I've finally pushed all the way through David Shaftel's "Brunch is for Jerks" article, and something tells me this is not the last time we will have this conversation.
Not a conversation about brunch, of course. From what I can tell, this is not an article that really has anything to do with how late we're eating breakfast. In fact, aside from a few stray jabs at "rote menus" and suspicious hollandaise sauce, the Times writer doesn't display any interest in talking about food at all.
This is a conversation about the 20 years in between me and David Shaftel, and he makes it pretty clear exactly which one of us is the "jerk."
Shaftel's piece openly zeroes in on "well-off young professionals" who "fritter away" valuable weekends that could be used for work. It's a thinly veiled attack on a youth culture that wishes to "reject adulthood," something Shaftel could only realize with "the introspection that comes with being forty." Regardless of how you feel about brunch, this article is just the New York Times editorial board's latest way of declaring that they don't make young people like they used to.
The generational battle is not a new concept. Over the past four or five years, we've all read enough articles about millennials to make us throw up our free-range, ironic, vintage quinoa salads. One writer will publish something desperately pandering about how "tech-savvy" and politically conscious we are, another will fire back with another zinger about Facebook and narcissism.
Meanwhile, actual millennials are fetching these writers' dry-cleaning for approximately zero-point-zero bitcoins an hour.
A common misconception is that this battle's being waged between today's young people and baby boomers, but for the New York Times, the resentment seems to stem from elsewhere. Generation X, tired of being the middle child between two more talked about peer groups, have been publishing their resentment of young people at an incredible rate, and the Gray Lady has been their biggest supporter.
And to be completely fair, I find it kind of hard to blame them. The accomplishments of that generation, who are now between 40 and 55 years old, are often overlooked, lumped together, or attributed to someone else. The youth of the '80s and '90s had their own hipsters, silly t-shirts and horrible electronic music - if a new crop of human beings came along and acted like they invented all that, you'd be frustrated, too.
What makes millennials so important, anyway? Why do they get to go to brunch and drink mimosas every Saturday while I have to take my stupid kid to the doctor and be all introspective?
But the only reason millennials are so talked about is because we came along with a new kind of media, which made us the most exciting 18-24 demographic to sell things to in decades. We only give ourselves names to feel important. These names, of course, don't really exist in real life: there are only people resenting each other for being younger or older versions of ourselves, on and on for eternity, or until ISIS uses global warming to flood the world with Ebola-infected polar bears.
So despite the fact that young people did nothing to deserve, nor derive any real benefit from this media scrutiny, the Times have made a business out of hating them for it. And after a few other people called them out for it, this criticism has been pushed underground, or at least into more covert channels.
And that's how we got this curious David Shaftel piece. Is it about brunch, or is it about gentrification? Is he a populist bemoaning the loss of his "once-diverse neighborhood," or the kind of person who refers to a meal he had once as "that hedonistic all-day affair in Dubai"? One second he's making references to Jeff Koons and the Strokes, the next he's trying to take back the Sundays that "were traditionally reserved for families." He's like George Will in a Sonic Youth t-shirt.
Shaftel, I think, is a victim of this generational neurosis that's been forced on all of us. Part of the introspection he's experiencing is simply the distaste for youth that comes with getting older. And there's nothing wrong with that: young people are stupid! We're so stupid that most of us have trouble finding jobs and have to live with our parents after graduating with immense student debt! And our pants are too tight! The jokes just write themselves.
But what's even more stupid is dressing that distaste up like it's something else. If there's anything that disproves the idea that these generations are truly different, it's these articles. Older people have been complaining about the loss of tradition and family values for as long as young people have been consuming irresponsibly and getting bad haircuts.
The new media's tendency has been to cater towards younger readers. If the New York Times is taking a stand against that, the writers should know that they're only feeding the fire by acknowledging its logic. Lending your credibility to the idea that this new generation is somehow any more irritating than the ones before it will only encourage the silly idea that it's somehow more important.
If you don't approve of what the kids are doing, Mr. Shaftel, just say it without trying to involve Julian Casablancas and eggs benedict. I'm sure you'd find a lot more supporters if you did.