By Carolynn Kingyens
We’re all influenced, in one way or another, by our generation. Take my generation, for example. Maybe we were coined after Billy Idol’s punk band, Generation X; or was the X, which already emotes a sense of danger by the letter alone, coined by the generation before us? Either way, we are the smallest generation sandwiched between heavyweights, the Baby Boomers and Generation Y/ Millennials.
Generation X was born between 1965 and 1980. We were the latch-key kids; some of the first who came from dual income households; children of divorce, single parents, or of parents who fought all the time, but stayed together for religious reasons.
I was born in 1974, which puts me in the middle of the generation-spectrum. We lived through the inception of MTV — “Video Killed the Radio Star”; Holly Hobbie, Star Wars, He-Man, and the Cabbage Patch Kids craze.
Who could forget Madonna performing “Like a Virgin” on the first annual, MTV Music Video Awards in 1984? I know I won’t. At 10, I was a little confused by her performance, but I remember really liking her white, party dress. Then there was Dallas — Who Shot J.R.?; underdog movies — Rocky and Little Orphan Annie; big hair and shoulder pads; Beverly Hills 90210; Real World; Reality Bites, and the music.
I remember I was still in high school when I first watched Tori Amos’ video for “Silent All These Years” on VH1, alone, in the family room:
Been saved again by the garbage truck
I got something to say you know
But nothing comes
Yes I know what you think of me
You never shut up
Yeah I can hear that
That weekend, I went to Sam Goody to purchase Little Earthquakes, then went home, laid down on my daybed, and played the CD — from first song to last — uninterrupted, 57 minutes, 11 seconds.
More good music would follow — the grunge movement, that unforgettable guitar riff in “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (ending the reign of metal hair-bands), East Coast vs West Coast rap (RIP, Tupac and Biggie), the original Lollapalooza, Lilith Fair, and Woodstock revivals of ’94 and ’99.
Somewhere in the early 2000’s, I realized that a newer generation was taking our place on MTV. I started losing track of time, and began to feel my life becoming more like a Bruce Springsteen song, particularly, “Glory Days”:
Glory days well they’ll pass you by
Glory days in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory days, glory days
Then one day, I realized I had to adapt like Madonna. But it’s still a process for me, adapting.
Recently, my husband and I took our two kind, funny, creative daughters to a free coding class for kids at an Apple Store in NYC. There, we learned that 90% of jobs in our children’s generation will be technology-based, especially coding, as our dependence on Artificial Intelligence continues to grow; despite Elon Musk’s warnings; despite The Terminator movies. Nonetheless, we keep marching forward, maybe on a road to nowhere (nod to Talking Heads).
My daughters learned the intro to Swift code, and by the end of the class, they were manipulating a Sphero Robot over ramps, and in any direction they wanted from their own iPads. I was amazed at how quickly my daughters adapted to new technology, and to change, in general.
As my family and I left the Apple Store together, on our way to lunch, and then to the sprinkler park, I thought about the lyrics to one of my favorite Counting Crows’ songs — “Anna Begins” from August and Everything After:
“Oh,” she says, “You’re Changing”
But we’re always changing.
Carolynn Kingyens lives in NYC with her husband, of 20 years, and their two kind, funny, and creative daughters; a sweet rescue dog, and a very old, loving cat. Her poems have been featured in Boxcar Poetry Review, Word Riot, Schuylkill Valley Journal (SVJ), Tuck, Across the Margin, The Potomac, Orange Room Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Red Eft Review, Haggard & Halloo, and her poem, “Washing Dishes”, was nominated for Best New Poets by Silenced Press.