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OPINION | MY SO-CALLED MILLENNIAL LIFE: What defines an elder millennial?

by Cassie McClure | March 15, 2021 at 1:50 a.m.

This week, I'll be married for 10 years. I don't have student loan debt, but I have advanced degrees. I am not religious, but I'm not an atheist. I have a mortgage and recently invested in new windows. I speak to my houseplants and to my two children. I'm counted as an elder millennial.

There's a broad band of diversity in our cohort, not just racial and ethnic diversity, which is more than any generation before us and expanded by Gen Z, but also the diverse ways we've experienced the generation. Matt Pearce, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, noted in a survey investigating elder millennials on Twitter that "generations are arbitrary, made-up categories with no firm boundaries, yet they are a durable, entrenched fiction we all deploy as a shorthand to interpret and order the inherent chaos of our social condition."

I agree. Generations are like astrology — fun to debate, but when you give too much emphasis to how it shapes your life and future, people should be allowed to give you the side eye. I'm also somewhat against splitting hairs with Xennials and Zennials, those who feel like they walk in the bog of stereotypes and relate to both. My advice is to just think of the range in the same way: You're an Earth sign with your moon rising in Old Person.

Millennials are defined by Pew Research as adults born between 1981 and 1996. Yes, we're all adults. If your math is rusty, that's 25-year-olds all the way to 40-year-olds. That's one hell of a spread. I remember being a 25-year-old being befriended in grad school by those inching toward 40. We had little to nothing but our degree in common, and they received some real glee at observing my firsts — first time renting a car, first time house shopping, first pregnancy.

The trend somehow continued for me. When I tried to crowdsource stereotypes of elder millennials from my friends, my problem was that most of my friends are Gen Xers — cynical, sarcastic, aloof people who are probably some of the most honest and fun people I've met. They were the ones to have around in a pandemic, already weary, already tired, already understanding of the fact that we're all alone in the end, and likely secretly crossing their fingers that flannel will make a comeback.

I'm amused at the online discussion on where the part in our hair defines us. Suddenly, I am an Old due to my being convinced by a stylist roughly five years ago that I should part my hair on one side or the other. That said, I'm horrified at the return of plastic chokers and butterfly clips, and I'm anxiously waiting for the bleached-tipped hair on the Four Horsemen of the '90s Fashion Apocalypse to run in, aptly, during the tail end of the pandemic.

Pearce asked in the survey about the more intangible markers that define a generation. Some of the tweeted replies explained generation cohorts in two shared experiences: those who watched their parents' lives decay under The Great Recession and those who watched 9/11.

My memories aren't terribly unique. I remember clutching my steering wheel as I listened to the second tower fall on my drive to school. I remember being at my after-school Office Max job watching the TV that was pulled to the front of the store with my co-workers. No customers were in the store. The managers were the age I am now or even younger. They were scared. We all were.

The next few days and weeks were a blur, but plenty of friends signed up for the military. Our town was heavy with military families like mine. However, I do remember the next few years of dead service members' faces shown on the nightly news, their birth years or ages hovering around my own.

Some days, I remember that plenty of my cohorts died before they could be asked about their millennial experience. In that, I think other generations could probably say the same about members of theirs.

Cassie McClure is a writer, wife/mama/daughter, fan of the Oxford comma (sorry, Cassie) and drinker of tequila. Some of those things relate. She can be contacted at

Print Headline: What defines an older millennial?


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