My Generation

August 30, 1994|By AMELIA L. PETRICA

They were born after the Baby Boomers -- children of the Silent Generation, and 80 million strong. They are Generation X. Twentysomethings. The thirteenth generation of Americans.

A generation can be defined as people living at the same time. To classify is to sort into groups having common characteristics. I am not sure categorizing today's youth is that simple.

I was born in 1964. Demographically, I'm a Baby Boomer, which defines people born in the years from 1946 to 1964. Socioculturally, I am a baby buster, the 13th Generation, people born in the years from 1961 to 1981. By being put into this group, I am supposed to have a lot in common with my fellow 13-ers.

I admit that I do not share the same ideologies or experiences as the Boomers, but I feel I do not fit squarely in with the 13-ers, either.

While most 13-ers' parents are from the Silent Generation (born from 1925 to 1942), my parents are from the previous generation, the GIs. Unlike many 13-ers' parents, mine are not divorced. They have been married almost 47 years. My two siblings are from the Baby Boomer generation; my activities and thoughts were influenced by them.

Being an ''Atari-waver'' -- born in the 1960s -- I experienced and remember things that I do not think my fellow 13-ers could possibly share. I remember when space travel ended in splash-downs, not landings on dry lake beds. From TV, I recall the Smothers Brothers, ''Laugh In,'' Dean Martin roasts, Tom Jones, Bobby Sherman and when Cher was married to a guy named Sonny. I remember President Nixon greeting a long line of diplomats in China, the seemingly endless Watergate hearings, the energy crisis, long gas lines and when Exxon was Esso.

I also recall President Carter and his family walking, not riding, along his inauguration parade route. I remember peace signs, ecology signs, smiley faces and Peter Max artwork, platform shoes, miniskirts, pet rocks, mood rings and leashes without dogs. I remember the original cast of ''Saturday Night Live,'' when the show was actually funny, and feeling great loss when two of them died. How many of these memories can 13-ers, other than ''Atari-wavers,'' recall?

On the other hand, there are many things a lot of 13-ers relate to that I cannot. I have never seen Beavis and Butt-Head or Ren & Stimpy, nor have I played Nintendo or Genesis. I do not own anything by Nirvana or Pearl Jam, and I do not consider Kurt Cobain's death a cultural tragedy. I do not have a preponderance of friends with tattoos or pierced body parts or who dress in the ''grunge,'' look (although that look was popular when I was in high school). I have voted in every election since I became of voting age.

There are also educational differences between me and typical 13-ers. I did not grow up with computers. I only had a few weeks of BASIC in high school and there was probably only one computer in my school. Becoming knowledgeable in the use and applications of personal computers was an elective, not a requirement, when I was in college.

I am not familiar with the concept of open education. We had our core classes and a few electives. In junior high (it was not middle school then), I had a choice of French or Spanish. In high school, there were a few more choices, but they were still pretty traditional subjects.

There was never any question that I would go to college; It was what my brother and sister had done. After I settled down into my major, I did very well. I enjoyed it immensely and worked very hard.

Despite the differences, there are some distressing similarities between me and my fellow 13-ers. I was a latchkey kid, as many 13-ers are said to be. I, too, suffer from poor self-esteem. For economic reasons, I have returned to my parents' house. I am pessimistic about many aspects of the future. I often wonder if I will ever be able to own my own home. I fear that there will be no such thing as Social Security when I reach retirement age. We have been told by sociologists and the media that these are tell-tale signs of 13th-Generation members. Due to these shared concerns, the future must be faced in union. So, albeit atypical, I will concede to being a 13-er.

Amelia L. Petrica is a student at Towson State University.

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