You Know You're a Gen-Xer If...

  • You own a pair of Doc Martins.
  • You still catch yourself saying "like, whatever" sometimes.
  • You've seen "Slackers," "Singles," "Reality Bites" and "Clerks."
  • You remember exactly where you were when you heard Kurt Cobain was dead.
  • You can speak authoritatively about the films of John Hughes.
  • You rocked at games like "Asteroids," "Pac-Man" and "Joust."
  • Your family once owned an Apple II-C.

Generation X Characteristics

Jeff Gordinier, author of "X Saves the World," writes that Xers are "said to be the defiant demographic, dedicated to shredding whatever raiment the marketing apparatus tries to drape us in; because we'd prefer not to be categorized at all, thank you very much" [source: Gordinier]. Still, like other generations before them, Xers share a common past and certain characteristics. Here are just a few:

  • Gen-Xers are geeks. Some of the most influential Web sites of today -- including YouTube, Amazon.com, and Google -- sprang from the minds of yesterday's video gaming, flannel-wearing slackers.
  • Gen-Xers are independent thinkers. Gen-Xers are often referred to as first latchkey kids. As the divorce rate rose in the 1970s, Gen-Xers were left to look after themselves while both parents entered the workforce. As a result, many Gen-Xers developed independence and self-reliance. They prefer to do things their own way and thrive in casual, friendly work environments [source: Theilfoldt and Scheef].
  • Gen-Xers are artists. There are well-known Xer artists (director Quentin Tarantino and actors Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt come to mind), as well as those who are known only inside their own circles of expertise. Kevin Bradley and Julie Belcher of Yee-Haw Industries are making waves in design, bringing back old letterpress techniques. Abattoir's up-and-coming Chef Joshua Hopkins is reimagining whole animal and farm-to-table cooking. Sarah Marks and Lori Kishlar of Third Half Studios regularly make the rounds of festival and craft shows with their macabre anime-like melamine dinnerware, prints and textiles.

Citing YouTube, Google and other Gen-X triumphs as evidence, Jeff Gordiner writes that "GenXers are doing the quiet work of keeping America from sucking." While the media focuses on the challenges Baby Boomers face as they enter old age and the triumphs of young Millennials like Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, the contributions of Gen-Xers go largely unreported. We change all of that with a list of Gen-X facts in the next section.