Millenials and Gen Z are striking back. For years, a lot of people our age—from Gen X on up—have been complaining about those under the age of 30 . How they feel entitled. How they’re allergic to hard work. How they are glued to their screens all the time.
The young ones aren’t having that anymore. They’ve come up with a retort: “OK, Boomer.” That shouldn’t be taken as agreement or compliance. It’s defiance. A drop of the gauntlet. A “we’ll show you” statement.
For Millenials and Gen Z, it’s a way to articulate their frustration with a generation that has gone through life consuming and having what they want—at any cost. Boomers are seen as the main culprits behind climate change and economic inequality.
The phrase has been showing up on T-shirts, socks and other merchandise. And it’s been selling. One popular T-shirt, pictured above, shows “OK, Boomer” printed over and over in the style of the generic plastic bags that stores put your groceries in. Instead of “Have a Nice Day” at the bottom; the “OK, Boomer” version says “Have a Terrible Day.”
“Everybody in Gen Z is affected by the choices of the boomers, that they made and are still making,” an 18-year-old told the New York Times. “Those choices are hurting us and our future. Everyone in my generation can relate to that experience and we’re all really frustrated by it.”
Young people are tired of such widespread criticism. “Bruh they raised us why they complaining,” was a comment on a TikTok post of a woman painting a snowflake on a rock next to the words “OK, Boomer.” Good point. How do we come up with the stereotypes of the younger generations that so many of us throw around? It seems that having been raised in the 60s and 70s, as part of a generation that was constantly mischaracterized by the “grown ups,” we would have more sense that young people are always going to baffle their elders and create their own rules.
So maybe we deserve the dismissive sentiment? Maybe we should check any comments that add fuel to the intergenerational tension. For instance, I was about to write an aside about the lack of punctuation in the TikTok comment, but reconsidered when I imagined it could make me sound like a pursed-lip schoolmarm.
Sadly, I agree with the belief that the older generations have done much to leave the planet and our country in bad shape. We need to seriously examine our actions and not give ourselves a pass with an “I won’t be around anyhow” when we think of the impact of climate change. And I try to imagine how issues like income inequality, student debt, and the deterioration of our democratic institutions feel to people just starting their lives and wondering how they’ll make a decent living or afford a family.
Instead of being offended, I’m going to use the “OK, Boomer” meme as a wake up call—to think harder and use my experience, resources, and vote to accomplish more.