10 Things Every Gen-Xer Knows

We were the latchkey kids who spent our parents money signing up for Columbia house to build out our new CD collections.

Generation X is the often forgotten generation. We sit squarely between Boomers and Millennials (Generation Y). We were the younger children of the boomers, that spanned between 1965 and 1980. Many times we were called the latchkey kids, as we were left alone during childhood while our parent(s) work long hours. We learned to take care of ourselves at a young age and usually became disillusioned with our parents and authority. We monopolized the independent attitudes, shirking authority because we felt ignored, un-appreciated, and we were tired of it.

We were the generation that saw the birth of in-home gaming systems, the birth of modern hip-hop and the height and slow decline of the punk scene. This was the the beginnings of the franchise mega-sequels and the rise of independent filmmakers.

We are often considered the forgotten generation because our parents were often more focused on work or going through divorce and creating children wasn’t the focus. To give you some idea, there are roughly 71.6 million Boomers (our parents), 72.1 million Millennials, and only 65.2 million Gen Xers. 

But what makes Gen Xers and their generation so popular? Let’s take a look at the Top 10 Things Every Gen-Xer knows.

The Age of Excess

There are so many things the world has that is thanks to the time period of 1965-1980, the birth of Gen Xers. We were the ones that started what is known as the internet, today. It was the time that brought you artists like Prince, Michael Jackson, and Madonna. It was the era that gave birth to boy bands, and hip-hop and why we are called the MTV generation. So it should be no surprise that some pretty amazing things came from this generation.

10. Public Service Announcements

Being born between 1965 and 1980, danger surrounded us constantly. Danger from drugs, teen pregnancy, stranger danger, and bus accidents.These dangers gave rise to the phenomenon called PSAs (public service announcements). No one was safe from being roped into them, our cartoon heroes like G.I Joe to Pee-Wee Herman, to big name actors. Who could forget this gem of a PSA?

PSAs were then taken one step further to create the dreaded- AFTER SCHOOL SPECIAL. As we got off the bus from school, we came home to an empty house. We would sit down with a bowl of cereal in front of the television. Thanks to ABC, we had something new to watch, something that masqueraded as a drama but was actually a life lesson. Lessons like this classic gem.

9. Cheap Concert Tickets

My boyfriend and I go to a lot of concerts. Many of them are smaller bands, so we get lucky with paying around $40 a person. But there are other concerts where that cost rises to $100. Let’s not even talk about buying swag from the concerts. I have bought t-shirts at almost every concert we have been to and they run $30 – $40 a pop. Ten concerts means I spent $300 on just t-shirts and when you add in ticket costs that makes over $700. (faints in disbelief)

Ask any Gen Xer about concerts they went to when they were younger and you will be floored to find out we paid around $20 for concert tickets. These were the costs for bands of the day like Aerosmith, Metallica, and Guns N’ Roses. You could get out of a concert spending $40 – $70 bucks for the experience and a piece of memorabilia. It is sad that kids today often miss out on seeing their favorite bands due to the high costs of concerts.

8. Time and Temperature

Would you believe that there was a time when everyone did not carry a phone around in their pockets? It was a dark time in history where every phone was mounted to a wall in your house or sat on a table, tethered by a cord that in some cases could reach almost anywhere in your house. I am not sure if we really didn’t use clocks back then but one thing I know we used to call was Time and Temperature and that would usually elicit the question “Who are you calling?” Our reply was always, “I’m checking the time.” or maybe “I’m checking the temperature.”

To this day, I still remember the phone number to check that bit of information.

7. The birth of Compact Disc (CDs)

Okay, many of you are probably going to ask what a CD is, since everything is online now. A long time ago, music could be purchased, physically, to be enjoyed in the solitude of your home or for parties. It started with vinyl records, then came 8 track cassettes, next was cassette tapes, and by 1982 the newest way to listen to music was compact disc. At the time, we saw this as futuristic, gone were the days of worrying that your tape would be eaten by the tape deck. You now could carry around your favorite music on a disc that was read by lasers. The downside was that most CD players were HUGE, either part of your stereo systems or a compact model about the size of an encyclopedia.

I remember the very first cd I ever had, I actually won it on a radio station call in a poll. That disc was Vanilla Ice, To The Extreme. I also won another cd from that same radio station, Gorky Park’s self-titled album. From there I was hooked.

6. Cars with hand crank windows

You would be hard pressed today to find a car that doesn’t come with automatic windows, unless its on the cheaper end of a company’s line. Flash back to earlier times and hand crank windows were the norm. If you wanted to talk to someone, you literally had to be at a complete stop and spin a handle to get the window down. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that automatic windows started to come with cars, as an upgrade.

5. Binaca Spray

No cool 8th grader was ever caught without this invention. Let me set the scene. Here you are navigating the hallways of middle or high school, across the sea of bobbing heads and cacophony of voices talking about the latest video game or A-team episode, you spot the person who makes your heart flutter. From there nerves rise up and take control. You mouth goes dry and suddenly you are super aware of the cafeteria sausage pizza with ketchup you had for lunch. No worries, gone were the days of hot smelly breath when you wanted to talk to the person of your dreams. Enter Binaca Mouth Spray. Easy to hide in a pocket, convenient enough to whip out at a moment’s notice to kill that dragon breath and suddenly you are approachable. It was a life saver, well no that was another sugar candy but you get the idea.


Not only did they make this wonderful invention, but they also made toothpaste and regular mouthwash.

4. Hairbands

Not to be confused with hair accessories that hold your pony tails. When you think back to Gen Xers, many people associate us with Grunge. The problem is that Grunge isn’t solely unique to Gen Xers, we share that with the Millennials. But, we did have our own rock that was unique only to us, hair bands. Who can forget those bands? From bands like Black Sabbath, Kiss, to Poison, Motley Crue, and all the way to Guns N’ Roses and Van Halen, they all had one thing in common – Big Hair. That’s right, the big hair phenom was not only left to Gen X women, all fell to its lofty and hair spray soaked magic.

3. The fear of being kidnapped

Okay, you are probably wondering how this is on a Top Ten list, but going back to PSAs this was a fear we had drilled into us. Our parents were constantly warning us not to stop when a stranger in a white van pulls up and asks us to get in or offers us candy. This was the age of urban legends running rampant, so the candy could be laced with drugs or razors. Those white vans always held some deranged and dark soul who preyed upon young kids. Even so far as our parents telling us to be on guard in fast food restaurant bathrooms because we could get kidnapped there. I distinctly remember a story I was told that someone hid in the drop ceiling tiles of a bathroom, to only climb out when a kid was at the urinal. That person would then threaten to cut off their penis if they didn’t go along with them. Seriously, who is more demented, the person who made that story up or the person who may try it? Its a toss up, I know.

2. Break dancing

A bit of history here, break dancing is uniquely Gen X. It got its start in the late 60s and early 70s in New York City. The 80s is where it became mainstream. Movies like Breakin’, Beat Street, Wild Style, and even Flashdance put this dance craze in the spotlight. If you grew up in larger cities, you had a chance to see break dancing live on the streets. If you were a kid that grew up in a small town like me, our only way to learn was watching these movies or running out to buy one of the many breakdancing albums, like Break Dancin’, that taught you how to dance. This album came with a pull out instruction manual on the most popular moves and to do them. It even had some songs that were specific to that move so you had a better way to practice. 

1. Mix Tapes

Kids today have it easy. If they want to create a compilation of music to give to their special someone or to get them through a specific day, all they have to do is open their favorite music app and create a playlist. From there you can instantly share it with the entire world. For us Gen Xers, we had to work for this. FIrst we needed to have a blank cassette tape, preferably something like Memorex to preserve sound quality. Then we needed a radio with a tape deck that could record the music we wanted. The last step used one of two methods, either you had a turntable or a second tape deck to switch music media back and forth through or you did what the rest of us did. Sit as close to the  stereo as possible, listening to the radio (and calling in requests) to find that song that fit the mood of the playlist we wanted. If we accidentally recorded the DJs voice or tail end of a commercial, we would have to get another blank tape and re-record what we did, minus that interruption. That was a lot of work just to get the first step done. Then we would give it to the person that was the object of our affections or listen to it over and over whenever we were in that mood. It was exhausting making mix tapes but I miss the work you had to put into them.

Gen X was bitchin’

Gen X was the last cool generation. We were the last to grow up without the internet and the first to have personal computers. We were the latchkey kids who spent our parents money signing up for Columbia house to build out our new CD collections. We were the generation that took rock music to the next levels while breeding fear of strangers and the world into us. I miss being a kid back then but carry my Gen X attitude with me to this day.

Are you a Gen Xer, if so what do you remember most about your childhood? What commercials stood out as cool? What music were you most passionate about? If you aren’t a Gen Xer, do you like Gen X pop culture from that era? If so, why? Let me know in the comments below. Let’s relive our love for all thing Gen X, even though we are one of the smallest generations.


3 thoughts on “10 Things Every Gen-Xer Knows

  1. My first concert was Soundgarden and Pantera after “Cowboys from Hell” was released.

    I laughed really hard about the visual of “This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?” That stuff made us glib with a hint of sarcasm.


      1. Yes! Also, there really were men in a white van in my city. They said, “Hey, kids you want a ball?” We ran and knocked on doors and they followed us a few blocks! Creepy as shit. I was nine, so was my classmate, and her sister was 6. We made a police report at school. Weird 80s.


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