I Was Born In The '80s But Don’t Ever Call Me A Millennial

I was born in the wrong era. And I don’t think I’m the only one.

By its loose definition, I’m a millennial. But I couldn’t feel further from one. I don't relate to them whatsoever. Not their behaviours, not their listening habits, not their inspirations, not their supposed earnest woke worthiness.

Millennials: please don’t take this as yet another pile-on. I like avo on toast as much as the next guy. But I’ve sifted through the millennial traits, characteristics and zeitgeist-chasing. It’s just not me.

There’s no fixed definition, but the Pew Research Centre recently gave more structure to generational nicknames so you can see where you slot in here:

  • The Silent Generation: Born 1928-1945 (73-90 years old)

  • Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1964 (54-72 years old)

  • Generation X: Born 1965-1980 (38-53 years old)

  • Millennials: Born 1981-1996 (22-37 years old)

  • Post-Millennials: Born 1997-Present (0-21 years old)

I’m safely within the millennial time-frame reported here. But I feel like I belong somewhere else completely.

Many people born in the early '80s may similarly balk at being called a Millennial -- we're a microgeneration that is utterly unique.

Like Gen Xers, we grew up analogue. We didn't have the internet, smartphones, digital cameras or any of the technology that's now transformed our lives and defined many a Millennial childhood.

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When we were out with our friends, we used coin- operated payphones to call home. We played outside. We'd ring our friends' houses on clunky telephones with a rotary dial.

On holiday, we were always ready to load a roll of film into the back of a camera. We jammed out to cassette tapes, and even our parents' 8-track tapes and records.

Pac Man, Space Invaders, Encarta 96 and floppy discs were about as hi-tech as tech came. As technology grew up, we grew up with it -- but as children, it was living without it that shaped who we were.

Yet for many of us, it was also a childhood that also felt far removed from Gen Xers, some of whom were born or were children during the height of the civil rights movements, protest eras, the Vietnam War, bell bottoms and the disco scene.

But oddly, for me personally, it's in that scene that I actually feel right at home. I feel like I was born into the wrong generation completely.

Whenever that classic dinner party question arises, about the time machine and which era you’d travel back to, everyone else’s response makes me look like a trash bag. “Ancient Rome” one will say. “Tudor times” another will chime in. “No, no, ancient Greece, with all the philosophers. I can’t choose!”

My response is as instant and unequivocal as it is shamelessly hedonistic: “New York City, Studio 54, late '70s” I’ll shoot back, not missing a beat. (Watch the new Studio 54 documentary to discover why).

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The time machine would transport me right onto that disco dance floor with Liza, Cher, Freddie Mercury, Michael Jackson and me all having a dance-off to Sylvester. I’d win; Liza would come a close second for her cavorting chutzpah.

Growing up, whenever I’d see footage of San Francisco’s Castro district in the 1970s, I'd feel a kind of phantom nostalgia; a curious pang for a time and place I’d never even been present in.

There's no word to describe people like me, who feel they were born in the wrong generation. I don’t mean to age-appropriate, but the only way I can describe it is this: my physical body is 36 but my soul is at least 46. So I’ve decided to invent a term: the MillennX generation. It describes those on the cusp of Gen X and Millennials or those, like me, who feel they should’ve been born a decade earlier.

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Call it precociousness, being overly influenced by the bulldozing boomers, or just really uncool and fuddy-duddy, but I can’t help looking at pictures from the middle of Generation X’s era and feel green. That should’ve been me. I’m stuck inside the wrong body!

I can remember where it all started. I was nine, my mum took my sister and I down to Strood market, and a stall-seller was selling illegal, knock-off cassettes; reproductions which had been recorded from official versions, for £2.99 each.

“You can have one,” mum said. I begged for two.

“Just one!” she reiterated. My sister, a more normal child than I, picked Now That’s What I Call Music 37. I pleaded for my two and got my way: One Woman by Diana Ross and Gloria Estefan’s Greatest Hits (volume 1).

“What do you want these for!?” my mum asked, frowning and laughing.

The truth is, I don’t know.

As any MillennX will tell you, all we do know, is they don’t make ‘em like that any more. I’m talking about the classic divas, my spirit sisters: Tina Turner, Whitney, Aretha Franklin, Cher, Diana Ross, Dolly Parton. Era-defining images like Madonna’s conical bra or Jackson’s single glove.

Not the sweet but inane whine of Ariana Grande or the overproduced racket of Lady GaGa and whoever else frustrated Millennials listen to. Give me disco dance-floors and happy house '90s raves in fields any day, even though I was only about eight when they were all happening.

Those who are MillennX straddle both generations, cherry-picking the best characteristics and inspirations of Gen X and Gen Y (Millennials).

It means that we’re tech-savvy enough to know how to download, stream and use Google docs to escape 3,000 'track changes' in Word. But we also have the people skills to actually meet people face to face and speak to people on the phone to foster relationships. We don't place equal value on online and IRL interactions. This melange is the MillennX superpower.

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My ex-boyfriend, like most of my boyfriends, is 10 years older than me. I asked him why he was always saying I was born in the wrong decade. “I think it’s because you were born early enough in the '80s to appreciate and be influenced by the generation before you,” he said, “yet grew up during such huge change in culture, politics, music and technology.”

From Gloria Estefan knock-off cassettes to a head permanently daydreaming about being Freddie Mercury’s boyfriend at Studio 54: I just wanna party like it’s 1979.