A Sharp Stick in Your Eye. And My Eye, Too.

Posted On October 22, 2015

So apparently, millennials don’t like to be referred to as entitled.

Los Angeles Times columnist Chris Erskine found out as much when he created a “millennial pledge” in a recent column. Framed as a list of action points “signifying a ceremonial crossing into adulthood,” the list hits on several themes familiar to the popular picture of millennialism.

Dress up for that interview. Be on time. Put down the coffee and take that part-time job, “even if I feel like it’s beneath me.” Put down the phone. And when you do pick it up, how about making an actual phone call?

These are, of course, generalizations, and Erskine’s column was overtly tongue-in-cheek, also including such nuggets as “I will not consider the cilantro on my taco to be a vegetable,” and “If my first-born is a boy, I promise not to name him Uber.”

But the central thread running throughout the piece was unmistakable – the common perception of millennials as overly entitled – and millennials who read the piece weren’t amused.

He was called condescending, insufferable and a hack, and he responded with another column, saying: “this is what you get when you raise an entire generation without spanking.” But amid the name-calling, some valid points were raised:

  • Older generations — the Baby Boomers and Generation X — weren’t exactly all bang-up role models on running an economy or taking care of the planet, either.
  • Proselytizing to young adults on what it should mean to be an adult reads like the Simpson’s cartoon of a newspaper clipping featuring Abe Simpson with the headline: “Old Man Yells at Cloud.”
  • Not everyone in the 18-to-34 age group is crippled by an overbearing sense of entitlement.

Yes, this generation spends more time texting than its parents, but its parents didn’t grow up with smartphones. And don’t let us fool you – now that we have smartphones, we’re texting, too.

And while some millennials may expect things to be handed to them, their generation does not have the market cornered on entitlement either. Anyone who has ever played a sport, in any era, has known a player or two who just expected to be given that starting position or starring role without first proving it was deserved, and anyone who has ever been a part of the workplace, in any era, has known a co-worker who expected that promotion or that bigger office without working his or her way up to it.

So we can forgive millennials for being testy when they’re all painted with the same brush. And we can look deeper into Erskine’s column and find things that we can all take to heart:

  • “I will not burn bridges.”
  • “I will be resourceful, creative and authentic.”
  • “I will learn to pick my battles.”
  • “I will not run up my credit cards.”
  • “I will do nice things just because.”

Maybe we all need a reminder now and then of what it should mean to be an adult.

Categories: Generation Y / Millennials