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Graying, Gen X and Generational Leapfrog
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Youth culture lives. But some women are aging against the machine.

It means more than you think.

Girls can go gray as young as age 13. Teens who go prematurely silver are abandoning what would have been the standard shame-based response of the past: racing to buy hair dye. Now gray-haired teens and 20-somethings are joining their black- and red-haired, blonde and brunette brethren — and what would have prompted stares a decade ago suddenly seems normal.

Letting natural silver and gray grow out predated the pandemic by several years, but what Glamour calls “the gray-hair revolution” exploded during the 2020 lockdown. “I do remember just feeling like that was a silly thing to be concerned about right now,” a 39-year-old Texas woman who’d previously dyed her mane every three weeks told The Washington Post. Countless women dye so often that they can’t imagine what natural would look like. “The curiosity took over. I think one of the things that has surprised me is that I actually like it.”

Inspired by the decade-long trend, millennial women in their 20s and 30s who haven’t yet gone naturally gray have also adopted the “granny gray” look. In Manhattan, where I live, gray-haired young women are so commonplace that no one gives them a second glance. Ironically, these hairstyle Benjamin Buttons are using toxic chemicals to achieve a natural look.

Now the “grannycore” dress is all the rage. (Synonyms include “grandma chic” and, an offense to the English language, “grandmillennial.”)

Anti-style has become high style. Young urban professionals are paying top dollar for long, shapeless floral print dresses with prints reminiscent of a 1930s feed bag. Dorothea Lange meets Saks.

You don’t need a doctorate in cultural psychology to suss out the nostalgic impulse here. COVID-19 prompted numerous people to rethink their priorities, to opt out of the rat race. Millions are dropping out of the workforce; a job fair held at the Denver airport that expected 5,000 applicants only got 100. Millions more have moved from big cities to the countryside and there’s no sign they’re ever going back. College applications are way down, a trend driven by young men who fear graduating with a massive burden of student loan debt. Craving simplicity and comfort while saying goodbye to an increasingly cruel world, Americans want to get back to basics.

Old feels basic.

Of course, fashion is window dressing. Sure, you want to look like grandma. But would you hire her?

Silicon Valley, its major employers disproportionately populated by young CEOs, continues to maintain ageism as one of its core religious values. Discrimination against workers over age 35 is so rampant that an ad expressing a different sentiment made national news. “Unlike Silicon Valley, we do not discriminate based on age,” read an August listing for a senior software developer by a Chicago-based startup. “Experience matters. We hire old people. (And young people, too.)”

On the other hand, you might date grandma: 90% of men say they’d date someone 10 years older or more.


Whether we’re paranoid or clearly recognizing objective truth, those of us in that Generation X never-sweet-at-any-age demographic spot suspect that millennials aren’t merely ignoring us — we’re used to that — but are actively plotting our demise. If you’re over 40 these days, mass media doesn’t bother to cover the book you wrote, the band you sing for or the stuff you like to buy. This desire to look old, really old, significantly older than me at 58, serves as a can’t-look-away reminder that generational politics isn’t just personal, it’s familial.

Millennials are mimicking granny fashions. Who are grannies now? Not Gen Xers 15 or 20 years older than them. Today’s grannies are baby boomers — millennials’ parents. It’s another example of “generational leapfrog,” the cultural phenomenon of memory-holing a generation by making whatever is cool, desirable, profitable, etc. the provenance of those who are younger and older — just not you.

Gen Xers have been generationally leapfrogged throughout their lives. They’ve never had and never will have a president of their own. They’ve never been the right age to appeal to employers who were always looking for older folks to be bosses and younger ones for entry-level positions. Their cultural icons are routinely snubbed and marginalized by cultural gatekeepers.

Now that Xers are middle-aged, it’s cool to be old or to look old. Take this to the bank: Once Gen X enters the real over-65 gray zone, calls to eliminate/privatize Social Security will return and mocking the elderly will again become de rigueur. No one will want to look, much less be, old.

• Category: Ideology 
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  1. Notsofast says:

    don’t see many jr. granny’s in my neck of the woods and hair dye has never sold better, it’s just all aqua, magenta, purple and rainbow colored. remember the good old days when the only blue hairs were genuine little old ladies?

  2. Must be tough staring a column deadline in the face.

    • Replies: @TomSchmidt
  3. This is the internet, so somebody’s always gonna be ‘that guy’ so it may as well be me.

    If you’re 58, you’re not GenX; you’re [just] a late Boomer.

    I’m b.1965 (so 56½) and I barely make the ‘canonical’ (Gallup) GenX cut – and then only really because I act like a 15 year old at all times.

    That aside: bitches who think that grey[ing] makes them unattractive, are sending a huge “Steer clear” signal about skin-deepness.

    If they’re not happy with who they are, but convince themselves that they can fix it at the ‘presentation layer’… they are inherently unreliable.

    It’s a bit like setting up a website on an insecure server with a shitty backend, and thinking you can make it up by having glass buttons and rounded corners on the UI. (I know: 2009 called and wanted its Web 2.0 zinger back).

    And yes, it’s appropriate to call them ‘bitches’ in this context – and includes guys who use ‘Just for Men‘.

    Age with some fucking dignity, bitches.

    (Protip: you can act like a 15 year old at all times, if you pick the right 15 year old as the benchmark. At 15 I was: blunt; bookish; numerate; and worked out a lot. Nothing that needed fundamental change… just the odd tweak)

    • Replies: @schnellandine
  4. anonymous[214] • Disclaimer says:

    The author of this column, Frederick Theodore Rall III, is noted on the web as being born 26 August 1963 in Cambridge Massachusetts

    So indeed age 58 as he says …

    But he is clearly thus a BOOMER, boomer birth years extending at least through to 1964 …not ‘Gen X’ as he suggests above

    those of us in that Generation X

    Why is Ted Rall larping as ‘Gen X’? Trying to feel a little younger?

    He seems to give the game away tho, by first talking about Gen X as ‘we’ … but later shifting to ‘they’ … or maybe that is a Gen X ‘preferred pronoun’?

    • Replies: @eD
    , @TomSchmidt
  5. @Kratoklastes

    so it may as well be me.

    The guy who denies fuzziness in arbitrary generational splits? Don’t do that.

    My opinion, no one from the 60s is a boomer. The whole argument is pointless though. Growing up through it, my impression is that no one born in 60s was considered a boomer until pinheads from on high decided to get ‘precise’. I don’t see that it makes much sense to declare someone from a declining demo a ‘boomer’. Early 60s babies were of a segment decline, no matter the larger perspective.

    The term doesn’t reflect my witnessing of a falloff, nor my disposition. Going solely by recollection, I’d put any kind of major shift somewhere in the mid–late 50s. I think any ‘official source’ declaring 60s babies ‘boomers’ wasn’t looking around in the 60s–80s.

    • Replies: @TomSchmidt
  6. Mac_ says:

    ~The clothing steering is a thing, mental. Everything is a costume. I don’t watch ‘teev but come across tubes with shot of this or that, why sleeveless shirts on females, much less in winter. False femy costume cover while do nonsense, in my pirate opinion.

    Enough of the costumes. Everyone should wear pirate clothes, male, female. That’s not a costume. It’s practical. Boots are practical. Long sleeve shirt, practical. Big knife hanging off belt, practical. Hat, keep head warm and partly block govt spy cameras. All practical.
    And don’t forget the loot. Some gold chips or shiny quartz energy rocks or some beef jerky to trade and make pirate friends with. The gold chips aren’t for false money, money is false. the gold is for teeth filling if needed. That should be the only thing use on teeth.

    Hair thing, in fifties and almost no grey. Sorted and tested buckets of vitamins chomped since age fifteen, it’s just a couple few things that make a difference beside genetics, and chemical affecting oxidation and melanin production. Partial hint one angle stop eating extra iron or vitiamins. Stop. Including bogus ‘enriched flour’ bread or ‘vitamin added cereal’.

    Or also if have grey hair just keep it shiny with oil. The dry dull is what’s old. More important get some energy. Regardless age. Selfish ignorant focus has to go. Earth and food on the line.

    • Replies: @Mac_
  7. Mac_ says:

    – extra iron or vitamins, meant iron in vitamins.
    for some reason edit timer didn’t appear. –

  8. Trinity says:

    Sure Thing, Zoomer.

    25 year old basement dweller in mom’s furnished apartment tells you the meaning of life. Sure Thing, Zoomer

    25 year old unemployed junk food junkie computer geek who cannot do one pullup tells you how much the Boomers sucked. Sure Thing, Zoomer.

  9. ruralguy says:

    As an older boomer father, with teenage kids, my kids have kept me honest about my age. A week ago, my youngest told me ” .. you know, no offense, but at your age you are decaying.”

    I also understand the Millennials and Gen-X’rs crashing out of the work force. I worked in it for 35 years, before retiring. I worked on some amazingly advanced projects that were very interesting, but I worked on some others that were a complete waste of life. As Professor Harold Hill once said “if you pile up enough tomorrows, you’ll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays.” Those Millenials working in dead-end jobs are right to be concerned with the quality of life. I live in an amazing rural setting, no pressure, working on my own projects. That is a much better lifestyle, than squandering your days away, as a wage slave.

    • Thanks: The Wild Geese Howard
    • Replies: @Trinity
  10. Trinity says:

    Yeah but how many of those Millennials crashing out of the work force are living with mommy and daddy or on the gubmint dole. Can’t blame them for looking for a better way but most are just shit talkers who are too lazy to work.

    How many Millennals are race traitors? I don’t see a helluva lot of Boomers out there marching with BLM or Antifa.

    • Replies: @ruralguy
  11. ruralguy says:

    Gallup did an interesting survey of the Millennials, finding they are largely unemployable. They lack the attitude to do a job. 55% are not engaged in their work at all, while 16% are actively working to harm their employers. An employer who hires anyone in this age group risks harm to their company.

    In the Mpls BLM riots, even our state left-wing news reporters were surprised by the number of young white women engaged in the violent rioting. Next to them were black males who obviously were not rioting out of protest, but because they found the looting and burning enjoyable. With male testosterone levels so low, men in this country are behaving like women. In another age, whites would have thrown both groups out of the country and taken the right to vote away from women.

    • Agree: Trinity
  12. @ruralguy

    My favorite Millennial story is this guy where I worked (I am now retired). He just could not follow even the most basic rules, but no-one was ready for what was going to happen next.

    He worked in the New York City office, and one day we get on a nationwide conference call and we hear “has anybody seen this guy, he has not shown up for work in a few days, and hasn’t called in…”. The boss just wanted to make sure he was OK.

    Somebody from the Los Angeles office chimed in: “He just showed up here this morning and said he wanted to work in this office. We have nowhere to put him. What are we supposed to do?”

    The bosses talked to him later and said “report to the New York City office by tomorrow morning or you are fired”. He did show up in NYC the next morning–crazy stuff.

    • Replies: @ruralguy
  13. Who cares about some dumb “generation,” whatever that is, named with a letter of the alphabet, thinks?

  14. Anon[113] • Disclaimer says:

    Girls can go gray as young as age 13.

    I’m not sure if this is some kind of sick joke or something, but if you’re implying that females go grey sooner than males, that is not true. Women’s hair begins to lighten at a significantly older age than does male hair.

    On average, 50 percent of the population will have 50 percent gray hair by the age of 50,” says Eidelman. Gender seems to play a role as well: Men start graying closer to 30, while women begin to notice gray hairs around 35, Schweiger notes.

  15. ruralguy says:

    That’s sad, but funny, and quite true of many of them. When I hire an electrician, plumber, or any other trade, invariably an old guy shows up. When I ask why are all the guys in the trades now over 60, they respond that they desperately seek to hire any young people, but can’t find them. I’m hearing that they when they get an interested hire, they never work out. They will work a few days and quite, or show up to appointments hours late, or work for a few days, disappear, and then show up weeks later. The worst case that I saw was when I contracted to pour the concrete foundation of my large pole barn. Everyone was over 60. They had one young guy that promised to come, but never came. Pouring concrete is hard work, especially in the summer heat, so I jumped in and helped. All of us were over 60. When I framed the barn, with a height of 30 some feet, old guys my age did it, which is risky. That’s a young person’s job.

    • Agree: Jim Christian
  16. One thing you can count on with young people. (meaning the under 55 set)

    The only thing you can count on with young people.

    You can count on them never ever ever doing what they say they are going to do.

    Predictable as clockwork. Every single time. It’s good to know that they are so reliable.

    • Troll: Je Suis Omar Mateen
  17. eD says:

    About 90% of the generational stuff is really about the Boomers, and their effects on preceding and succeeding generations, so the only really hard rule is that Boomers start in 1946. I’ve seen opinion pieces and comments where you would think that a Boomer was someone born in 1946, period. Being born in 1947 doesn’t count.

    However, when people started talking about generational theory, the cohorts were usually defined as being born in 18 year periods. So Boomers give way to X in 1964-5, then X to Millennials in 1982-3, which has the benefit of taking the Millennial cohort up to, well the Millennium, which you would think would be the point of giving them that name. But everything has now shifted five years earlier, so X starts around 1960, the Millennials about 1978, and Zoomers in 1995.

    I’m curious why the five year shift happened. I suspect its another Boomer thing.

    If we have to do the generational thing, then the boundary between generations should be tied to changes in what happened when people entered the job market. The COVID related collapse is definitely a generational marker, which implies 1995 is too early to start the Zoomer generation after all, the oldest members really should be in college or entering the job market after high school/ community college in 2020.

    Right about 1990, the job market suddenly tightened for new entrants, and it was no longer about putting on a good suit, looking the employer in the eye, and asking for a job. So if anything 1964 might be a little early for the Boomer to Xer transition. People born in the 1960s were not pure boomers culturally, but economically they definitely are. Also, anyone born in 1963 or earlier probably remembers watching the Moon landings on TV.

  18. Those with no memory of the Cold War era seem to have no real intuitive grasp of the past. People who remembered the elderly who lived 30 years ago have a window onto the pre-WWI era. It’s the recollection of the pre-WWI era that served as a demarcation. When those generations were dwindling to a handful the acceleration of social change commenced.

    • Replies: @ruralguy
  19. In Afghanistan women don’t have to worry about such nonsense as premature gray hair or hair dye. The burka is the answer.

  20. ruralguy says:

    Good point GazaPlanet. That pre-WW1 era was the last of of pioneering era. Much of America stayed local until the 41,000 mile freeway system was signed into law in 1956, when America became more national rather than local. National chain stores started appearing, which led to the disappearance of the local mom and pop stores.

    My mother grew up on a farm with no automobile, no electricity, no plumbing. Her father was born in 1872. Their only entertainment was a deck of cards, picnics, big reunions, and rural activities like hunting, fishing, etc. Their stories describe an era much more connected to the land and social get togethers. The nation to them wasn’t very integral to their lives. When my mother and her sister died at age 100, 104, they said those times were far simpler and poorer than today, but even though they were severely poor by today’s standards, they never knew they were poor. It’s been continuous change since then. Every change was for the better, but the country lost much with each change,

    • Thanks: GazaPlanet
  21. Trinity says:

    Whether the Boomers were from the Hippie era or the Disco age, neither were as bad as the current crop of youths. Any Zoomer or Millennial who thinks their generation is all that is hysterically delusional.

    Sure Thing, Zoomer

    • Agree: ruralguy
  22. @anonymous

    I’m solidly X, and I’d consider 1963 X as well. The canonical Boom years are 46-64, but my rule of thumb for a Boomer is: too young to remember WW2, old enough to remember Kennedy assassination. Strauss and Howe put the range at 43-60. The Boomeriest Boomers are 46-56.

    There’s an interesting aspect to things since the year of peak births was 55 or 56. Men generally marry women two years younger, and for men born from 43 to 55, there were more women in their target range than men targeting. Men born after 55 had more men looking than available women, at least until the Millennial boomlet got going. Perhaps the competition for men amongst early Boomer women set off the sexual revolution?

    Anyway, I’ve never had a 61-64 Boomer annoy me the way that earlier ones do. YMMV.

    • Replies: @Trinity
  23. @schnellandine

    There’s a real drop off in births from 64 to 65, but a gradual decline into 64. I’d love to get the monthly birth numbers. My guess is that the Kennedy assassination in late November 63 knocked the optimism out of people, leading to a drop in births. You’d expect that births would take a real downturn starting in September 64. It was undeniable by 65.

  24. Trinity says:

    Well the early Boomers were the Hippies so there you go. STILL, they are not as annoying as the purple haired race traitor 300lb lesbian Zoomers, or the sad sack bipolar White dude who despises how own whiteness. I am a late Boomer, 1961, and I certainly don’t relate to the Hippie era, was in the early stages of elementary school during peak Hippie mania. Late Boomers were coming of age in the late 1970s and 1980s but still far too young and powerless to influence anything other than pop culture.

    To the other posters that posted about the Zoomer/Millennial work ethic. Good lawd, they are pathetic indeed. Just as lazy as some Blacks for sure.

  25. @ruralguy

    In another age, whites would have thrown both groups out of the country and taken the right to vote away from women.

    I too, enjoy daydreaming.

  26. @eD

    the Millennials about 1978

    Whoa, whoa, whoa….

    Them’s fightin’ words bruh!

  27. Anon[295] • Disclaimer says:

    I’m surprised this article was posted here. I just wasted about five minutes reading this tripe,

    • Replies: @Rex Little
  28. “Deliberately dying one’s hair to look older? Who are these cutting-edge trendsetters?”
    –Andy Warhol

  29. @Anon

    I’m surprised this article was posted here. I just wasted about five minutes reading this tripe,

    And how many more posting your pointless whine?

  30. Trinity says:

    Nah, articles like this are a change of pace and entertaining. In my neck of the woods I have only met a couple youngsters who dyed their hair grey. I could deal with grey or white hair as a balding 60 year old man. I still have my hair on the crown but my front part is going back, back, back, and I notice even the crown is thinning somewhat. I PROMISE MYSELF I will not go around with the horseshoe pattern. Either this year or next I will go the Kojak route. Done it before and have the perfect head shape and physique to pull that look off. I will trim the full beard into a Fu Manchu style goatee and presto. I will instantly look ten years to 15 younger with no hair since my body certainly looks a lot younger than 60.

    No more haircuts, no more shampoo, no more combs, and at 60, it won’t be as odd as when I shaved my head on a dare when I was in my 20s. Hell, four others on my ship followed me after I adopted the Yul Brenner look. This was back in the early 1980s when there were not a helluva lot of baldies around. Hell, I might come clean in a week or so before the weather turns really cold.

  31. @Trinity

    The subtle and overlooked point being made in all of these posts including yours is that when one thinks of a generation, one only pictures white people of a given age. It’s like other races don’t even natter.

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