Written by Tom Daly
Sarah Manavis’ recent piece for the New Statesman made a decent point about how a manufactured inter-generational rivalry between millennials and Generation Z distracts from the economic disparity both generations face when compared to their parents and grandparents. It was all pretty important stuff, but a less important part of it caught my attention. In the piece, Manavis mentions that Gen Z-ers are now dismissively calling Millenials ‘cheugy’, uncool in other words. Which made me wonder, ‘which generation do I belong to’?
Now, the official definition of the generations varies – some count millennials as being born 1980-1995, others as 1980-2000 with Generation Z basically being anyone born afterward. Being born in 1996, I fall somewhere on the border. Does this mean I get to choose which generation I belong to, or is it more to do with shared life experiences and outlooks? Which generation do I have more in common with?
The fact that I had never heard of the word ‘cheugy’ before reading the article probably means that I am a millennial, but there are other things too. I’m not on TikTok, for a start. The piece refers to skinny jeans going out of fashion, but I am horrified by the thought of regular cut trousers coming back in a way that only someone who remembers the noughties can be. The fact that you tend to look up to your elders in school means that I have always identified more with those who are older than me, i.e. millennials, than those who are younger than me. When Marcus Rashford became the first high profile footballer to be younger than me (by a full year!), I was positively heartbroken. Now, I just roll my eyes when I see premier league footballers with birthdays in the 2000s. Perhaps my chance will never come after all.
On that note, is there something to be said for the role of digits in this? 2000 was only four years after I was born. I can only just about barely remember the 90s, and only because I have a weirdly sharp memory. But being born in 1996 just makes me feel so much older than someone born in 2000, in a way that perhaps isn’t the case for someone who was born in 1992 and is looking at me. I can’t really remember the turn of the millennium, but how could I possibly relate to someone who wasn’t even born by then?
Then there’s the fact that I have a much younger brother. Granted, at 14 he is on the younger side of Gen Z, but he regularly makes me feel incredibly old. While I grew up with Playstations one and two, he grew up with iPads. I grew up with Tracy Beaker, That’s So Raven and Drake and Josh while he grew up with YouTube personalities. He giggles when I say I’ve never heard of a song that is apparently ‘huge’ on TikTok, while I was absolutely stunned when he told me he’d never heard of Gazza. Am I over the hill now at 24?
Or am I actually a part of his generation? I also see a lot of snooty articles from older millennials who sense that they are under attack, cursing the young upstarts. Look at them with their flared jeans, parted hair, laughing at our ‘adulting’, the articles say. I nod along enthusiastically – damn those young’uns! – until I see them say that Gen Z applies to anyone under the age of about 26. NO! Don’t lump me in with them! I’M ONE OF YOU!
But wait. Cursing my luck at being squeezed by the tuts from older millennials at one end and the insulting giggles of Gen Z from the other, I finally find my people. Mary Everett’s article for Popsugar suggests that there is actually another generation within the two generations – a kind of in between generation.
I’m neither a millennial nor a Gen Z-er. I’m a Zennial.
Everett suggests that Zennials were born between 1992-1998, although I would probably extend that to 1999. We grew up with the internet being a thing, but it was a place for funny videos rather than toxic social media and we still find it a luxury that we don’t have to snatch a spot at the family desktop to get on it. Sure, mobile phones were around when we were children, but it was still an age where flip-up Motorola’s were considered cutting edge. I can still remember my family landline number by heart. Yeah, we had iPods and MP3 players but is listening from Spotify really comparable to the hours-long uploads, Bluetooth swappings and even patiently recording a song from the TV, praying that no one in your family would make a noise? I think not. And as for baggy jeans, don’t you kids realise that those were things in the 90s and 00s? We already did that. We did not look good.
So, having always identified more with millennials, but finding myself being unjustly bracketed in with Gen Z, I’m happy to report that I have found my new tribe. I’m a Zennial!
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash. Image licence found here. No changes have been made to this image.