Saskatoon·First Person

Why generation Xers threw aside our apathy and embraced vaccines

It’s a gen X thing. We’re apathetic about everything. Except, apparently, vaccinations.

My 19-year-old self would mutter under his breath that we're sellouts

Craig Silliphant shows off his sticker after receiving his first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. (Submitted by Craig Silliphant)

This First Person piece was written by Craig Silliphant, a writer, editor, critic, broadcaster and creative director based in Saskatoon.

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Several provinces have lowered the age requirements for COVID-19 vaccines to include the rest of Generation X, leading to a flood of gen Xers rolling up their sleeves and getting the jab.

I'm a member of generation X, the cohort born from 1965 to 1980. We were unsupervised latchkey kids, coolly ironic and cynical slackers, raised in that different time when MTV still played music videos. We rode BMX bikes and solved supernatural mysteries with our friends before growing up to be overeducated and underemployed. 

We're sandwiched between Boomers and Millennials, and are often called to side with one against the other in a war we're apathetic about.

Don't take it too hard, Boom-llennials. It's a gen X thing. We're apathetic about everything. Except, apparently, vaccinations.

The lowering of the vaccination eligibility age was mostly prompted by vaccine-shopping boomers refusing good vaccines. I don't want to make sweeping generalizations here, because plenty of Boomers did their duty admirably, but wacky Aunt Janet posted a thing on Facebook about AstraZeneca and blood clots, and some people started screaming like babies with boom-boom in their diapers. 

I grew up smoking cigarettes at the mall as an unsupervised gen X child, so I'm not worried about risks associated with a vaccine.

This vaccine shopping is funny, considering that weeks ago people were knife fighting each other to jump the line for a shot. I was like, "Eh, it'll happen eventually, so I'll just sit here and play Nintendo until someone tells me it's my turn." 

I wasn't being altruistic, just disaffected. It's a gen X thing.

A hot ticket

When I became eligible last week, it brought back the pre-pandemic rush of buying concert tickets. The website kept throwing appointment times at me, but when I clicked accept the slot was already gone. I kept slamming refresh like there were Smashing Pumpkins tickets at stake. I was happy to finally snag a ticket and didn't care which vaccine it was. It's like a live concert in my arm.

So why are the most famously disaffected slackers in history leading the vaccine charge? How did it become punk to form an orderly queue to get legal drugs? Did Ethan Hawke and Winona Ryder have anything to do with this? 

I guess we grew up. We're no longer jobless college grads living in our parents' basements watching Heathers. We had kids and found work-life balance. We're rated very high in workplace productivity. My 19-year-old self would mutter under his breath that we're sellouts. 

A young, punk teen Craig Silliphant looks disapprovingly at what sellouts we've become. (Submitted by Craig Silliphant)

When I went to my appointment, there was a sea of plaid shirts and Doc Martens waiting to put the X in vax. It looked like the line for the porta-potties at Lollapalooza.

Prior to getting my shot they told me, "You'll be getting AstraZeneca today." Wanting to make sure I was doing it right, I said, "Oh, OK. Who do I scream at?" 

Apparently, you don't have to scream at anyone.

When a nurse gave me my "I got vaccinated" selfie sticker, I was as gleeful as a kid clutching his reward from the dentist's prize bin. The sticker is symbolic. It means we're getting closer to the lives we remember and to seeing the Boomers, Millennials, and fellow gen Xers we miss in person again. 

There was a parade going on inside of me, with banners and confetti and fireworks and soldiers kissing nurses and a big Garfield balloon in the sky. Don't worry, on the outside I kept my detached gen X aloofness. I didn't let anyone see my glee. That wouldn't be cool. 

I don't expect you to understand. It's a gen X thing.

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Craig Silliphant is a writer, editor, critic, broadcaster, and creative director based in Saskatoon. Follow him on Twitter @craigsilliphant.