Monday Speed Round

Were chicken pox really so bad we need a vaccine for them? Kids hate getting shots. Who decided board games like Life and Uno and Clue needed to be updated with electronic gizmos, and does that actually make them better? What’s the deal with hot dogs in Mac and cheese? Do you ever miss cassette tapes? Or CDs? What was it like to have to watch TV shows one episode at a time, and only at the scheduled time, and if you missed it you were screwed?

—I’m Not On Cocaine Right Now

OK, INOCRN, here goes:

Yes. Some asshole Baby Boomer; no. It ruins perfectly good Mac and Cheese with lips and assholes. Yes, so much, especially the mix my high-school boyfriend made for me and the mix my early-aughts boyfriend made for me (already a retro thing to do by then, which made it all the better); no. It was super fun because you only chose one or two shows that were “your” shows that were worth not going out at night for, and everyone stopped what they were doing and squeezed around the one TV in the Main Dorm smoking TV room and then when Melrose Place exploded in the cliffhanger of that one season ender like 55 people screamed OOOOOOOOOOOOOH at once, and it felt like you were part of something and doing something and not just hunkered down in your pajamas hoovering up all 10 episodes of Mrs. Maisel one after another, and now your life feels pointless.

Can I bum an Insta?

Is social media the new smoking? How will you teach your child about the harmful effects of a thing in which we actively participate? Do we have to quit?

— Kissing You Is Like Kissing an Algorithm

Heyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy KYILKAA:

Yes and no. On the one hand, social media is toxic, addictive, and everywhere, and, as you said, Gen-X parents are prime I Learned It By Watching You Passive-Aggressively “Like” That Obnoxious Pumpkin Patch Photo By That PTO Mom You Hate. So yes, I think that if we’re going to tell our kids not to do it, we do have to quit. On the other hand, smoking, though gross and deadly, was extremely social and really goddamned fun. I made so many friends (and quite a few more-than-friends) thanks to smoking. Social media is profoundly alienating and destroys all the fun from life. On the balance, I sort of wish I’d never seen a Facebook but I still got to have smoke breaks with my cool coworkers in the stairwell of the old Chinatown building where the weird “professional” TV-trivia writing job I had in the early Aughts used to be.


Why do people still insist on telling their kids that Santa is real? Why don’t people think it’s creepy to tell their kids that Santa watches them while they sleep?

—North-Pole Truther

Happy Festivus, NPT:

Oh don’t get me fucking started on Santa Claus. I don’t know what I hate more about the Santa myth. Is it how inextricably bound Santa is with forcing behavioral normativity onto children? (Here’s a mind-blow for you: being “good” is actually just “acting in a way that is convenient to adults,” and adults, for the most part, are assholes.) Is it how cruelly capitalistic and class-unaware Santa is? (Oh, sorry, poor kid in class, I guess you were “bad” while Chet the rich little shit who gives you a swirlie every morning just scored an entire Best Buy! Welcome to fucking capitalism!) Is it the blatant disregard for the space-time continnum? Is it that Mrs. Claus is forced into a life of domestic servitude? 

Last year we did Christmas in Arizona with my in-laws and another family they’re tight with, and that family didn’t schlep 9 Toys R Usses to Arizona so the presents that “Santa” brought were modest, whereas my daughter’s grandmother had so many gifts for her that it required four ancillary Christmases to dispatch with them all, and this poor little 7-year-old girl was reduced to tears, like, Wait, was I not good? Does Santa not love me? and I was like We are really fucking doing this right now? I was prevented from dropping the truth onto that sweet, wise little child by relatives more concerned with “preserving the [classist, heteropatriarchal] magic of Christmas,” and I regret it. 

Meanwhile, on the other side of the family, a few years ago my niece and nephew’s cousin (so, like, my second cousin-in-law or some such?), who was five at the time, somehow deduced that his presents didn’t come “from Santa,” they came “from Amazon,” and on the night before Christmas he requested (AND WAS GRANTED) the obliteration of a Santa-shaped piñata, after which he hoisted Santa’s disembodied head atop a stick and paraded around with it, a la Lord of the Flies. The irony of this, of course, is that Amazon really does see us when we’re asleep and awake and everything in between, and doesn’t give a fuck if we’re good or bad as long as we keep renewing Prime — and by and large, we’re cool with it.

What. EVER.

Why do Gen X people always single out Millennials for criticism? It’s always, “Hey, when I was in school you had to learn cursive, but now Millennials are too lazy,” or “these Millennials spend too much time on their phones, and it’s not as wholesome as the Atari console I used to play.” Yeah, we get that MTV used to have music videos but you get that we didn’t lobby to have that changed, right? It seems like you’ve had more of a say in making the world that Millennials have to live in, and it’d be nice if you actually “took responsibility,” to use a term that Gen Xers seem fond of. What gives?

—I Wrote This In Emoji

What’s your DAMAGE, IWTIE?

Sorry for being a Gen-X-splainer, but I’m gonna do it: Well Actually, friend, it was the Boomers who did all that shit, and it’s the Boomers who are complaining that you don’t know cursive. Fuck cursive! And anyone who tells you that the 19 hours a day they spent playing Atari was somehow more wholesome than whatever it is disaffected youngsters now do in their basements is just in denial about their own sociopathic tendencies.

But I swear, for the most part the primary complainers about Millennials – or those whose plaints are actually listened to by literally anyone — are Boomers. Outside of a niche subset of the film industry between the years 1991-1997, nobody listens to us. Ever.

You don’t like being blamed for young people’s shit, like that “startup” called Bodega literally invented to kill the bodega? Or the other startup where a “group rideshare” picks up riders on specific street corners at a specific schedule for a small fee, aka a FUCKING BUS? Well, I don’t like being blamed for old people’s bullshit either, man.

I know I look 900, but that’s just because my daughter sucks out my life force and I wake up every morning like that puckered corpse in Arachnophobia after the dinner-plate-sized spider spends three days feasting on it. But I’m only 42, and I have no influence in the world. 

PS I only got three “C” grades in my entire life. Two were in college during my junior year of work strike against Heinrich von Kleist and William Wordsworth, and the other one was in the fourth grade, in “penmanship,” and now I’m a professional writer, ipso facto, cursive has literally no purpose.

Well, how else are they gonna listen to that sweet Spin Doctors bootleg? Have you thought about that?

I’m a millennial married to a gen-Xer (or tail-end baby boomer depending on how you define it). My partner brought to the relationship a set of stereo equipment dating from the early 80 to 2000s: set of 5-foot-high Time Window speakers, amplifier Yamaha double tape deck (yes tapes!), 5-disk CD player. All of this takes up considerable space in the living room of our small apartment, and we NEVER listen to it! We got a bluetooth speaker 2 years ago and we both use either it or our computers to listen to music, podcasts, radio, etc. My partner will not hear of even putting the stuff into storage for someday when we have  a larger house, much less giving it away. What do you think?

— So I Married a Hoarder


Whoa, man,
Whoooooooooooooooooooa, man!
Boomin’ the bass!
Junk in my space!
Get this shit out of my house!

Does anyone else remember that in 1993, Mike Myers’ character Charlie in So I Married an Axe Murderer makes an entire full-ass living as a shitty coffeehouse slam poet, who just self-plagiarizes the same tired quasi-misogynistic shite every single…I don’t even know how often he performs? But he lives in like a fancy house in San Francisco? Also, just as improbably, the soundtrack to this film features both versions of “There She Goes?” And that “There She Goes” is about heroin? Which does not feature in So I Married An Axe Murderer? That shit was legit my favorite movie for like five years. What the fuck is wrong with me?

Anyway, what were we talking about? Oh yeah. That is some borderline-Hoarders bullshit and completely inexcusable. What sort of emotional attachment does your spouse (who may or may not be a wo-man, it’s just that I had to make it fit with the poem, you see) have to this ridiculously outdated piece of equipment that, yes, cost a lot of money at the time it was procured but would scarcely beckon $25 at a garage sale now, given that it probably has no way to be hooked up to a phone?

Don’t be direct about it, because Gen-Xers think directness is way moody —but see if you can use whatever gentle manipulation you usually use to have delicate conversations with your spouse, and try to find out what’s really behind the attachment to the stereo system (that, by the way, is what we used to call it: a stereo system). Once you have made it clear that you value and honor whatever real thing is actually there (again, not directly but with actions that may or may not include accompanying your spouse on a trip to the record store), maybe your partner will come to their senses and get rid of that shit themselves. 

In unrelated news, my parents still have both their 60s-issue hi-fi (which now only operates in mono) and the Stereo System (with a six-6D changer and a DOUBLE TAPE DECK and an AM and FM radio!) my dad bought “for my mom” (she never used it) in their living room today, despite the fact that the only thing either of them ever listens to is NPR podcasts on the kitchen Bose thingy.

Jane, get me off this crazy thing…called love!

BONUS: Which version of “There She Goes” is better?

Never Sell Out, Unless You Have To, So: Always Sell Out

For all of us millennials starting new careers, what is the best advice you ever received about life? I’d love to hear it as I struggle to balance health issues with a future career as a therapist. I currently have a job that I DESPISE, but it has really cushy medical benefits. Once I graduate with my Master’s degree in Counseling, I’m likely to take both a pay cut and lose the nice medical benefits, making life financially more difficult. However, I LOVE counseling. As I fight with multiple autoimmune diseases, and I’m on several (not-so-cheap) medications, how do I choose between guaranteed medical coverage or career satisfaction? 


—An Exasperated Millennial

PS. Did I mention the vast student loan debt?


First of all, congratulations on finishing your studies (almost), and that’s a grade-A bummer about the health challenges you’re facing. I have full faith that the generation one below you will fix this country’s garbage-dump health care system once and for all, but I’ll be dead by then and you’ll be old (and broke from all your medications), so what good will that do?

Second of all, all of the life advice I got was from Baby Boomers, so it was totally inapplicable bullshit.

Relatedly: One of the reasons that millennials never ask my generation for advice is that — besides all the other reasons, e.g. X is the smallest generation and so we’re kind of hard to find; you think we’re old and our oldness kind of embarrasses you to be around, etc. — your problems literally did not exist when we were young adults. The “gig” economy had yet to take hold. When someone said they had a “gig,” that meant that Mystik Spiral were playing the Steinberg Bar Mitzvah. (Yes, I did just look up the “correct” spelling of Mystik Spiral, and yes, I still would very much with Trent from “Daria.”) 

My generation may have lacked ambition, but if we could scrape some together we could usually find a job, and that job — while largely unfulfilling — would usually be a full-time position that came with health insurance. That was the entire point of “selling out” — so that you could afford shit.

The problem now is that there is literally no way to survive in contemporary America without selling out to some degree. The only people who can afford to do artistic or humanitarian work full-time are people who come from independent wealth, so they sold out before they even started. (All right, there’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But she’s just one person.)

So in ’90s terms, the question you’re asking is the age-old dilemma that afflicted us all: Do you sell out? When it’s a matter of life and death, I think you gotta, for now. The good news is that you are very young and you have your entire life to change jobs like crazy until you find one you like (or don’t DESPISE) — but you can only do this if you’re still alive, and to be still alive you have to have your medicine, and to get your medicine you have to have a job with great health benefits until Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fixes everything for us. 

As a stopgap measure, I’d recommend a mid-level semi-sellout. If there’s one thing my generation is great at — truly spectacular — it is half-assing things, and so I am exactly the right mentor to have in this situation, and this is precisely what you should do. As you near graduation, apply for any counseling job for which you’re eligible, but as the interview process progresses, make sure you learn about the benefits packages that every potential employer offers. Keep your current job while you’re on the market, but do literally the bare minimum possible not to make any waves or get anyone mad at you.

You may be surprised in the counseling field — if you get hired full-time by a hospital system, for example, your benefits will probably be pretty good. You may have all of your worst fears realized and have to stay in your current job as an assistant associate billing adjuster or whatever for the time being, for your health. You may also want to research options overseas — does your degree have reciprocation in literally any other developed nation? There’s your health quandary solved right there, plus you’ll have dope hours (i.e. low ones) and kickass benefits. 

Now go half-ass like the wind, and good luck.