Gen X Is Getting Hit Uniquely Hard By Coronavirus

I have to admit that at first I thought the Reality hurts the memes flying around social media at the start of the COVID-19 epidemic were hilarious. A glance from Ethan Hawke or a shrug from Winona Ryder was the perfect way to sum up how Generation X was meeting this moment. “Sit on your couch and stay at home!” we laughed. “We have done it all our lives!”

But as the epidemic grew and then settled, crippling entire cities and communities, I stopped finding humor in it, not only because the virus was terrifying and seemingly everywhere, but because the Xers generation, in the middle of our lives, were now in a particularly precarious position – worrying about our parents, who were both more vulnerable to the virus and seemed slow to grasp its severity, and our children, who are too old to be fully led, but still young enough to feel (mistakenly) invincible.

We are a generation (I’m in the middle of it, at 46) better known for our reputation as a collective slacker, but I quickly realized that we had to abandon this character to get through it.

I write these two weeks in our family quarantine. While I’m doing it, my 15-year-old tennis team is doing catch-up fitness on Zoom and my 13-year-old is walking around asking her if she can make an apple pie. We’re starting a discussion on the preciousness of fresh fruit right now, and she sighs audibly and rolls her eyes and steps back.

I try to refocus on my work – paying homework is precious these days – but I notice that my throat hurts a little, and I wonder how my family could endure if I am uncomfortable. I check my temperature (again). It’s normal, and yet I worry, I worry, I worry. My husband goes down singing The Phantom of the Opera, a habit you may not realize is perhaps unbearably annoying until you get stuck inside with someone for weeks. However, I try not to reprimand him. He is asthmatic, and I find that I am more concerned with his general health than I am. I worry. I worry. I worry. After spending too much time on Twitter last night, I texted her from the living room: I don’t want you to run more errands. I will do it. He sent me a text: okay but why? The answer, of course, is: I worry.

Hilarious Social Distancing Memes

My parents, in their sixties, live five thousand kilometers away, and I started calling them every day. Before the coronavirus, it was once or twice a week. Sometimes my mom had to send an email and send a text message before I picked up the phone. Although it is not said now, we all probably know that I hit the base every night to make sure that none of them got sick, to try to keep control of a situation that is entirely out of hand. my control. I get angry when they tell me they’ve taken the elevator to their building. ((Take the stairs! I yell) I try to convince them to leave town. ((Get out of New York! I implore.) I start treating them the same way I treat my teens – like a group of toddlers that I can manage in one way or another. This is partly because I worry; partly because it would be easier if people listened to me, which no one does.

Like so many Gen Xers, I learned these emotionally sensitive skills in just a few weeks. They are clumsy and unfamiliar; I’m still not in the habit of sentimentally disconnecting my emails or phone calls, even during a pandemic. Indeed, the Gen Xers meandered through life with a sardonic apathy: Everything is cool, ok? Just give us our space, let us cool, it will be managed. We had just grown up as ratchet children in the context of the Cold War and the AIDS crisis. We spent our afternoons playing Space Invaders on our Ataris (no screen time limit) and kicking until dusk before going home and inhaling Chef Boyardee and Twinkies (no nutritional limits). It was not surprising that the softer children turned into softer adults. We do our job, to be clear, but we don’t have to do a big production on that either; we don’t have to do it emotionally invest too much, you know?


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