Generation Chasm

Have today’s youth jumped the shark with the self actualization? I’m curious what people think. I’ve been one of the very last hold-outs to pile on about “Kidsthesedays.” I love Kidsthesedays! I reflexively defend anything juvenile. It’s in my DNA to assume the grown-ups are always wrong. (Or at the least uglier and fatter.) But my constancy has been wobbling just a tiny bit this week.

I’ve even begun to wonder if my husband (Old School Dad, Greek variant) could be on to something. Might it be time to bring back shame and fear in American middle class childhood?? Hahahaha. Only kidding! Dear Prudence at Slate.com, debates the generation gap:

Dear Prudence,
At my office job, clients recently came in for a big meeting that included my boss. A higher-up, who is not my boss, told me I was going to have to go pick up the lunch for the meeting participants at noon and that she’d give me the money. This is not in my job description, and I was not excited to play errand girl, but I am at the bottom of the totem pole. Noon came and went and no one came out of the meeting. Finally around 1 p.m. I went to the break room to eat my lunch with friends. Shortly afterward the higher-up found me, stood in the doorway, and waved money at me indicating it was time to go. I thought she was rude and I waved my sandwich at her, indicating I was on my break. She stormed out and picked up the lunch herself. Later she furiously insisted to my boss that I be fired. My boss doesn’t think I should be, but he told me to try not to piss off this woman anymore. As the new young staffer is it my job to just suck it up? Or did I merely set boundaries with a disrespectful colleague who sorely needs them?

Wondering

Dear Wondering,
Since you already feel you are the equal of the top executives of the company, imagine that one day you actually accomplish enough in your life to be behind the closed door running the meeting. You’re under immense pressure and are responsible for a million details, yet you have to be calm and commanding for the clients. You ask a young assistant to perform a task that’s surely part of her job description—“assisting”—so that all of you can work through lunch. This little pissant makes a face, and when the time comes for her to get the food, you have to run around looking for her, and when you locate her, she dismissively waves her sandwich at you. “Wondering,” if you are able to get out of your entitled head you will agree that this supervisor did not walk away saying, “Now that’s the kind of boundary-setting young person I want to see rise in this company!” … let me assure you that if you think picking up lunch is beneath you, there are plenty of young people who bring back the tuna salad with a smile, thrilled to be starting their climb up the totem pole. You’re lucky your boss didn’t fire you, which might have resulted in your finding a new job that consists entirely of bringing food to people. Now try to show that the lesson you learned is to step up for your superiors, not flip them off.

—Prudie

So? What do you think? I’ll break the ice: let’s force “Wondering” to make sandwiches for us and clean my filthy kitchen, after which I fire her! Okay, okay, calm down. I’ll settle for her boss’s recommendation not to piss off the mean lady next time. But I have to admit that occasionally – like once in a blue moon – I do enjoy a rigidly hierarchical scenario. Why not? I’ve earned my middle-ish rung on the ladder. I’ll further admit that it gives me a sordid little thrill  — rarely, mind you – to boss around someone thinner and more attractive than me. Benevolent bossing, for the most part; I’m not talking Miranda Priestly She-Devil antics. I just think middle aged people should get a few measly perks after decades of working our asses off in the pre-Self Esteem Era salt mines. And I consider “Errand Girl” a very modest compensation for the Kafkaesque metamorphosis we call aging.

About ErikaChristakis

Yale Lecturer in early childhood education/Licensed teacher/Former preschool director/author. In possession of: unmarketable bachelor’s degree (Harvard, anthropology), semi-marketable graduate degrees (public health, education…). Rewarding career at the intersection of family, society, and schools (including long stint in parenting vortex). Forging a new path to connect all of the above.
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