I’ve been reading about millennials in the news lately. My guess is because my generation has a lot of group anxiety about the holidays, spending money we don't have, going home for family dinners, and at large political discord with the current atmosphere.
There was an interview recently on the Daily Show with Tomi Lahren. The line that's stuck out to me most is when Tomi doesn't want to be labeled as “a conservative,” and she says “I’m a millennial so I don't like labels.” Naturally Trevor Noah took issue with her using a label to say why she doesn't like them, but she wasn't really wrong about her generalization about my generation.
Like most of what was said in the interview, Tomi oversimplified an issue by boiling it down to a sound byte. I don't fault her for it. She got famous on Facebook, a forum that, like TV, doesn't really allow for nuance.
We don't like labels, but precisely for why our parents love them so much. They’re too simple.
I think this internet generation knows more than previous ones about nuance. We see the world more. We have visibility everywhere. We have more mobility than any other age. Despite our so-called solitary lives glued to our phones, we are obsessed with ride sharing, micro apartment sharing, supper clubs, and meet-up groups. We flock to cities that facilitate a community lifestyle.
Our parents’ parents invented the suburbs for this, and as a result, they self-segregated. We moved to the city to diversity our understanding of the world.
We don't like labels because they aren't inclusive. We know that most of us fall into a spectrum most of the time. Most things aren’t black or white, they’re various shades of grey.
I always get a little confused watching movies like Mean Girl (and earlier) about high school. I know this sounds hugely naive and optimistic, but I went to a public Seattle-area suburb high school that just didn't have those self-drawn lines they sing about in High School Musical (confession: one of my fave movies).
I think if I went to one of those movie high schools, I’d have been lost. I’m not talented, brainy, artsy, athletic, musical, dramatic, edgy, alternative, cool, sexy, or any of those roles people in those movies seem to get cast into so naturally.
Instead, I was friends with people who were all of those things. My best friends in high school were Katie, the crazy smart musician who kicked my ass at tennis and got cast in all the plays as I watch just about every person she spoke to fall in love with her. My other best friend Poncho Paul was, well, odd in a way that is very difficult to explain except to say that he was the reason I am climbing into my own bedroom window in that photo (it was full of newspaper, and only one of many quirky but weirdly affectionate things that would happen over those years at BHS).
We attended high school in a graduating class that didn’t have a prom king or queen, but did have a random square dance that no one was afraid of having fun at.
Ten years later, I attended a reunion where about half of our 450 class of 2005’ers showed up, some of whom were so excited to meet my sister for the first time despite not hanging in the same group as my twin and I in high school.
I know that there were exceptions to this inclusion, and I regret that I was more blind to those exceptions than I think I would be now. There were marginalized group in my idyllic teenage bubble, but nothing like what I have ever seen on TV.
My point is that people are more than just one thing. We don’t like labeling people because we don’t like defining people by just one thing about them. We know, now more than ever, that people exist on a million spectrums. I’m not just white. I’m not just female. I’m not just my political party or job title or marital status or astrological sign. I am not a caricature. Neither are you. Neither is that person who just cut you off or your sibling who blocked you on social media or that shooter in the news.
So while I’ll leave it up to everyone else to write the things I want to say about the Daily Show Tomi Lahren interview, I will say that I’ll give her that one piece. I’m a millennial and I don’t like labels.