One of the first things I had to do when I decided to revive this column is to reconcile that I am no longer part the younger generation. Post-fifty, I challenged myself: from what perspective are you going to write about the relevant issues of the day, if you are not part of the generation that is living, breathing, experiencing and changing the world around us. Then, I asked myself, what generation do I belong to, exactly? More on that, in a moment.


But first, let’s define the current generation of thought and mind and talent and suspicion and anger and awkwardness and kindness. Let’s call them the Latte Generation.

Longshotz
No other generation has been so well versed in communication through a myriad of social media, yet so poor at actually connecting to other people. The Latte Generation texts, shares, forwards and emotes mere snippets of their lives, one virtual spoonful at a time, so that the people who are on the receiving end of those sparse bits of information are left to draw their own conclusions, to paint a larger picture of the person who is sharing. We feel we know a little bit about who they are: what they like, what they’ve eaten, where they’ve been, what their nascent politics might be, if they are careful enough not to disrupt a shrewd politically correct veil that social media provides. But, yet, we know nothing.


The Latte Generation spends precious time strumming through viral videos while sipping coffee at the window-seat bar of their local java house without seeing the life on the street right before them. And it’s not their fault; this is the way they have been socialized: to experience life one degree away from reality. We are teaching them how to be a voyeur, not a participant; and the greatest innovators of our time are those that create new ways to distance themselves from real life. Unless, that is, that real life includes those people whose life it is to create reality; the Kardashians, the Jenners, the Jonas, the Real Housewives, who aren’t real. They are manufactured reality, and the Latte Generation drinks in every moment.


There isn’t anything inherently bad about this direction; it’s just new. And whereas some people see Facebook (and the like) as an extension of their own social circle; a way to have those party conversations when there isn’t a party to attend – how have you been, how is work, what’s going on – it’s easy to see a future on the horizon where there are no parties, only the sound of quietly vibrating personal devices alerting to another update without ever really having to put out the energy to interact.


It’s a little scary to see how quickly things have changed, in the course of a decade or thereabouts. I long for the thick magazines at airports from my generation. Now, they are thin and the stories, short and easily digested. And there are less of them. We speak differently now. We no longer gather at places and seek out conversation or new personal adventure. We post. We don’t march, we go viral. We don’t mourn. We montage. Set to indie songwriting soundtracks and clever pre-made edits in Apps that allow us to manage our lives, not experience it.


And what of my generation – what do I call it, now that I can see it more clearly in retrospect? With a nod to the marvelous HBO series, The Leftovers, let’s call my generation the Guilty Remnant. I say that because those of us who survived that plague of the 1980’s and 1990’s all have a certain amount of guilt within us. Why me, when so many others did not survive? There is an inescapable sadness that we carry with us, supplanted only by immersing ourselves in experience, and travel, and wonder. At least, that is what works for me.


When I speak to the Latte Generation about the years past, there is a dull recognition that something important had just slipped past them. I tell them of the time before gay people were a staple on television, before the expansion of that community from just being Gay to LGBTQIA+. I tell them of a time when there was a urgent need to talk about equality. I try to paint a picture of a time when we all – so many of us – felt we were on the edge of something un-definable. I try to explain how empowering it was when we attended the March on Washington, and there was a million of us, or more. It was a sea of people and diversity and passion, all with the need to express themselves humanely, to one another. It was a time when we were on the precipice of change; before we were Will-And-Graced into a sublime normalization. It was a time when everything was tactile; our need to touch one another physically was met only by the desire to feel all of us collectively, emotionally. It was a time before we tuned into another new series and turned to one another to ask, which is the Gay character. It was time before cell phones; when the jangling of our old home land-lines in the middle of the night were alarms that another had passed away. It was a time that we became immune to the idea of loss, that the loss we had already experienced would be too great, and too much, at our young age. It was a time of tremendous compassion. And yes, being able to look back upon it now, leaves me with that sense of Guilt (with a capital “G”), that I didn’t say good-bye to too many friends, that I didn’t love deeply enough, that I am here at all. That is my generation. The Guilty Remnant.


And then, that member of the Latte Generation turns away. Later, they will Google The Names Project, and look a few photos.


But still. New ways to communicate give us new ways to become adaptable and make our voices heard. I am, as always, optimistic that this new generation, The Latte Generation, will continue to embrace diversity and empowerment and progressive politics. As long as they don’t have to meet one another to do it; and they can explain what they want, in one hundred and forty words, or less.

 

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