Beat JENeration #028: Gen X is Having a Shitty Week

Gen X’s having kind of a shit week. The death of our generation’s quintessential teen crush, Luke Perry, was just too much, too soon. And even though that alone was all it took to break my heart, on The Facebook and in conversations with my way-too-young-and-hip-to-be-in-their-forties friends, I realized the dawning of our mortality was closing in from other angles as well.

Somehow in an attempt to block out an Academy Awards I wasn’t invested in, I missed the whole Selma Blair chronic illness reveal in her gorgeous Ralph & Russo gown and custom monogrammed cane. Now that I’m caught up, I see she announced her MS diagnosis back in October and in doing so told a very familiar story of doctors explaining away her 2011 flair up as exhaustion and typical postpartum / mommy / women-y problems. I have been hearing tales such as these over the past couple-few years from friends and colleagues (all female, strangely enough, hmmmmm….) who have been lugging their undiagnosed and routinely belittled illnesses in and out of doctor’s offices. Treated as if their aches, pains, and debilitating fatigue was more emotional baggage than medical reality, they are slowly driven mad questioning their ability to effectively communicate what is happening to them. If they are lucky, the gaslighting stops once they get a diagnosis that makes their once vague symptoms finally seen for what they actually are.

But as members of Generation X, we’re a cynical lot, and so it’s not surprising that the actress who won an MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss in 2000 (with Sarah Michelle Gellar for Cruel Intentions — I’ll wait while you rewatch that) had to air her medical woes on GMA to highlight this disturbing issue of middle-aged properly-insured women having to go into battle over their health care.

So, now America knows, but still we can’t help being pissy — and skeptical that things are going to change — but at least we’re starting to be heard.  Maybe. 

Monday also brought us the suicide of The Prodigy frontman Keith Flint. While I wasn’t really an 80’s rave scene girl and thus not a fan of that (or any) electronic group, we all spent at least a couple weeks of 1997 dancing around to “Firestarter.” Making him, at the very least, a footnote to a shroom story.

Flint was only 49 and The Prodigy was set to tour for last year’s No Tourists release. He was still hella relevant. Which is why regardless of one’s musical taste, it’s extremely sad to think of how hopeless he must of felt.

Others’ inner turmoil is the one thing that seems to penetrate our generational armor. Probably because we had to face this kind of thing early. River Phoenix. Kurt Cobain.

Girls like me, who spent their youth wearing black and idolizing Sylvia Plath, always feel a maudlin respect at the demise of our generational heroes and those that came (and went) before. Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix – going out young, cool, and tragically high as fuck. James Dean and Marilyn Monroe  – reaching immortality by dying young and gorgeous. But seeing it in real time is haunting, hardening.

Chalk that up as yet another reason to explain our generational cynicism. But even still, the recent death toll of our icons and idols has been frightening.

Carrie Fisher. David Bowie. Prince. Gene Wilder. Florence Henderson. George Michael. Alan Rickman. Garry Shandling.

But the core difference between someone like Carrie Fisher who meant the world to us and Luke Perry is that we watched Perry grow up and age in real time. He felt accessible and inspirational at the same time the way those from another generation did not.

As Gen X, we don’t want to come across as feeling special. We know we are not. We watched other generations feel this, but now that it’s our time, please bear with us. We’re in shock. This is new.

Yes, Brittany Murphy’s death stung in 2009, but I was still young enough for that to feel like an anomaly. The next year when Alexander McQueen took his own life, that hurt more, but I attributed those feelings as intense sympathy for anyone who suffers through depression.

For the record, I never gave a shit that Tupac kicked it. Frankly, I’m appalled that Gen Z girls are buying t-shirts at Forever 21 with his convicted rapist face on them.

Which I guess takes me to another big issue some of my Gen Xers (though not me, personally) are struggling with – Michael Jackson, pedophile.

I have been perpetually angry since the Jackson died his freaky (and brand appropriate) death and suddenly everyone conveniently forgot the Wacko Jacko tabloid fodder and even more importantly, the strong sexual abuse allegations against him. The deification of MJ has been more of a Baby Boomer & older Millennial thing, but I know a lot of people our age were not immune.

You liked his music when you were young, I get it.

People who are imperfect sometimes are also talented. We’ve all heard a story about someone’s asshole ex-boyfriends who happen to also be in a really great band.

Sometimes it’s complicated to work through it. Like for example, Ryan Adams. Yeah, I’ll admit it, that was painful because his Taylor Swift cover album was my second most played album last year and I had a really soft place in my heart for early Whiskeytown. But sometimes  acts of emotionally abusive assholery are greater than a good chord progression or the harmonies on “Inn Town”.

Eliminating pedophiles from our our pop culture lives, however, is a no brainer!

Or it should be. Everyone needs to come to terms that one can make a great dance track, but be a vile person who deserves none of praise. There are other songs you can get your groove on to that aren’t tinged by a serial history of molesting young boys.

In the recently released HBO doc Leaving Neverland, we are faced with two guys roughly our age, James Safechuck and Wade Robinson, talking about how at 7 and 10 years old Michael Jackson groomed and abused them. Yes, yes, it’s salacious and all kinds of people can come up with all kinds of excuses. But generationally, we’re finding ourselves at the age where we are also able to cope with our pasts and finally talk about complicated feelings. That alone is why their stories should be totally believable. This is when they were ready to tell their truth. 

Maybe this is because as we approach our forties, we have families of our own. Or we can afford a good therapist. Or we don’t want to see the last half of our lives burdened with emotional turmoil. I!n the wake of #TimesUp, #MeToo, and hopefully a swelling of support for the victims who come out of the woodwork in the wake of this that more unsavory facts will be revealed. As a generation of latch-key kids dealing with our childhood issues, I think there’s going to be lots of coming to to terms with ugly pasts. And if they are not our own, we need to be ready to hear, believe, and empathize with stories of others.

Yeah, this week sucks.  Yeah, I think it’s going to get worse. But, I think it will get better. Eventually.