on the Gen X end of the spectrum: The Atlantic cover story on changing marriage patterns that is all over the internets. Kneejerk reactions have been unfolding on the Jezebel comments, with some very thoughtful commentary on the Hairpin. The observations about the massive shifts occurring in marriage today resonate with my own personal experience, and, curiously enough, made me think of young Carles. From The Atlantic story:
In her fascinating Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage, she [Coontz] surveys 5,000 years of human habits, from our days as hunters and gatherers up until the present, showing our social arrangements to be more complex and varied than could ever seem possible. She’d long known that the Leave It to Beaver–style family model popular in the 1950s and ’60s had been a flash in the pan, and like a lot of historians, she couldn’t understand how people had become so attached to an idea that had developed so late and been so short-lived.
Perhaps Coontz is underestimating the power of consumer culture, the presiding narrative engine of our times? Because I think the answer is right there: “Leave It to Beaver-style.” Pop culture is pervasive and far-reaching, and, not coincidentally, a key communication mechanism of the cross-national campaign to inculcate generations into believing that “a diamond is forever,” a campaign that began in 1938. Here’s a detailed primer, from The Atlantic archives. I’m not saying that the De Beers cartel is behind all of this – that seems simplistic in the extreme – but I do think that their messaging campaign has had lasting effects on the way we view marriage in a commodity culture.
Which is a pretty good justification for the kind of worldview the Carles generation has adopted.