Recently, I wrote a post about a TikTok the New York Times Opinion channel put up in which contributing opinion editor Jessica Bennett spoke about being a self-described "geriatric millennial," who has noticed she dresses like younger people (because she has never really changed her style) and how she doesn't want to fade "into cultural irrelevance."
And along with dressing how we want and keeping up with pop culture, Jessica brings up the fact that unlike previous generations, millennials are growing older without the trade-offs that becoming "uncool" used to come with, like owning a house, retirement savings, having a stable job, etc.
Jessica's views on getting older as a millennial were super thought-provoking and made me realize that I think millennials are the generation that might change what it's like to age and still be "with it." And, apparently, a lot of you felt the same way or had some thoughts on that as the post got a lot of comments.
I rounded up some of the best comments from BuzzFeed millennial and Gen X (and even boomers) readers about their thoughts on aging and whether or not they want to fight off falling "into cultural irrelevance":
"As a 31-year-old, I don't particularly care about being 'culturally relevant.' I just do my own thing...but what hit home to me was what she said about how for previous generations, yes, you'd get old and uncool, but by that time, you'd have a house and a family and a stable income, so it seemed like a fair trade. Since lots of millennials (including myself) don't have those things, it's much harder to get to grips with growing older."
"I'm 42, and have never been concerned about being relevant. I do my thing, keep to myself, and don't subscribe to this bullshit. Do people actually care about this?"
"Meh! Don’t care to keep up, I’m in my early 30s and couldn’t care less about trends. Wear what you want, just be yourself. The young shall grow!"
"I'm 39. I’ve already known I was uncool because my 12-year-old son reminds me of it daily. I got made fun of for wearing a fanny pack as a cross-body. That’s genius when you’re out with three kids! DGAF what anyone thinks when it comes to how I dress, it’s about what I like, what works best for the situation, and how I feel."
"I’m a young Gen X'er, and I have a youthful mind and vitality. Always have. I vote to be the change on what getting older looks like. Following the same old tropes of the last generation is ugh. Let’s change the dynamic; we don’t have to be our parents and grandparents. Take the good stuff and incorporate into the new. Not the remixing, though, eek!"
"IDGAF how I dress, and I have 'kids' (30 and under) literally stop me in stores just to excitedly say, 'I just love...ALL of this!' or 'OMG, I LOVE your style' or 'Your whole VIBE.' I don't try to impress people, I just wear what I like, and people apparently gravitate toward that. I won't apologize.
However, the BEST way not to embarrass yourself is to wear *timeless* stuff. I wouldn't be caught dead in a lot of the Y2K fashion THEN, and I definitely won't NOW. (It's also how people think my grandmother is my mom. She's not trying to be hip, but dressing tirelessly makes you ageless!)
TL;DR: Don't follow wild trends, but also don't give a shit what people think. Easiest way to stay whatever age you want to be."
"Being in your 30s and early 40s is not 'old!' Stop trying to make me feel like I'm 70."
"'Trends' are what define 'age.' When something goes 'out of style,' it's considered 'old,' and vice-versa when something is 'in style.' My question has always been: Why are we letting the younger generation (teenagers and 20-somethings) decide what's cool and what's not cool? I was a reckless teenager, and in my 20s, I lived by the mantra 'striving,' when my 30s have been nothing but 'thriving.' I was striving to 'be someone or something' without realizing I'm growing more into who I am, authentically.
As we get older, we gain wisdom and a broader concept and understanding of the world around us. There's no such thing as 'keeping up,' it's a delusion the fashion industry, and many other industries, have implanted in our culture."
"I'm 65 and have watched this cycle several times. About the only thing I find off-putting is when old farts try staying relevant by adopting youth culture."
"I'm not going to feel 'uncool' for doing something that my generation originally made 'cool,' but I was never cool in the first place. I'm definitely not wearing those wide-legged jeans again! I only wore them because I got made fun of for wearing leggings, and I wish I hadn't caved. The same people who made fun of me were wearing leggings a few years later when they became trendy. Being yourself is definitely the most timeless trend."
"Squash ageism! Do what you want and don't give AF!!!"
"I'm 45, and don't feel old at all, but that's from my perspective. How a 20-year-old thinks of me is probably akin to dinosaur status. When I was a teen in the '90s, the Beatles made a huge comeback in pop culture, and wearing vintage '70s clothes (think hippie) was cool. In the '00s, the 80's were cool. It happens generation after generation, and I think it's pretty awesome. 😊"
"Elder millennial (1981) here; of course, we are sliding into cultural irrelevance! And that's good!!! Each generation is going to find new and exciting ways to dress, create, and consume art, make culture. Enjoying the culture of younger generations and watching them enjoy our contributions is fantastic, but I do not have the reins of culture, nor do I want them!
Personally, I was always the awkward, geeky kid, and it has been fantastic watching all the things I have always loved have their moments in the cultural zeitgeist. But sooner rather than later, they will be passé, and something else will be cool. I'm not going to chase that thing, and I'm not going to be sad my thing is over. I'll just keep being me and being a fan of the youths."
"I'm Gen X, and I will never stop trying to keep up with clothes, music, and pop culture in general. Not only do I enjoy it, but studies about brain plasticity and dementia all point toward novel experiences as important for brain health."
"I'm 36. I wear what looks good on my body and what suits my style. If something I already love is back in style, awesome. If something I love isn’t in style and looks great on me, still wearing it!"
"I’m 33, and I’m enjoying revisiting trends that I wore in high school and college, and revisiting them in a way that feels more authentic to me vs. when I was still so young and not terribly understanding of what my personal style really was.
Keep it coming! Though, I will never do low rise again; that one stays in the past! 😂"
"Some of the things that were/are trendy back in high school I wasn’t allowed/couldn’t afford to have, so I’m getting them now. And I’m not sorry."
"I was never cool, and I don't think I could EVER be cool even if I tried, so I just do my own thing and don't worry about it — but I'm always open to new things if they catch my eye. I think it's good for you to notice when there are new things coming along that you would enjoy, because it enriches your life, but you don't need to pressure yourself to stay on trend with everything forever."
"As a solid Gen X'er, I agree that it’s important to keep up with what’s going on in the world, including entertainment. Nothing makes you look old like complaining that you didn’t know any of the people at the Grammys/Met Gala/MTV Awards. That said, entertainment is more fragmented than ever. You can know all the top pop music and have no idea who the hottest EDM artist is, and that’s fine. Also, I have a daughter who is 14, and she thinks anyone over 25 is 'old,' so no matter what you do, you’ll still seem ancient to teenagers, so no point worrying about that."
Alright, fellow millennials, where do you fall in this conversation? Do you want to keep up with trends and pop culture and in a way rewrite what's likely to age? Or are you OK with falling "into cultural irrelevance?" Let us know in the comments below!