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A Portrait Of `Generation X' Or A Crude Stereotype?


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A PORTRAIT OF `GENERATION X'--OR A CRUDE STEREOTYPE?

I'm a 24-year-old male, and I have seen other notable publications cast my generation, the 18- to 29-year-olds ("Move over, boomers," Cover Story, Dec. 14) as a strange, misguided, racial hodgepodge. But BUSINESS WEEK has nailed down our self-image, finally explaining the context of our upbringing and why certain fashion, musical, and other consumer trends appeal to us. I would suggest this article to any marketing organization that must learn to appeal to "Generation X," and there are many of them. Wake up, and take a look at what's coming down the conveyor! Bravo, BUSINESS WEEK.

John M. Saaty

Pittsburgh

The fashion, the music, the politics, and the anger toward the baby boomers was a total surprise to me and my friends. Besides, it's not the baby boomers we should be angry at, it's (soon-to-be-gone) President Bush's generation, who won't retire quickly enough.

As for those "Xers" who can't get a job after graduation other than a garment shop, have they ever heard of connections? In college, I was always told that more important than good grades or getting experience was making connections. Guess Amy Ross and Kristi Doherty were absent that day.

Next time you want to do a piece on my generation, try interviewing some Xers who aren't "McJobbing" it.

Jonathan Barron

New York

I take great offense at the buster broad-brushing of my boomer generation as silver-spooned, self-indulgent recipients of a bountiful lifestyle. No one ever implied that I was the "center of the universe" in my blue-collar boyhood home. I enlisted in the Air Force to save money for college. Four years later, when I enrolled, I knew anthropology was a freeway to a "McJob." I worked my way through graduate school without hip clothes or "weekend getaways." When my wife and I bought our first house, we acquired a mortgage with a 19% interest rate. The busters are angry? Yo, gimme a break.

David P. Smith

Yukon, Okla.

In typical careless baby-boomer fashion, we've been labeled as "busters," "post-boomers," "young fogies," "pseudo-executives," "slackers," and as your insightful cover story illustrates, "Xers."

By the time today's Corporate America finally gets a handle on what to call the most highly educated, well-adjusted, motivated, and socially/culturally diverse generation of workers in the history of our nation, they will find only one appropriate label: "boss."

Michael P. Tringale

Consultant

Huthwaite Inc.

Purcellville, Va.

I may be a "buster" by birth and a "boomer" by values, but there is a time to grow up and get on with life. To all the rest of Generation X: You are no longer in high school or college. Grow up, get a job, and work hard to get where you want to go. It's time to quit surfing and time to start working.

Larry J. Graubner

Antioch, Tenn.

I only wish the X kids knew that my graduation class of 1970 had it much the same as they do today. We came out of college into a full-blown recession (not to mention Vietnam and Richard Nixon in the White House). I worked a series of "low-tech" jobs until getting my first opportunity with a real future in 1975. I lived in a house with three other single guys and drove a junky old car and ate a lot of meals at mom's table.

It was more correctly the '80s kids who graduated to great starting jobs and new cars. These kids thought Ronald Reagan the greatest President ever (they would have said since Franklin D. Roosevelt, but most of them didn't know who he was).

You are correct that if X kids can keep their wits about them, they'll probably do better in the end than anyone. Who knows computers and communications better than they, being trained from grade school to know?

I also think that their hard-eyed realism and basic hunger to succeed on their own devices in an unforgiving economic environment will make them stronger than earlier generations who expected it all as their due.

Doug Weiskopf

Cincinnati

Why don't you folks give it a rest? For 20 years, every burp of the baby-boomer generation has been dissected and analyzed--to no one's enlightment. Let's let this generational self-obsession go to its well-deserved death instead of inflicting it on a generation for which you can't even find a catchy name.

Guy Murdoch

Washington

Working hard in college and mastering Nintendo games hardly constitutes paying your dues--nor does it entitle anyone to leap to the top of the corporate ladder.

Generation X might wear work boots and flannel shirts, but they've yet to roll up the sleeves and break a sweat.

Mack E. Beall

Annapolis, Md.

In your story, the X kids don't like this and they want that, etc. I am 20 years old, and yet I am nothing like what you have described. You have labeled an entire generation with unnecessary and unwanted stereotypes.

Rowdy K. Webb

Boulder, Colo.

I don't use words like "jones," "rave" or "slacker." I don't listen to Nirvana or Nine Inch Nails. I don't watch Beverly Hills 90210 or MTV. I don't wear ripped jeans. I'm fully and happily employed, and I'm optimistic about my future. I also don't feel angry and alienated, or at least didn't until I read your article.

John A. Csellak

Cincinnati

I consider your commentary on music preferences more accurate for those still searching for a prom date. Your comment that we prefer torn jeans, pierced noses, and tattoos is a ridiculous generalization. If this were actually the case, no wonder none of us can find a job in our field. Most disturbing is your list of our media preferences. What about those of us who actually read a current newspaper or listen to National Public Radio?

Yes, we have been thrown from college straight into the worst job market in a long time, and yes, we are angry. However, that does not mean we are mindless, overgrown teenagers.

Please give us credit for being the creative, talented, intelligent people most of us are.

Cynthia A. King

Columbus, Ohio

The tone was quite hostile and filled with jealousy and animosity toward a generation (boomers) that left an indelible mark on the world.

Paul Guzzardo

Forest Hills, N. Y.

You failed to acknowledge the other group of 18- to 29-year-olds who are in college, already involved in their chosen field of career interest (management), optimistic about the future, and whose favorite entertainer is ultraconservative Rush Limbaugh.

Your portrayal of "Generation X" as a group of young people who lack direction and purpose in our lives only applies to liberals. Please don't group us 18- to 29-year-old conservatives into your Generation X; we simply won't fit the description.

Todd A. Glass

Anderson, Ind.

O. K., now I'm totally confused. For years, I have been told that I was a part of the baby-boomer generation, having been born in the 18-year period after World War II, or 1946 to 1964. Now, I learn from your story that I am now a founding member of Generation X, being between 18 and 29 years old (28). So which is it--boomer or buster? Should I drink Coke Classic or Crystal Pepsi? Should I watch VH-1 or Beverly Hills 90210?

Perhaps I and the millions of other 28- and 29-year-olds are part of some multiple-personality generation. We're old enough to remember the Apollo moon landing but young enough to be rollerblading. You can just call us the "boosters." We'll be the ones wearing the tie-dyed T-shirts and listening to Guns N' Roses.

Tom Duncan

Louisville

I shudder to think my future will be predicated by a group of young people who apparently expect things to be handed to them on a retrograde silver platter.

As a bona fide boomer, I graduated from college in the recession-ridden industrial downsizing of the early 1980s, (smack dab in the Rust Belt, no less). Landing a job in the nonprofit sector, I struggled between paychecks, didn't rely on mommy and daddy, nor did I blame the generation ahead of me for the adverse economic conditions of the time.

My message for the tattooed, pierced, and angry busters:

Grow up!

Nan Arnone

Racine, Wis.

I'm afraid I'll have to take you to the hoop on this one. As a member of the "me" generation, I would think that a more appropriate label for the busters is the "re" generation. After all, who is it that will have to rethink, reengineer, retool, reenergize, reinvent, and recycle all that their predecessors have put together (or screwed up, as the case may be)?

Joan Samuelson

Nashua, N. H.

It is quite amusing that while my friends and I who have MBAs and JDs are living at home with our parents and working at Taco Bell to pay off student loans, your article's main focus was how to market to busters so that we'll fuel the economic recovery.

Tell your boomer advertising execs not to get their hopes up until us busters can find real jobs.

Bernard Cheung

Glen Clove, N. Y.


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