What a bar of soap tells me about Millennials – Musings from the shower

So the guys and gals at /r/showerthoughts would be proud of me. There I was, reaching for a bar of soap, when I remembered a peculiar news article I had read earlier in the week. Apparently, Millennials find soap “icky.”

So, there I am, feeling like an old man, when I start to wonder if maybe the younger generation is on to something…

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Oh, I have used the shower gels and the fancy bath washes, and during dark times, applied shampoo as a catch-all. (We’ve all been there – don’t lie.) These work perfectly fine for when you aren’t actually dirty. It’s even okay after a sweaty workout. What it is incapable of doing, however, is cleaning the dirt, oil and grime you get when doing actual work. And, God forbid you get into poison ivy. Good luck getting that off with your smelly lavender flower goo.

Then I realized. Millennials don’t own yards. The Gen X’ers screwed up the housing market. But, even if we didn’t, they wouldn’t want them anyway. They don’t repair cars, they own bikes and use Uber. They don’t need soap. And they don’t live alone. Most Millennials live at least 3 to an apartment, sometimes more. A communal bar of soap is apparently where the line of acceptable hygiene is now drawn.

Community is a big part of today’s younger generation.

Community is a big part of today’s younger generation. I see it in the lives of all of the art students I’ve been blessed to work with these last few years. They seem to collaborate and work together without the political positioning and back-biting more common among my seasoned peers. There is a remarkable deference and a willingness to compromise that fuels productivity and progress.

Personally, I grew up in an era that championed rugged-individualism and a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps mentality. A time where the prevailing attitude was, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” I don’t ask for help often. Almost never. This has been beneficial in the sense of all I have been blessed to learn and grow proficient in, even if it was merely due to necessity. But, sometimes I have to wonder if forgoing the magical gift of teamwork and the amazing multiplicative powers it possesses was truly the wise choice.

There is a downside, however, and it is in the burden of groupthink.

There is a downside to this fledgling community of young people, however, and it is in the burden of groupthink. Gen X’ers dealt with conflict physically, or in heated debate. Because of our bloated egos, we could better co-exist while holding conflicting views. We all knew, if worse came worst, there was available outlets to relieve the pressure. The ‘zero-tolerance for violence’ policies and, albeit noble attempts to curb student bullying in our school systems within the last few years have left our young adults ill-equipped to deal with meaningful conflict. “Safe Spaces,” “Micro-Aggressions,” and “Trigger Words,” are all examples of the attempts being made to rectify this inadequacy.

But, the most damning problem is not in the feeble handling of the conflicts after they have occurred, it is in the way students are conditioned at an early age to never voice any opinion outside of the cultural norm. We may pat ourselves on the back and call this a good thing when overtly racist or sexist opinions perhaps common to their home lives are squelched in the public domain. Indeed, the ‘cultural norm’ of the younger generation is much less racist and sexist than the ones before it. This IS obviously a good thing. And, it’s understandable how voicing a derogatory comment toward a minority group would become taboo. But the line for what is taboo and what is not is constantly encroaching.

Not only has this line moved into arguably ridiculous territory, it has driven dissenting voices dangerously underground. For example, an Iowa college is considering changing the angry growl of its mascot to display more “welcoming, nurturing, calm, accepting and happy messages” with its countenance. They are legitimately worried that “his angry grimace is traumatizing students.” It is one thing for unpopular opinions to die a slow death in the open debates of town square, it is another to be ostracized for ever even holding an unwelcome opinion. These “outcasts” often find each other and cultivate a hatred of the people who rejected them and all of the things they stand for.

Despite being over-the-top in acceptance, Millennials seem irrationally intolerant of conservative values.

Despite being over-the-top in acceptance for all matter of lifestyle choices, religious beliefs, body types, racial identities, etc., Millennials seem to be irrationally intolerant of people who espouse conservative values. There seems to be a reluctance to even entertain the idea that any conservative may actually be motivated by an altruistic belief system. So, when confronted with a conflicting opinion, you often get this:

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This is not helpful. It is not my intent to make fun of her appearance, as other less kind individuals have done. I am only pointing out the rampant inability we currently have addressing conflicting views in a rational way. When ideas are unilaterally dismissed with name-calling, violence, or irrational reactions as demonstrated here, I assume one has no valid counter argument. Your strength of like-minded numbers is meaningless to a rugged individualist, such as myself. I’m happy to be the lone voice of dissent. Remember, I didn’t need you, anyway.

But, that view isn’t healthy either. We DO need each other, and we DO need to attempt to understand people’s motivations before lashing out and writing them off as bigots. For example, I believe the rise of “Blacks Only” safe spaces in college campuses are a bad thing. Not because I feel offended that I am not invited as a White person, but because in my heart-of-hearts, I sincerely believe improved race relations can’t happen with any sort of segregation. It was criminally wrong when Whites did that involuntarily to Blacks years ago, and I believe it is wrong in the sense of being a bad idea when Blacks voluntarily impose that upon themselves now.

If I made a comment about not supporting “Blacks Only” signs without being given the opportunity to explain my humanistic motivations, it may be possible to conclude I am racist, and label me as such. If simply establishing “Black Only” signs is your only goal, you may even label me as racist to win political points, despite all evidence to the contrary. These types of things happen everyday. For the record, I am not a racist. I want all of us to live intertwined lives of harmony, just as Dr. King envisioned. So, let’s try to give everyone a little more benefit of the doubt before “getting triggered.”

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So, Millennials, I humbly ask, next time you pass a bar of soap in the grocery store, think of the Gen X’ers fondly. Most of us are pretty all right. Many of us are more conservative than you, but that’s because we see the world from a slightly more jaded viewpoint. The best of us admire and appreciate your idealistic worldview and see your worth. You are our children, after all. We love you and believe in you! Now, get on with your pretty-smelling bath gel selves!


Pre-order your copy of Gregory’s new CD, Almost Alive, on iTunes.

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