This is how Ross Goldstein of Generation Insights describe the twentysomethings: "They're like people who arrive at the party and find all the refreshments have been eaten and the party's over."
And this is how the magazine's photographer Patrick Sandosees it: "Four of them didn't show up for the cover photo session," he reported. "Is this an apathetic generation or what?"
Well, maybe. I'm always amazed by people who try to describe a whole generation with a well-turned phrase. (Patrick is allowed to because it's his generation.) And equally amazed that members of that generation don't seem to mind.
But in this week's cover story, A. M. Chaplin has come up with some generalities that seem to fit. She points out that several people she interviewed mentioned that this generation seems to feel stuck in the middle -- between the '60s and the '80s, one twentysomething said -- "a feeling that you should be doing something that's socially beneficial, but you should also be successful." (Both, you'll note, are agendas set by the baby boomers: The early boomers went in for social action, the later boomers for making money.)
One of the experts A. M. Chaplin interviewed described it as "an enormously polite generation, in contrast to the yuppies." Still, behind their politeness, says A. M., they're going their own way. It doesn't signify agreement or docility. In her opinion, they just think speaking out loudly, whether politically or personally, is stupid. Boomer behavior. "People say all these awful things about them," A. M. points out, "but when you talk to them, they're very interesting and quite without the aggressive arrogance of the boomers."